Brentford’s fantastic form of late will have them ruing an inconsistent first two-thirds of the season.
A stunning second-half 5-3 comeback at Burton Albion was one of the highlights of The Bees’ season. But the stark contrast with an abject first-half showing has characterised Brentford’s unpredictability this campaign.
With 10 games gone, The Bees found themselves in a surprise play-off spot. An impressive sequence of results included a rare defeat for Brighton at the AMEX, draws against Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday and back-to-back home thrashings of Preston and Reading.
Given the threadbare squad, October sparked an inevitable slump which saw The Bees win only once in nine games. A 5-0 loss at Norwich was inspired by ex-loanee Alex Pritchard, which prompted manager Dean Smith to deploy a new 5-4-1 formation.
The defensive formation steadied the ship ever so slightly, with The Bees picking up the points to give them breathing space above the relegation zone.
But worryingly, the team were overly reliant on 14-goal Scott Hogan’s pace and poaching ability.
After the £15m sale of Hogan to Aston Villa, January 31 will go down as Brentford’s season-defining day, for positive reasons.
Brentford fans were questioning why the club hadn’t signed a replacement. But it turned out that the answer was already at the club. Hours after Brentford’s record sale, Lasse Vibe bagged a brace in a 3-0 win over Hogan’s new employers.
Standing alone as the only recognised striker in Hogan’s (and a director of football’s!) absence, Lasse Vibe has scored 11 and assisted six goals since January. After previously only registering twice from a wide position or coming off the bench, the Dane has finally found his confidence up front.
Fans’ favourites Jota and Sergi Canos were also brought back to Griffin Park in January, and they have formed a dynamic front three with the rejuvenated Vibe.
While Romaine Sawyers has synchronised with the rest of the attack after initially struggling to step up from League One outfit Walsall.
With the wingers that Bees fans were crying out for, the new 4-3-3 system has provided goals galore. Brentford have found themselves on the wrong and right end of 4-2 and 3-2 scorelines, and their last 12 fixtures have produced a whopping 52 goals.
Although they have conceded plenty of late, Ryan Woods has improved since switching to a defensive midfield role. And skipper Harlee Dean looks likely to scoop a player of the year award for his commanding performances at centre-back.
Brentford will be ruing not having the system or players available to perform better before January. They now need a monumental slip up from one of the teams around them to make the play-offs. But 2 years ago, Derby and Ipswich crumbled to allow The Bees to sneak into the play-offs on the final day. With the Fulham game scheduled as the penultimate fixture, Brentford will be clinging onto their slim hopes of another miracle.