Rival Lines

Match preview: Brentford v AFCB
Podcast Interview: Beesotted
Twitter: @Beesotted @Billythebee99

I had the good fortune to spend a bit of time with Billy who writes and hosts the Beesotted podcast for Brentford fans. Brentford have suddenly started to pick up form and are just a place behind Bournemouth now and go into this game knowing a win could put them n the automatic promotion places. So,  Bournemouth couldn't have asked for a much harder game to finish 2020 with.

You can catch the Beesotted Pre-Match preview podcast here

CC: It was a great win against Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup. Is a semi-final going to be a good distraction from the league for Brentford?

BEES: The win against Newcastle was great. Many Bees fans were a bit disappointed when they saw the starting line-up - with Thomas Frank opting to play many of the so called ‘second string’ (I prefer to say squad out of respect) players who had got us to this stage of the competition. 

Fosu - a winger - and Thompson - our sub left back - were playing in the full-back positions. Mads Bech Sorenson - who graduated from Brentford’s B-team, has had a fair amount of first-team game time recently in the absence of Pontus Jansson - at centre-back. 

And with first-teamers Ivan Toney, Josh Dasilva, Matthias Jensen and Christian Norgaard all on the bench. 

But the gamble paid off - getting the squad rotation that the team has so massively needed after an arduous season whilst also getting the win - Josh DaSilva coming off the bench to net the winner. 

We’ve had a slow start to the season as per usual. But it’s been steady. And although it hasn’t been as pretty as last season (with players like Said Benrahma out of the side, he will always be hard to replace), we have been a lot more assured. Chiselling out results against teams who last season, we would have lost to. Like Cardiff, on Saturday, who went 1-0 up with a genius goal. And were in danger of bullying themselves to a win with their long throws and free kicks bombarding our goal.

Last season we lost around a quarter of our matches 1-0. This season we seem to have got our heads around the opposition 'nicking a goal against us’.

So, yes the Newcastle game was a good distraction from the league. But ironically, it didn’t fully involve many of the players who play in the league week-in-and-week-out. So it allowed us to be fresh for the Cardiff game three days later.

CC: Brentford haven't lost at home since playing Preston North End in early October. Why do you think the home form has been so impressive of late?

BEES: That Preston game was weird. Early October. We were 13th going into the match

I remember it well because I hooked up with a load of Preston fans who had travelled down from the Northwest the day before to watch their non-league club Corinthian Casuals (they are the Northern Casuals) play Dulwich Hamlet in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup. They were not expecting anything from the Bees game as Brentford had beaten them in every match bar one draw at Griffin Park going back to 2011.

Norgaard went off injured after 20 minutes. Little did we know we wouldn’t see him again until the Newcastle match. And little did we know at the time how much his injury would affect the side. It took us weeks to find a proper balance in midfield after Norgaard went injured.

We were 2-0 up at half-time. We fell apart in the second half with Preston winning 4-2. 

We never ever fall apart like that. And fans were quite worried that we were losing the plot after losing in the playoffs to Fulham.

It took a month or so for Brentford to find their feet - trying out different combinations in the midfield positions.

Towards the end of November, when we played Barnsley away and QPR at home, one player really started to come into his own. Vitaly Janelt - bought late in the transfer window to little or no fuss at all. He pretty much snuck under the radar. And when he was asked to fill Norgaard’s shoes, not much was expected from him if truth be known.

But he has more than exceeded expectations. He has been tremendous. And does what it says on the tin. A formidable central defender. No messing. Whose job is to break up the opposition play. Win the ball back. And feed the attacking midfielders and forwards. 

Our home form has been OK, because we’ve cut out the losses that we had last season. Around 25% of our matches were 1-0 losses. We’ve managed to turn those losses into draws. Our record is two wins and three draws in our last five home matches which is so so. Could be better. 

Saying that, away from home we are formidable. Second in the away form table - just behind Norwich. And overall - home and away - we’re the form side in the league.

But as you know, that means nothing long term. One bad result. One injury. One piece of bad luck. Can change everything. 

