Nick Bruzon provides an update to his list containing the Top 5 Brentford players after their latest match and over the course season so far. This edition comes after a defeat to Liverpool in Gameweek 21.
A 3-0 defeat for Brentford at Anfield on Sunday was one which, whilst probably predicted by most experts, wasn’t as cut and dried as the scoreline suggests. It was a game in which Liverpool absolutely dominated proceedings. The full-time statistics showing they had a whopping 27 shots (13 on target) compared to The Bees. Thomas Frank’s side having just 6 attempts, with only 1 troubling Alisson in nets for The Reds.
Yet for a while it felt as though we might do it. Despite the hosts dominating the play and pushing at us without pause for breath, Brentford held firm. The defence rock solid for the vast majority of the first half and mopping up anything and everything that came at us. Quite possibly including a few kitchen sinks, such was the one-way nature of the game. The indecision and faffing seen at Southampton during the week nothing but a bad memory until, eventually, the pressure told.
Just moments before half-time, a corner was played across the box and nobody moved. Nobody. That is, except Fabinho. Kris Ajer attempting to get in the way but the challenge was flimsy and the ball hit the back of the net. The Liverpool fans finally waking up as all the good work was undone in a hearbeat. The brave clearances nullified. The point blank saves from Alvaro Fernandez meaningless as it was the hosts who went in for the break with their noses ahead. Eventually, having 75% possession will do that for you.
The second period at least saw some effort from Brentford to break forward. To come back into the game. Bryan Mbeumo found himself clear after receiving the ball from Christian Norgaard but despite it seeming easier to score, he went the wrong side of the post. Memories of Richard Cadette back in 1989 (our previous trip to Anfield, in the FA Cup) came flooding back before being washed away by two more goals.
Oxlade-Chamberlain getting on the end of Robertson’s cross to head home from a position between Ethan Pinnock and Sergi Canos. As with the first goal, minimal resistance being offered and with little over 20 minutes left it felt close to game over. Any slight chance of Brentford coming back into things disappeared not long afterwards following a comedy of errors.
For reasons unknown, Fernandez opting to pass a spot kick from the six yard box to Pinnock, who returned it immediately with three red shirts bearing down on the goal. For reasons unknown Fernandez opting to play a soft pass forward to Christian Norgaard with Minamino running at the Dane rather than hoof it clear. The Liverpool man was far quicker than our own and it was 3-0 before we knew it. The goal gaping. The net rippling. Game over, man. Game over.
Positives? Well, yes. Let’s not forget we were up against the second best team in the country. The Champions of Europe sitting immediately below them in the table. Runners-up and current Premier League Champions Manchester City, the only side separating them from the summit. For over an hour we were well in it with all the indecision from midweek gone. Brentford looked confident, solid. Absorbed the pressure. The problem being that it needs an outlet or, eventually, class will tell. And it did.
Yet in a free hit of a game we ran it close. If anything, it was the frustrating nature of the goals shipped that hurts the most. To defend so well and then concede like that. The first and in particular the third were reminiscent of our time at the wrong end of League One.
OK, so time to move on to our top five performers. It’s a tricky one. Fernandez would have been in there all day long based on the opening period. Kris Ajer and Ethan Pinnock likewise, looking at my notes. Sadly, it is moments that change games and they were at the heart of them. Instead, we start with a welcome return…
Brentford Player Ratings from Gameweek 21 (vs Liverpool)
1st (Star Player) – Rico Henry
My word, how good to have him back after five games out. Was immense at the back. Challenge after challenge. Block after block. Throwing his body in the way of anything and everything. Still pushing up that left flank when he could, albeit the opposition didn’t leave that much opportunity to break. His substitution minutes into the second half was concerning (why not make the change at half-time) but it was later confirmed by Thomas as a precautionary move with an early exit always planned. He will be fit for Manchester United on Wednesday.
2nd – Pontus Jansson
A new contract for our Captain was met with him back to his imperious best. Clearing ball after ball and getting in the way of anything he could. Did all he could to keep the scoresheet blank until his team mates could do their thing going forward. Had we held on until half-time who knows what might have been hats off to the skipper for giving it his all.
3rd – Mads Roerslev
I thought Mads looked super confident at right wing back, despite the players up against him. Stood his ground and held his nerve time after time. Could easily have dived in with some clumsy challenges but, instead, stayed calm. He’s nailed down that wing back slot as things currently stand and, short of some incoming over the next few weeks, this is now very much his place to now lose.
4th – Vitaly Janelt
Terrier like in the middle. Did his best to take the ball forward and open things up as well. His performance and effort clearly recognised by the away support with more than a few renditions of his song. His absence after being substituted for Matthias Jensen with a quarter hour to go felt like the end of any attempt to get back into this one. Something that was confirmed two minutes later with ‘that’ horror goal
5th – Bryan Mbeumo
Another of the few players who attempted to take the ball into the opposition half. Again, let’s not forget who we were up against. If Brentford did our best to contain then Liverpool snuffed things out with abandon. Created a few moments and, of course, worked himself into that “And it would have been dreamland for Brentford’ moment.” Having seen the opportunity since, it wasn’t, perhaps, quite as clear as it looked with Bryan bearing down on us. For a moment though…
Brentford Player Ratings – Top 5 Players Overall (after Gameweek 21)
All of which means that despite missing that run of games, Rico Henry joins Christian Norgaard with the pair tucked up behind Ivan Toney – that after our number 17 experienced another game where he did more at the back than the front. Bryan Mbuemo and Vitaly Janelt make up the Top 5.
1st – Ivan Toney
T2nd – Rico Henry, Christian Norgaard
4th – Bryan Mbuemo
5th – Vitaly Janelt