After Monday’s altogether positive display against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur side in the FA Cup, it’s time to get back to business with the Championship season. There’s certainly no let off either, as Wycombe travel to fourth place Brentford FC at their new Community Stadium.
Alicia Povey chatted to David Anderson, one of the analysts and podcasters for @BeesTactical, ahead of Saturday’s tough test.
Brentford are now an impressive 17 unbeaten in the Championship - can you talk us through your recent form?
December was a brilliant month for Brentford in leading the form table by picking up 18 points through 5 wins and 3 draws. Wins against promotion and playoff rivals Bournemouth, Reading, and Cardiff were supplemented by solid draws against Watford and Blackburn. January has seen us lose cup matches rotating in some of our second-string backup players but in the league we are so hard to beat.
Our last match was a 1-1 draw against Swansea where we totally outclassed the South Wales team from start to finish. They could barely get the ball and only managed two shots all game, one was blocked on the edge of the box and the other was a bitter equalizing free-kick cross which curled in directly after a clear foul on our goalkeeper, David Raya.
Prior to Swansea, the second half of our 1-0 win over Luton was our lowest point for a long time and that can be attributed to fitness levels totally falling away after a forced 10-day closure of the training ground due to a COVID outbreak.
We don’t allow many shots against us (conceding the least in the league), we control the ball for most of the game and our attacking patterns are so coordinated and rehearsed that they're almost impossible to defend against for 90 minutes. It can regularly feel like our opposition needs us to be off our game to get anything out of our matches.
There’s currently a 20 place gap between Wycombe and Brentford in the table - what have Brentford been doing so well that Wycombe should be cautious of?
We’ve built a strong squad which is stacked with talented players, some of whom are good enough for the Premier League. Having that level of talent to choose from gives you an advantage from the outset against most sides in the Championship. We also start games fast and purposely aim to control the first half an hour of matches, working hard to create good early chances when the game is supposed to be at it’s tightest.
Our average first goal scored is around the half an hour mark which leads to us being ahead for long periods, and that in turn correlates strongly with winning the most points. We basically impose ourselves onto our opponents and try to score from minute one all before they have a chance to realise they are in the game.
Wycombe are heading to Brentford off the back of a 4-1 loss to Tottenham in the FA Cup, where they were able to hold the Lilywhites at 1-1 until the 86th minute. Do you think that’ll impact the game, either positively or negatively?
Cup matches can be both a positive and negative thing. A player like Fred Onyedinma who relies on close control and intricate movements can gain confidence and belief from a match against top opposition and then transfer the form into a league game. Or he can chase the ball around for 90 mins and have an extra load of fatigue in his legs.
It’s difficult to predict cup match influence as most teams rotate their first teamers to get a rest from the relentless nature of the league. However, the competitiveness Wycombe showed against a side of the calibre of Spurs should have had a positive impact on the squad.
Who have been the standout players for the Bees in your league campaign so far?
Josh Dasilva and Ivan Toney get most of the headlines because they are involved in so many of the good attacking things we do. And they’re match winners. Josh is heavily behind a lot of our ability to move the ball forward and Ivan is the best centre forward in the division. He can score headed goals, link play, dribble, score tap-ins - he’s an all-round modern forward and still only 24!
Dennis Adeniran, if selected, will be important in the defensive midfield aspect because he’s going to come face to face with the 1v1 ball carrying ability of Josh Dasilva. Good luck Dennis.
Secretly, Sergi Canos has been a relentless demon out on our left wing alongside Rico Henry. Canos went through a rough patch since returning from a serious injury but his last 10-12 games have seen him finally filling the creativity and attacking vacuum left by EFL legend Saïd Benrahma. Shoutout to Tarique Fosu-Henry pushing Canos every inch of the way for his starting spot.
Which Wycombe players do you think Thomas Frank will be looking to subdue? And which Bees players will be key in that effort?
Uche Ikpeazu is physically imposing and will have to be marshalled well by Ethan Pinnock or Mads Bech Sørensen, depending on which defender the striker finds himself near. As shown against Spurs for Fred Onyedinma’s opener, if you get too tight, Ikpeazu has the upper body strength and control to roll past defenders as if they’re not even there.
Thomas Frank might also ask Bryan Mbeumo to work harder than usual at closing down his opposing left back, in this case Joe Jacobson, whose left footed chipped long balls to the frontline are a main route of attack for Wycombe.
Do you think Brentford will make it 18 unbeaten? What’s your score prediction?
Looking back at the game in November it was our second 0-0 in a row and Wycombe gave us more trouble than almost all of the sides we’ve played this season. The reason? How direct you were and how quickly the ball moved forward to Akinfenwa when the game got stretched. Looking at our xG timeline, from the hour mark to the end of the match we could only manage one more shot on goal as opposed to Wycombe who continually peppered away and really should have made their period of dominance count.
We’re a better team now due to the new players and replacements having fully settled in to what Thomas Frank demands of them. Wycombe need to hold out early on and keep a high intensity from minute one. If Brentford score first it could be a high scoring game without reply. Ivan Toney is due a hat-trick.
Thank you to David for his in-depth answers! Let’s hope we can cause Brentford some more issues this time round and come away with three points.
You can watch Saturday’s game via iFollow, with a 3pm KO.