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2023-24 Brentford Player Ratings – Matchweek 30

2023-24 Brentford Player Ratings – Matchweek 30
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Saturday night’s 1-1 draw between Brentford and Manchester United at the Gtech was that game where everyone gave so much that even Matthew Benham must be close to earning selection to this week’s top five.

His choice of Joe Dolce’s 1981 chart topper ‘Shaddap You Face’ as the half-time walk off music, as unsubtle a message to the opposition as any. It was that sort of evening though. Brentford on it from the first whistle and, despite the usual plethora of absences to an already thin squad, playing like the team chasing the European places. Like there was something worth fighting for as United, with Erik ten Hag looking as though he’d be better suited to commanding a U-boat, only able to watch his galaxy of fading stars sink beneath the crimson (and white) tide.

You’ve never seen such one-way traffic. An XG-lovers dream as Brentford finished the game with 31 shots taken yet somehow struggled to find the back of the net. United’s goal living a charmed life as Wissa, Mbeumo, Toney and Zanka all hit the forever cursed woodwork. Surely, now, an exorcism needs to be performed on the posts?

When we did score, Ivan Toney getting on the end of a beautiful ball over from Bryan, VAR got in the way to chalk it out. The call was the correct one although it’s a shame the same system couldn’t have been used for a plethora of second half-penalty shouts as United did everything to stop the marauding Bees in their tracks.

I saw a quote from Thomas Frank at full time saying that at times we’d played beyond last season’s 4-0 destruction of the Red Devils and he’s right. It really was the most exciting stuff to watch. The Bees passing it around like champions. Solid at the back on the rare opportunities United were able to penetrate the final third. Flekken pulling off one incredible save early in the second half to deny Højlund and then Saman Ghoddos with the mother of all tackles as he cut out Anthony late on, the two moments that truly stick in the mind.

It was ironic that with Ghoddos having cleared the ball so decisively, the move that followed eventually allowed Mason Mount the opportunity to give United a lead their ‘performance’ scarcely warranted.

The most brutal of all sucker punches saw them take the lead in the 93rd minute. Heartbreak and frustration for the Brentford fans. United supporters – including the plethora in the home end (come on Brentford, hopefully that footage can be reviewed to sort it out) – celebrating as one. Finally finding their voices and giving it large. Their drive back to Guildford suddenly made all the better as Brentford players lay prostrate on the ground in dejection.

Noooo. Football yet again delivering another of the many punches to the gut it so often does. Proving once more that there’s no such thing as ‘deserving to win’. Thankfully though, Thomas Frank and his boys don’t know the meaning of giving up. That, or they’ve just watched Escape To Victory at Jersey Road during the week.

On they roared. Players and fans picking themselves up. Charging forwards once more. The noise and pressure building. Ivan Toney working magic tricks that Paul Daniels would have been proud of as he jinked through player after player before threading an eye-of-the-needle pass to the on-rushing Ajer. The centre back made no mistake with a low drive that left Onana in nets clutching at air.

The scores level. Brentford ecstatic. Peter Gilham set to explode. United fans silenced and chants of ‘Who are you? from all around the Gtech on repeat in their direction. An already charged atmosphere exploding in a cacophony of joy, relief and sense that for once the footballing gods had actually smiled on us with a little bit of justice.

It could have been more. Brentford pushed again. The clock running past the 100-minute mark as what would have been a victory as famous as it was hilarious momentarily seemed possible. Alas, it wasn’t to be. The game ending all square at 1-1. United devastated after thinking their abject attacking force had nicked all three points. Brentford magnificent on an evening where we could have won by a bucket load.

Yet for me it still comes back to the manner of the performance. Of the shift that Brentford put in. Of Thomas Frank driving his troops forward. Of their ‘never-say-die’ attitude. On a day where all the teams around us had stinkers (Jordan Pickford, anyone?) the will to win from The Bees was streets ahead.

Which brings us neatly to our game by game top five. As always, we give five points for first, four for second place, three for third etc with the totals added up game by game to find an overall winner after game 38.

This time around it’s harder than ever. There were that many players with a genuine shout for top slot or inclusion. Like picking a favourite child, the star player and top five are almost impossible to single but what a lovely problem to have. So…

2023-24 Brentford Player Ratings from Matchweek 30 (vs Manchester United)

1st (Star player: 5 points) – Vitaly Janelt
He was just brilliant. There had been some talk about whether he would play midfield or left wing back but thank goodness Thomas had the confidence in KLP to allow Vitaly the centre of the park.