CC: How much has Thomas Frank changed the style of football at Brentford?

BEES: The style of football Brentford plays was decided by the owner Matthew Benham way back when. Like back in 2010. And ever since then, we have employed the right coaching staff, support staff and players to play that style. So, Thomas Frank coming in hasn’t changed the style of our play. He would have been employed because he complemented our style of play.

Saying that, Thomas Frank was bought in from Denmark half-way through Dean Smith’s reign to become one of his assistant head coaches. The idea - Frank could add valuable tactical elements to Brentford’s game working alongside Smith. Frank also had two years to learn what the Championship was all about. Rather than bringing him in fresh from Denmark when a vacancy came up. 

When Dean Smith left, Thomas Frank was able to seamlessly slip into Smith’s shoes. His succession had been planned two years in advance. Even though in his first 10 matches he won only one game (I think it was) and lost pretty much all the rest, because according to the stats, Brentford was performing as expected and were deemed as being unlucky for getting the results they got, there was no chance Frank was going to get sacked - despite pundits saying it was on the cards. 

He since turned it around and has gone from strength to strength. 

It’s not all been plain sailing. He’s been at times slow to make changes and very much sticks to his guns to see things through. Which can be admired in one hand. And can be frustrating in other hands. 

But he has made Brentford more defensively sound than any of his predecessors, Dean Smith, Mark Warburton and Uwe Rosler.

But to be fair to him, he stuck with players like Sergi Canos when it looked like he was misfiring this season. Jensen when he looked a tad shaky. Marcondes who had a poor start to life at Brentford but Frank really believed in him and he has had some fabulous moments in the last year.

So, fair play to Frank. He knows his onions.

CC: Were you happy about the sale of Ollie Watkins?

BEES: I can’t say I was happy no. We all loved Ollie Watkins. But this is all part of being a Brentford fan. From selling Andre Gray back at the end of that season when we made the Championship playoff semi-final when Bees fans were gutted. Since then, we have always replaced a key player sold for someone better. Upfront we went from Gray to Scott Hogan. Lasse Vibe. Neal Maupay. Ollie Watkins. Plus we also sold the likes of Jota. Said Benrahma. Ryan Woods plus loads more. And of course Chris Mepham.

It makes it hard for you as a fan to get a real relationship with a player when you know he is going to leave after spending just two years at the club. But we’ve got used to it - I’m sad to say. And to be fair, it’s really helped us to keep us financially on an even keel. 

The player sales over the last fie years has made us I believe around £100m in profit - some of which we still have to spend in the January window (we haven’t spent the £20m Maupay money or a lot of the £28m Watkins money and then there is another £20m to come from West Ham for Benrahma).

I would love Ollie still to be here. But he’s doing well in the Premier League. And we bought in Ivan Toney who could finish the first half of the season with 20 league goals.

CC: Which is the best team in the Championship that you would say that Brentford have played so far?

BEES: Hmmm. We should have beaten Norwich. They got a lucky deflected equaliser in the final couple of minutes. 

We hammered Watford 0-0 in the first half - we really should have been two or three up by half-time. The ref spoiled the match sending off Ethan Pinnock. We still got a draw but Watford weren’t all that.

Preston blew us away in that second half scoring four goals. They had the better of us all match.

Stoke also had our number in the first half going three up. But were hanging on for dear life in the second half as we got two back and pushed for an equaliser. 

Blackburn looked lively in the 2-2 match at our stadium.

But I would say Preston out of all the teams we played so far.

CC: Ivan Toney has done well since signing for the Bees. Is there a particular type of goal that he is good at getting - poacher, headers, outside the box - and what was his best goal?

BEES: Toney is your archetypal striker. Put the ball in the box and he’ll get you a goal. Header. Poachers shot. One-on-one with the keeper. He’s very different to Ollie Watkins. But a great striker. And also works so hard in defence to. So, he’s like having 12 players in your side. 

CC: Are Brentford capable of finishing in the top two this season or do they need to add to their squad to be able to really make a charge on the top two places?

