Match Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Brentford
Since Middlesbrough now sit in the privileged 7th place, there are very few games that the side is undeniably the underdog as the clubs surrounding them in the positions just below and above are contestable while the club will be favourite to beat anyone beneath that. However Middlesbrough’s next game against Brentford is just that, the side was sat in second place until Swansea got a result against Norwich last night. Neil Warnock has emphasised his sides underdog status coming into this game pointing to the London based side as the best team in the division.
Season so far:
It would be safe to say that Brentford will be happy with how their season has developed as they currently sit in 3rd position and within reach of 1st place. The side has been particularly good going forward as they have managed to find the net 48 times in 26 games, almost 2 goals a game. However their defensive record hasn’t been as sturdy as they would have hoped causing them to leak a goal per game on average a couple of goals more than league leaders Norwich and considerably behind Swansea City. Still they have found a way to outscore the opposition as the Bees have only lost on 3 occasions so far this season.
Brentford has been competing on three fronts until they were recently knocked out against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup and Leicester City in the FA Cup. However now they can focus on the Championship, the competition that they succeeded in with impressive consistency. Over the last 5 games in the league Brentford won 4 and drew 1 against a 10 man Swansea. The sides 2.6 points per game over this stretch of matches is certainly high enough to be competing at the top of the table showing that they haven’t entered a stretch of bad form that Middlesbrough could have exploited in the coming game.
It is important to note that Brentford did recently beat Middlesbrough in the cup. However the game wasn’t a fair representation of the two sides as the Teessiders were forced into including youth players after a bout of Covid stopped the usual first team players from participating and Brentford rotated what is a very talented squad. Still Middlesbrough’s ability to compete in that game will give fans some hope and rightly so. Warnock recently spoke about the sides poor form by explaining that he often has a bad run in January and will be looking to kick on in February. Meanwhile Middlesbrough showed they were capable of frustrating the best sides in the league as they held Norwich City to a draw in their last game.
Top Goalscorer: Ivan Toney (20)
Most Assists: Bryan Mbeumo, Ivan Toney, Mathias Jensen (6)
Most Yellow Cards: Vitaly Janelt (5)
Most Red Cards: Ethan Pinnock, Ivan Toney (1)
One to Watch: Ivan Toney
When Neil Warnock praised Brentford in a recent press conference, he singled out Ivan Toney for particular praise calling him the best striker in the league. This impressive title has been earned by the frontman who has been directly involved in a goal per game so far this season meaning that it is highly likely that he will create or finish an opportunity at some point in the game against Middlesbrough.
The 24 year old has spent a lot of his early years on loan to clubs up and down the football pyramid. He started his career at Northampton Town where he found decent form for his age, netting 11 times in 53 appearances. He earned a move to Newcastle in 2015 for £324,000. He was sent out on a flurry of loans including two loans to Barnsley and Scunthorpe United. He showed decent goalscoring form while on loan away from the club scoring a goal every 3.5 games. However his best goalscoring form, during his final loan to Scunthorpe United, showed the type of player he has become as he found the net every other game.
He left Newcastle for Peterborough with the Tyneside team making £24,000 profit on the fee they paid in 2015. It was in this more settled environment that the player started to thrive scoring 40 goals in 76 appearances. While at the same firing rate as his time at Scunthorpe it was on a more consistent basis, something that he had failed to do up to this point and so gained the interest of a number of Championship sides. Brentford was the side who captured the player for £5m giving the selling team a healthy profit. His value has been growing exponentially since showing that it was a good value deal for Brentford too.
The striker is as close to an all round frontman as you will find in the Championship. His finishing, particularly with the inside of his foot is very accurate and clinical. He has good movement and enough pace to get ahead of most centre backs in the league and he doesn’t have the same selfish tendencies that can be exploited in other strikers as he has laid off six goals for his teammates. Despite the undoubted danger that the player possesses there are still ways in which Middlesbrough could get the better of him.
Firstly the former Peterborough man likes to get the ball played to his feet telegraphing the majority of the passes into the attacker and giving Boro the opportunity to intercept the ball and prevent the frontman from getting the ball. Secondly, he will look to run with the ball and so Boro’s man marking system should starve him of opportunities to make drives across and at the box. Thirdly, he needs to work on his positioning as the striker has been caught offside on a number of occasions, however trying to play to this weakness would be dangerous as it would give the likes of Mbuemo the opportunity to run in behind the defensive line too. Finally, he does offer a dangerous aerial threat as his jump and the power he can put behind a header is impressive, yet it does pose to be the most contestable way for the striker to get a goal if Fry is fit and able to start and so forcing Brentford out wide may be an answer.
There is no doubt that it will be an uphill battle to prevent Ivan Toney from scoring as Middlesbrough could find a method that they believe will get the best of the player but he has an uncanny knack of scoring anyway regardless of what the opposition does to try and quell the threat that he poses.
If anyone is unsure about the players talent then his winter window link with Arsenal should indicate that he is highly regarded in the world of football at this moment in time.
Manager: Thomas Frank
The current Brentford manager is a role model to any aspiring managers that don’t have an extensive professional football career. The Danish coach appears to have never made a professional appearance in the sport before becoming coach. The majority of his coaching career came in Denmark where he took over the Under16’s, 17’s and 19’s youth sides with the Danish FA keeping hold of the Frederiksvaerk born coach between 2008 and 2016 even entrusting him to manage both Under-16’s and under-17’s at the same time. When he left the Danish FA in 2013 he signed on as head coach for Brøndby IF in the Superliga getting them into the top 4 in successive seasons. He left Brøndby in March 2016.
He moved to the Bees where he took an assistant managers role. He became manager in October 2018 as Dean Smith left the club and has shown an impressive coaching and managerial ability since, keeping the club at the top of the division despite the sides heavy turnover of its best players.