After Wednesday’s performance, I think the team have set a massive example. Every ball was chased, every man was marked and every shot had bodies thrown in front of. The fight, passion and desire this team have has surpassed every expectation set by the fans. As a fan this is brilliant to see and only inspires us, and the man I’d like to highlight is Maikel Kieftenbeld. Despite not being the captain, he is a very vocal player, and easily works the hardest, despite a good example set by others such as Che Adams, Lukas Juktiewicz, Maxime Colin and the currently injured, Kristian Pedersen. We saw Kieftenbeld bust his gut to sprint fifty yards to chase down a player and push Stoke back on Wednesday, well past the 80th minute just before Bogle scored the second. I find that incredible, and it still shocks me every time I see it.
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I haven’t mentioned the names of our defensive duo of Morrison and Dean, who formed a solid partnership at the back which is the core and basis of our success this season. Against Stoke, they managed to shut out; Tom Ince, Peter Crouch, Sam Clucas, Benik Afobe and Saido Berahino, with the help of an out-of-position Colin, and a seemingly very comfortable, Harding. There is no doubt in my mind that Stoke have a Premier League-standard attack, and also have a decent defence also. Therefore, I think getting a 2-0 win against Stoke was our best performance and best result of the season so far, despite not creating too much in attacking positions.
It is easy to see that our main two creative outputs are Gary Gardner and Jota, and maybe Craig Gardner off the bench too. And when these players are not at their best we rely on set-pieces or mistakes to score. It seems when Gary Gardner has a bad game, the whole team does, and therefore we do rely on his output way too much. Despite my praise for my Kieftenbeld, his forward passing is not the greatest, so it does seem the Gardners are the only two central midfielders to turn to for creativity. Jota, on the other hand, has his whole game based upon creativity, with his shooting not being the best. However, he would have had a free-kick goal against Stoke, with Jack Butland punching it away from the top left corner, but I believe that wasn’t really the plan from Jota. Lots of Jota’s creativity goes unnoticed. I hear lots of people moan when he goes on his inwards run from the right, seemingly looking for a shooting opportunity. But if you look closely, not only does this create acres of space, but it also drags defenders out of position. Without question, Jota is at his best with Colin behind him, as they’ve developed and understanding throughout their Brentford days, and our right side is easily the strongest side with them two playing in tandem.
However, despite this, I’d would like to see Jota played in a number ten role, or almost as a deep-lying, false nine sort of forward. Now that may sound crazy, as I’ve previously mentioned Jota’s lacklustre shooting, but hear me out. In Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona days, he utilised Lionel Messi in a false-nine position. Jota, despite of course not being on the same technical level, is a similar player to Messi. Both are ultimately right-sided forwards, who have tricky feet and like to cut inside to have a shot with their left foot. While a traditional nine, holds up play, runs for through balls and gets on the end of crosses, a job which Che Adams and Lukas Juktiewicz are very effective at doing, a false nine’s job is to drop off and find space to bring wingers and strikers into the game by creating space for the wingers and strikers to come inside, then to distribute the ball out wide, or allow a midfielder to, towards the wingers, making a cross available. Passing is one of Jota’s best attributes and therefore this could be a useful way to get the best out of him. However this is only an idea, and he is currently doing an adequate job as a right midfielder in Monk’s strong and stable 4-4-2.
Our opponents on Saturday are Brentford, led by their manager Thomas Frank and the goals of Neal Maupay. He has 15 goals, and 6 assists, to his name this season and is not a popular figure upon Blues’ fans, after diving, dirty play and theatrics in the fixture at Griffin Park this season, where we saw Maikel Kieftenbeld and Garry Monk sent off, with Kieftenbeld’s red being rescinded soon after.
However the fixture may not be as competitive this time round, as Dean Smith is not at the helm of Brentford anymore, but rather it is Thomas Frank. Brentford have two wins in their last 18 matches, and after a very bright start propelling them up the table, they now sit in 18th, on 26 points. The Bees seen to lineup in a 4-3-3 formation that can switch to a 3-4-3. From what I have seen, Brentford like to play possession-based football, and the ball often ends up on the wings as a result. Therefore they like to cut it back to Maupay in the box or someone around 25 yards out who then often take a shot. Their most important players going forward are Romaine Sawyers, Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay, with playmakers Sergi Canos and Josh McEachran behind them. In defence they rely on Chris Mepham and their experienced goalkeeper, David Bentley. However, Brentford’s biggest weakness is their defence, with them often despite scoring goals, they seem to leak goals, then end up losing 3-2 or 2-1. And personally, I do not think their defence will be able to stop and on-from Che Adams. If we get the first goal on the day, a win looks very promising.
I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.