BEES: We started slowly as we always do. But we’re warming up nicely. And the squad is coming together at the right time. We’re going to be top six going into the second half of the season. We’re so far unbeaten in 15 matches. And we have the league’s top striker. We also have players coming back from injury like Norgaard and Janson. And players coming into form like Canos, DaSilva and Mbeumo. 

I’ll be surprised if we didn’t strengthen in the window. Possibly in one of the full-back positions. And also bring in a winger. 

But I really do think we can push for a top-two place - assuming we do not get hit by injuries. 

With Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford, Swansea, Boro gathering steam, possibly Blackburn and us, it’s going to be a fascinating battle.

CC: How are Brentford likely to line up for the game?

BEES: Our first eleven normally picks itself. 

Dalsgaard. Pontus Janson. Pinnock and Henry will play in front of David Raya in goal. 

Frank does like to rotate the midfield with Marcondes. Jensen. Dasilva. Norgaard filling the three midfield spots. 

Upfront I would be surprised if it wasn’t Mbuemo Toney and Canos. With six-goal Marcus Forss on the bench. 

CC: What is your score prediction?

BEES: Bournemouth have undoubtable quality. And it’s going to be tough. 

On the Beesotted Pride Of West London podcast this week, which you kindly did the match preview interview for Peter, I predicted a 2-0 win for Brentford. We need to start winning home matches and I’m hoping with our first team all finally back on the pitch, this will be the match that we really step up to the plate. 

CC: Many thanks for Billy for his absolute mountain of football knowledge on the Brentford team and for sharing his Beesotted thoughts with Cherry Chimes. Brentford are playing well and I can see why Billy is predicting a win for the home side. But while Bournemouth have not been winning all the time they have been keeping clean sheets and you have to go back to the Preston game when a team scored more than one against the Cherries' defence and in away match it was Rotherham who last managed that. I'm confident that Bournemouth can score against the best defence and best home record in the Championship, and I think we'll make it difficult for goal-machine Ivan Toney. So, a 1-1 prediction is how I see it. Like the Billy though, I know Bournemouth need to keep the wins coming if they are to catch Norwich City.

Do visit the Beesotted podcast. You'll find a match preview podcast there for this game in which I talk with Billy and discuss my thoughts ahead of the match. 

Match Preview: Swansea City v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Swansea Oh Swansea
Twitter: @StevenSOS1987

I managed to catch a quick word with Steven Caroll at the Swansea Oh Swansea Fanzine ahead of tonight's game. Swansea City have had a strong start to the season and sit in fourth place just a point behind Bournemouth and they have a very good home record.

CC: Are Swansea City better equipped to make a sustained promotion push this season? 

SOS: I think so, we have more squad depth this year which is vital with the schedule being so hectic. All in all I would say a top-six finish should be the target. 

CC: Steve Cooper has done well in management since he took the Swansea job. What do you like about him as a manager? 

His contacts have enabled us to get high-quality players on loan which is vital when your finances aren’t good. Last season wasn’t convincing at times but once we changed to a back three we clicked and had a late surge into the Play-Offs. 

CC: André Ajew is still banging in the goals for you. Does he look as good as ever this season? 

SOS: Yes, he’s still doing the business, we’d be lower in the table without his goals and round play. Keeping him fit is vital for rest of the season. 

CC: What have you made of young striker Liam Cullen? 

SOS: Not seen much of him to be honest, I’d like him to have a run of games to give him a real chance. If not I’d loan him out so he can play regularly. 

CC: Do you still wish you had Sam Surridge at Swansea? 

SOS: Yes, because we need a striker. He was decent last season and was improving when he returned to your club. But in truth he wasn’t as good as Rhian Brewster who we replaced him with. 

CC: You have only lost one game at home to Huddersfield, so do you see this game as a real test of your home form? 

 Definitely, I think relegated clubs have a fair advantage this term having not lost as many players as they usually would have. Plus you gave Barnsley a hammering last week. This is our toughest test at the Liberty yet. 

