Brentford and Crystal Palace played out a second 0-0 draw of the Premier League season on Saturday. The teams were evenly matched, and defences were on top for almost the entire afternoon. Brentford probably had slightly the better of it, but the spoils were shared.
The afternoon also saw the presentation of new signing Christian Eriksen, who joined The Bees at the end of January and is working his way to full fitness. After the game, Thomas Frank spoke to the written press via a video call. Jim Levack, who has covered Brentford for many years for Press Association, among others, was on the call and reports on what he had to say..........
Ending the run
“I’m pleased we got the point but also pleased because when I speak about performances, it fits with what we saw against Palace. We showed the same level of performance as against Wolves and maybe against them we played a tiny bit better but lost. That’s football.”
The Bees recorded their first clean sheet since November 28 and Thomas said: “That’s a massive confidence boost. It was good to get over the line with a clean sheet but I think the Wolves performance deserved one as well, and as crazy as it sounds, the Manchester City game was also close to being one apart from two big individual mistakes. I know they count because the ball ended up in the net, but we need to look at that performance in general. But it was very nice to get a clean sheet and very nice to see David performing well.
“It’s a big positive, but we’ve performed well enough to get other clean sheets where we didn't. Against Palace we gave one big chance away with a mistake to Ayew, so I'm so pleased with that. We are so solid and difficult to play against – that's a big thing. The thing we do need to be better is on the ball. We need more quality in the final third and in the build-up. We saw that in spells and some situations, but it needs to be more consistent.”
Palace survived a first half penalty scare when Marc Guehi handled in the box, but Thomas said: “I hate that rule with the handball. If he put his hand out and blocked a shot or a cross then 100 per cent it’s a penalty, but he got a slight push and was off balance and it touched his hand. I’d have hated that if it was given against us.”
Christian E’s reception
“Unfortunately I didn't see it, but a lot of people said it was amazing. I was very pleased that not only our fans but also the Crystal Palace fans applauded him because I think it's a big day for everyone involved in world football. It will be even crazier and bigger the day he steps on the pitch and plays minutes. So he is obviously one that we look forward to having in the team.”
Wissa getting there
“Wissa did fine but isn’t at his maximum yet. He’s been unlucky. He came late into the season, finally got up to tempo, goals, injured, fighting to get up to tempo, then Covid, so he's not there yet. Ivan will also come back too so there are a lot of real positives to look forward to.”
“I'm a positive man so I will look at the Palace game as a good point, but I’m also eager and want to have more and do more. It was a game that 100 per cent should have been a narrow win for us.”
Exploding into life
“The real consistency in performances continued so again it was a solid performance, again we gave very little way, so both are big positives. I know we need to do even more offensively, but one day it will just be ‘boom’ and we’ll see that explosiveness of top performances and hopefully also with some of the offensive players coming back to that top level.”
“Josh got another 30 minutes and is getting up to pace. He's producing moments we need with that quality, that final pass, one on one, the shot and the goals we know he has in him. We’re hopefully getting closer and closer to seeing him at a top level where he can produce all the time.
“There's not many players as flexible. I could play him as winger, as an eight, sitting, as a ten or almost as a striker because he’s learned to defend and press, and he listens. He’s in a good place now and you can see the composure. The touch is good, he can play around the corner first time and just drive past people. In a one on one his ability is amazing and something you don't see that often.”
“I think Mathias Jensen played well. He looked strong, showed big determination and always looked to make things happen. Christian Nørgaard looked strong too. He’s extremely important for us, is good on the ball, can play the right passes to open up opponents especially the build-up, and his ability to win the duels and tackles in the middle of the pitch. He’s second to none on second balls and he's won most tackles in the league, so with all that and his leadership he’s a very important player.”
Focusing on corners
“We’re using the same system but with a few tweaks and extra awareness. Against Manchester United and Wolves we were back to our high level in terms of defending set pieces. Then we had a setback against Everton that came out of the blue which was annoying. But at Manchester City and against Palace we’ve looked very strong. Brian Riemer has done a top job in extra focus in training, evaluation and individual coaching, but it’s an area where we need to be spotless for the rest of the season.”
“Josh’s return gives the opposition something more to think about. We’ve only seen a tiny bit of his level in this division. We need to get him up to pace, but I have big belief that he will be a very, very good Premier League player.
“Of course you need to show it consistently game in, game out, but he’s got that quality and ability that is very rare and we are very privileged to have him in our team and our club, so we can't wait to get him up to full fitness and full consistency in his performances. Together with Christian Eriksen, I think they can create something quite magical.”
Retaining the ball better
“I think it’s a bit to do with confidence. We actually started quite well in the first half and did some good bits, but as the game goes on and we want to win but don't want to lose, it can have an effect. Also the quality - I still think we had a few players that lacked a little bit of cutting edge. Bryan, Wissa and maybe Vitaly have been a little bit out of rhythm because of small injuries and I think that that's a tiny bit of that.”
“I must praise my medical staff who have done a top job getting Josh back. He’s been out for 11 months and of course it's something we still need to manage. There were tricky spells in the recovery and rehabilitation, but they’ve done unbelievably well. I praised them the other day for getting David Raya back quicker than we expected and having Josh available is a good example of how a top medical department can win points and win games in the Premier League.”
Ivan Toney gunning for Arsenal return
“We hope he will be available, but he’ll be assessed this week and we’ll do everything we can to get him there. We can’t say we’re 100 per cent but it's something that we're hoping for and hope it could be realistic, but it really depends how he progresses during the week.”
Working hard, making luck
“Right now, we are in that spell where we need to work really, really hard to get points. We've done that the whole season, but it’s a bit harder because the ball is definitely not dropping for us. But we've been fairly consistent in what we're doing. We had a fantastic start and then we were unbelievably hard done by with injuries compared to a lot of clubs and were missing key players.”
Reigniting the joy
“I was talking to an analyst who was at Sheffield United in their first Premier League season and they had zero injuries which was why they did so well. It’s up to me to make sure we still perform when other players step in because injuries are part of football, and I think we’ve done that relatively well. So maybe that joy of the unbelievabe start we had may have been lost a little bit because of some of some of the injuries, but I hope we will see it even more as the season progresses.”