It was a role all the more crucial given the absence of Christian Norgaard but our German Bee played his part to perfection. Make no mistake that as the game started with United probably thinking it would be a stroll, he made it anything but. Breaking up the play and crunching in the challenges. Intercepting and then driving Brentford forwards.

From a stats basis, he was top tackler for the Bees whilst only Zanka out passed him (53 to 52). Yet it was Vitaly’s who were all the more crucial given the area they were played from. It was a proper box-to-box performance with his presence in the United penalty area only adding to the sense of mayhem and chaos under which they laboured.

A wonderful performance.

2nd (4 points) – Yehor Yarmoliuk
At one point in the first half I was thinking it was going to be Yehor who we were pencilling in for the top slot. What Vitaly did in terms of composure and dominance, the Ukrainian matched.

Honestly, he looked so comfortable. So in control. So on top of the opposition who were made to look nothing more than a bunch of shirts rather than any form of credible threat to The Bees, such was the way Yehor took the game to them.

His second half-substitution was one which was disappointing, if not predictable given our predilection for ‘subs by numbers’ and having a ‘finishing XI’ to match the starting formation. Disappointing more because he’d played so well it would have been wonderful to see how he’d fare over the full 90.

Thomas Frank with the calls that ultimately worked and , perhaps, half an eye top Brighton on Wednesday. I’ve no doubt that on this performance, Yehor will be starting that one aswell

3rd (3 points) – Ivan Toney
There was clearly a point to prove to Gareth Southgate. Having scored for England during the week, Ivan clearly has Euro 24 on his mind with a laser-focussed drive to find the back of the net obvious in the way he approached this one.

Yet it was his creative play that won greater plaudits. The move to finally release Ajer for our equaliser was skill on a stick. His magic waft of the boot finding the most delightful of ways through. It wasn’t the only time he produced a ball to open them up with one swish of his wand. It’s almost ironic that had he done this a couple of times more when team mates were in space, rather than electing to shoot at almost every opportunity, he may have had even more reward.

The flip side being that if you don’t try, you won’t succeed. His confidence and will to win are both through the roof. Nobody can blame a striker for taking on the chance. For thinking they can run through the entire United team. For doing everything possible to split them apart.

He had a great game where his desire to find the net was ruined only by VAR. Plus ça change.

4th (2 points) – Kris Ajer
It’s no coincidence that like the rest of our top five, Kris was on the pitch from the first minute. In a match of such fine margins, that continued consistency was key. Between Vitaly and himself, none of the United players were able to make any real inroads towards Mark Flekken.

Whilst it may seem tough to single out any of the defenders, his was the performance that stood out. I don’t recall anything wrong whilst, of course, Kris was the right man in the right place for our equaliser. It was the second time in as many weeks that he has found the back of the net late on.

‘Only’ ranking fourth seems harsh but nobody said picking this one was going to be easy.

5th (1 point) – Yoane Wissa
No Bryan. No KLP. No Mads Roerslev. No Mathias Jensen. Nothing for those moments of brilliance from Flekken or Ghoddos.

At one point or another all were in serious contention for our top five but in the end it goes to Wissa for his continual running at United. His terrifying them into clumsy challenge after clumsy challenge. His first half, especially, team up with Ivan. His second half volley that came so close to yet another goal in his hall of fame.

He never stopped pushing forward. Never stopped working. If Brentford were going to score, he had the look as being most likely to be get involved.

Although he didn’t score there was still more than enough done to warrant top five entry.

2023-24 Brentford Player Ratings – Top 5 Players Overall (after Matchweek 30)

All of which means that our top five remains ‘as was’, although with two-star player awards in the last four games, Vitaly joins Mark Flekken and Neal Maupay in that clutch lurking just outside the main group.

Now bring on Brighton. Let’s see if we can steal the Seagulls’ chips on Wednesday.

1st – Christian Norgaard (43 points)
2nd – Ethan Pinnock (37 points)
3rd – Bryan Mbeumo (35 points)
T4th – Mathias Jensen, Keane Lewis-Potter (28 points)

Follow @NickBruzon on Twitter.

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