CC: As I write this, Swansea have the best defensive record in the division with 10 goals against. So who has been the star at the back so far? 

SOS: Joe Rodon until he left was immense but Ryan Bennett has been great since replacing him. Marc Guehi has come on leaps and bounds since last year and Connor Roberts is in form of his life. 

CC: Which game would you say was Swansea's best win of the season and why? 

SOS: Probably Millwall in October (2-1 win). Purely because we usually struggle against sides who sit deep against us at home 

CC: How have Swansea been doing with goals from midfield - anyone we should look out for? 

SOS: Goals have been a struggle in general, no one in middle has chipped in with many, Palmer has one, as does Grimes and Fulton.

CC: How might Swansea line up for this game? 

SOS: I’d guess Woodman, Roberts, Guehi, Cabango, Naughton, Bidwell, Smith, Grimes, Dhanda, Lowe, Ayew 

CC: What is your score prediction? 

SOS: I think we’ll lose this one 2-0

CC: I was expecting a bolder score prediction from Steven at SOS. Swansea City's home form is impressive and Bournemouth have a habit of losing form very quickly just when you think they have found their stride. I was not overly convinced by the win at Barnsley. While the scoreline was good a better team would have put some of Barnsley's chances away. Swansea might not be scoring many but in André Ayew they have a striker that doesn't miss too many chances. I am playing this one safe expecting a much closer game and a scoreline that might be seen a better result after the game than before - I am going for a 1-1 draw.

Match Preview: Watford v AFCB
Bogger Interview: From The Rockery End
Twitter: @Watfordpodcast

CC: I spoke with Jason at From The Rockery End this week about Watford's start to the season and wanted to get his thoughts ahead of the big clash with Bournemouth. We always have a feisty game with Watford and I suspect that this weekend's match will be no different. 

CC: I feel that I should say congratulations - Watford have completed will have completed six games after the midweek match without changing managers! Seriously, how unsettling is it for Watford fans for them to keep losing managers?

FTREP: We know the model and credit where it’s due, it got us five seasons of Premier League football and hopefully the opportunity for more. However, whilst the majority of fans are fully versed in justifying our approach to the manager, sorry, Head Coach recruitment policy, there is an appetite to have some sort of stability in the boss’ office. We thought we had someone for the long term in Javi Gracia. However, he was let down by those in the boardroom. We had a platform to build on after the cup final season. Instead, weaknesses that needed addressing were not. Gracia was the fall guy and a series of bad decisions culminated in relegation post lockdown.

CC: Do you feel the heart has been taken out of the side with the summer departures?

FTREP: Not at all. I think most fans accepted that relegation meant losing the majority of our stars. And given the limp performances after the return of football at the end of last season, there weren’t too many tears when those players left. We’ve still managed to retain a subset of quality players in the likes of Sarr, Hughes, Deeney & Capoue. And with players that had previously been on the fringe or loaned out elsewhere such as Cleverley, Sema and Wilmot starting regularly and showing passion and desire in a positive start to the season, there’s a new and perhaps more aspirational heart to this side.

CC: What kind of feeling do you get about Vladimir Ivić
 so far? Is he looking like a good tactician and man manager in what he has said and done so far?

FTREP: In the current situation, it’s very hard to feel a connection to the club, players and coaching staff. However, there is no denying that Vlad has started well. We are looking incredibly solid with only two goals conceded in the league so far this season. In an attacking sense, there is still work to be done and the style of play has occasionally been hard watching. And whilst we may have been missing some of our attacking talent through injuries and suspensions early doors,  Ivić has not hidden behind this. Despite picking up points in games, he has been honest enough to say he expects more going forwards. He has also said from the start that he only wants players that want to play for the club. There was no pandering to the want away group of players. And that in itself endeared him to the fans.

CC: What do you make of Watford's start to the season now you are in the top six?

