“Brentford’s style is a fantastic, optimistic way of seeing football. It’s very entertaining but there is a lot of work that me, Thomas [Frank] and Kev [O’Connor] must do on the defensive part of our play. It’s not something we can achieve in one or two months, it’s about players, tactics and mentality – a lot of things must come together to see improvement.”
The above quote, taken from an interview with Brian Riemer in April 2019, provides fascinating insight into the Club’s defensive evolution.
A 3-3 draw with Derby County shortly before our first sit-down with Brian acts as the perfect case study for where Brentford were at that time; The Bees were brilliant on the eye but needed to add steel to our attacking guile. The Club had been knocking on the door of the Premier League for several years - some tweaks were needed to cross the threshold.
Three years on from his appointment, we sat down with Brian in his office at Jersey Road to reflect on the journey so far.
Brian on the Play-Off Final:
It’s one thing to do something unbelievably good, but it’s another thing altogether to do it alongside someone who is important to you. The most unbelievable part was the final ten minutes, because we knew that we were going to be promoted. That was the most amazing part, standing there at Wembley with Thomas and having the time to be able to process what was happening. When I first came over here, we were a midtable team. I’d left a good job in Copenhagen. I said to Thomas, “We’re not going to get sacked, are we?!”. He assured me otherwise, but after my first ten games I wasn’t so confident! Thomas is the dreamer, I’m the realist. We’d had so many nights after games in the Championship where we dreamt of getting to the Premier League, then we were stood there knowing it was about to happen.
How much football means to him:
My life is Brentford and this project. There’s not a single thing I do from the moment I wake up until I go to bed that I don’t enjoy – that makes it easy to come to Jersey Road with the right attitude. Even if I had all the money in the world, I’d still be here. I don’t come here for money, recognition or anything else, I come here because I love it and I want to be here. I want to be a part of this project and I want to be the best version of myself every day. That’s my culture, it always has been. I’ve worked this way from day one. The moment that you lack that energy and excitement is the moment it’s not worth anything; you’re not going to push any borders. It’s a part of my personality to be this way - a part of my nature. The biggest word is ‘joy’.
And the benefits of a back five:
For me, it’s not so much about the system – it’s about the playing style and the principles. Regardless of the system, the positions that you need to cover and the way that you have to defend are very similar – the difference is who does it.
Having a back three makes some things easier, mostly closing the small gaps outside of the box where the opposition can exploit space. It also gives our centre-backs more freedom to go forward. We want to be forward-thinking and aggressive in our pressure, and this system gives us an advantage.
Playing Sergi Canós as a full-back would be more difficult than playing him at wing-back, because his role would change slightly. Not in terms of principles, but in terms of how high and aggressive he can be with his positioning. Playing a back three means that we can get more of an offensive type into that position. We have so many good centre-backs and we’ve found a role for Sergi that suits him so well.
We’re also able to play with two strikers instead of the one that we could play in a 4-3-3. Bryan [Mbeumo] is perfectly suited for that, and Ivan [Toney] likes to have a quick player around him. It’s all about finding a system that allows us to get our best players on the pitch, in the best possible versions of themselves.
Also included in your fifth issue of the Premier League season:
Priced at £4, our sellers around the stadium are now accepting contactless payments. Programmes are also available from The Bees Merchandise Kiosk on Lionel Road South and from the brand-new Bees Superstore.
Missed a game at Brentford Community Stadium this season? Fill the gaps in your programme collection here.