Promoted as last-season’s Championship play-off winners, Brentford (8/11 To Stay Up – Premier League 2021-22) will be banking on the prolific Ivan Toney to help extend their new top-flight status into a second season.
Laying to rest the ghosts of 2019-20 – in which a blistering run of form came to an agonising end two games from the finish line, depriving the Bees of automatic progression to the top tier – Brentford struck twice under the Wembley arch in May to finally break their promotion hoodoo.
With nine previous play-off campaigns having ended in defeat, Danish boss Thomas Frank (pictured) scored a perfect ten in guiding his Scandinavian-infused squad over the finish line against Swansea, ending a 74-year absence from England’s elite division. Now, a new quest – the battle to remain – begins.
Hopes for new season
What should we expect to see from the newcomers? The Premier League fixture super-computer has bestowed on the Bees the honour of kicking off the new term, with a visit from Arsenal the curtain-raiser on Friday August 13 (Brentford 13/5, draw 13/5, Arsenal 10/11 – Match Betting).
The Bees can keep bad omens at bay with points on the board early doors, be it against the Gunners or on their first Premier League road trip to Crystal Palace a week later; a tough festive period – bringing match-ups with both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Aston Villa within a cluster of six games, will test their mettle mid-season.
Much will depend on whether the Bees can hold on to the services of Toney. The 25-year-old excelled in a Brentford shirt last campaign, netting a Championshp-record 31 regular-season goals en route to promotion. West Ham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton have all been linked with the striker in the off-season, but Frank has so far stood firm: in his eyes, Toney – with four years left on his contract – is staying.
Arrivals and Departures
Kristoffer Ajer – £14m from Celtic
Frank Onyeka – £9m from Midtjylland
Henrik Dalsgaard – Free transfer to Midtjylland
Emiliano Marcondes – Free transfer to Bournemouth
Luke Daniels (released)
Ellery Balcombe – Loan to Burton Albion
Toney is, unquestionably, the leading light of this Brentford team. Impressive goalscoring figures for Peterborough in League One earned him a move to the second tier ahead of the 2020-21 campaign and the frontman duly raised his game for the step up.
Showcasing his golden touch on the biggest stage of all is a whole new task, though the calibre of suitor tracking his movements suggests that the Northampton-born forward’s stock is only expected to rise.
Never a professional player in his own right, Thomas Frank took the path less trodden into management. After learning his trade in the Danish national youth setup, he joined top-flight club Brondby in 2013, rising to the position of head coach in October 2018. After successive qualifications for the Europa League preliminary stages, Frank resigned from his post and moved to British shores, initially in an assistant role with the club he now leads.
Following Brentford’s seismic decision to close its youth academy in 2016, Frank provided a link between first team and new-fangled ‘B’ team, aiding young players in their transition between the two. Succeeding Dean Smith in the top job, he guided the Bees to 11th in the Championship 2018-19, before narrowly missing out on promotion the following year.
Frank favours a 4-3-3, typically employing Spaniard Sergi Canos – formerly of Liverpool – and Frenchman Bryan Mbeumo around the central figure of Toney. Their vertical style, condensing the centre-field in a bid to provide space for full-backs to exploit, will face much sterner resistance this term.
Last season – 3rd (Championship).