FTREP: We have been very much in a state of flux during the season start, biting our nails ahead of the international and domestic deadlines, hoping we could hang on to the players we wanted to give second chances to. During this tumultuous time, pending and potential transfers and the aforementioned injuries and suspensions left the squad looking thinner than originally anticipated. Whilst academy products making their debut is always a good thing, seeing Dan Phillips, who had spent time at National League South neighbours Hemel Hempstead the previous season, was not a sight Watford fans were used to after five years in the upper echelons of the English game. Expectations were high, but the early team sheets were perhaps a reality check on what relegation to the Football League brings. The start is exactly what was needed and there shouldn’t be too many complaints. Now with the transfer dealings done, until 2021 anyway, we have a solid foundation to build upon and push on.

CC: Jao Pedro has made a good start. Do you think he could be one of the best strikers in the Championship?

FTREP: The potential of our young Brazilian frontman is definitely there. The recent match-winner at Derby was an early goal of the season contender in a game that was always going to be decided by either a mistake or a moment of magic. The goal may have bought him some attention from a wider audience, but Watford fans will have noticed other qualities in those early games. He is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and also has the vision to play a defence-splitting pass. But what has stood out for such a young man is his willingness to fight and battle. Not attributes usually associated with Brazilian strikers, but ones definitely needed for a long Championship season against experienced second level defenders. Whether he gets deployed as an out and out frontman, or given a wider role alongside a returning Deeney or new Croatan striker Stipe Perica (with Sarr the other side… please!), we hope to see a lot more of him this season.

CC: Do you expect Bournemouth and Norwich to be among your main rivals for promotion this season?

FTREP: I think all three sides are well equipped to have a stab at an immediate return this season. Norwich have retained the services of Buendia and Cantwell who are both top talents for this level. And although the Cherries have lost the likes of Aké, Fraser and Wilson, they still have a core of players that have performed well for the club in recent seasons and some exciting young talent. I think you did well to hang on to Brooks. If he can stay injury-free, then he will cause havoc in this league.

CC: Why do you think Watford have struggled to score many goals in their first five games?

FTREP: The initial tactical focus has been on keeping it tight at the back, starting with a back three, then just in front of them wing-backs and central midfielders who are happy to drop back and keep things compact, denying the opposition any space in attacking areas. The men you’d expect to be leading the line in Deeney or Gray being injured, Perica suspended for three games and the on-loan Glenn Murray not quite hitting form as yet alongside the defensive approach, goes some way to explaining the low scoring games we have been involved in. We’ve also seen the opposition match us on occasion and play three at the back. This has had the effect of each side cancelling each other out, leading to cautious and uneventful matches. Having said all that, we’ve emerged from our home game against Blackburn with a 3-1 win, doubling our league goal tally. Whilst the possession and shots stats were dominated by Rovers, the quality of play from Watford when we had the ball in the final third was much better and we perhaps should have had a couple more goals to our name.

CC: Have you got any major injuries ahead of the Bournemouth game?

FTREP: Will Hughes and Andre Gray are yet to play this season and are still working their way to full fitness. Troy Deeney played a brief cameo against local rivals Luton, but has been out injured otherwise. Etienne Capoue may make his first start of the season after coming off the bench against Blackburn. He was absent at the start of the season whilst his future at Watford was in doubt. Sarr was rested at Derby after returning from the international break, but came back into the side against Blackburn and will hopefully keep his place.

CC: Give us a score prediction?

FTREP: I’m sticking with the low scoring theme that has been running through the majority of our league programme this season… 1-0 to the Hornets!

CC: An absolute mountain of information from Jason there on the Hornets. Thanks to him for his generous time and detailed answers. I think not enough fans give enough merit to how important it is to have a good defence and Watford have started well at the back in only conceding two goals in their first six games. The form of Ben Foster has clearly been key in that and he even pulled off a penalty save in Watford's last match against Blackburn Rovers. Still,  Watford may find goals hard to come by themselves and with Bournemouth's current unbeaten run, there has to be a good chance of this match ending in a draw or maybe even something more favourable perhaps for the Cherries if we can start putting away the chances that are being made.

You can listen in to From The Rockery End to hear their latest podcast.

Match Preview: Cardiff City v AFCB
Blogger interview: View from the Ninian
Twitter: @VFTNinian

I wrote to Ben at View from View From the Ninian this week and h kindly shared his thoughts ahead of the big game with AFC Bournemouth. Bournemouth haven't always done ell in the Welsh capital and Cardiff City are looking strong having just recorded a 0-1 away win at Preston North End. But what does Ben think of Cardiff's chances now that they also have signed Harry Wilson from Liverpool on loan.

CC: Has the club signed any players this window?

VFTN: Up until the final day, we’d signed a couple. Kieffer Moore came in from Wigan alongside Jordi Osei-Tutu from Arsenal and Sheyi Ojo from Arsenal. The latter on loan. Then on the final day, we got Filip Benkovic - a Croat international - on loan and Dillon Phillips from Charlton on a permanent deal. The marquee signing was Harry Wilson. I still think there’s some disbelief we got him, even if he did make his debut today…

CC: With Cardiff City just signing Harry Wilson on loan I'd better add the question of what you think he might bring to Cardiff City this season and were you pleased with the signing having seen how he played for Bournemouth in the Premier League and Derby in the Championship the season before?

VFTN: I think pleased is an understatement. Middle of the week, things didn’t look promising. Swansea, Derby, Forest were all in the running for him and it didn’t sound like were in the front runners for him. But one by one they dropped out and then late on Thursday, it was all but confirmed that he was coming. He’s been brilliant the past two years and it’s a surprise he’s dropped to the Championship. He’s just going to give us that bit of flair and creativity that we sometimes lack. We have Tomlin but he’s not hit the ground running. A player like Wilson means that any free-kick around the box becomes extra dangerous and his link-up play and movement is so intelligent. It’s very exciting!

CC: Cardiff almost got it right last season for promotion, but what do you think the team needs to go one step further?

VFTN: I think it raised expectations. We were off the top six all season but we really got it together when the season resumed and we looked excellent. Changed the way we played slightly, started keeping the ball and it paid off. We were very close to reaching the playoff final and I think that set the tone for the new season. We needed a striker who can score consistently and someone to give support to Tomlin. So much of last season relied on Tomlin doing something magical and now we have Wilson, it means that the pressure is off him a little bit and we have someone else who can do something. 

CC: Have Cardiff got any injuries you know about?

VFTN: Our full-backs both went off injured against Preston but it seemed more precautionary than anything. Tomlin isn’t involved currently so he’s probably out. The rest are fit. 

CC: Have you been pleased with Neil Harris and what style has he brought to Cardiff City's game?

VFTN: Yeah, overall, he’s doing a good job. I must admit to not being overly enamoured when he first came in but he was seemingly unpicking what had come before him. Felt like things were stagnating under Warnock. The second half of last season saw a Cardiff team that was hard to beat and clever going forward. He’s not making massive changes overnight but he’s evolving us. We pass it around more, we try and keep the ball, and we were getting results last season. 

How might Cardiff line up for this game?

VFTN:  I’m pretty sure it’ll be a similar team that started against Preston. Smithies in goal with Moz and Nelson at CB. Hopefully, Jordi is back at RB and Bennett is fit at LB. Midfield picks itself. Pack, Ralls and Wilson with Ojo and Hoilett on the wings. Moore up top. 

CC: Give us a score prediction?

VFTN: I think we’ll win 2-0. Similar to your last visit to the CCS. 

CC:  So, a very confident Ben from View from the Ninian. While we know all about Harry Wilson's free kicks we also know that he is not the best in tracking back and we'll try and exploit that. But I think Neil Harris is one of the best managers in the Championship and I'd like to see Jason Tindall see if he can out do the Cardiff manager. We need Josh King, David Brooks and Danjuma to probably start this game to give Cardiff plenty to think about so I'm hoping Tindall isn't too cautious in his team selection.

Read more of Ben's thoughts at View from the Ninian.

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