Brentford have the ability to make life tough for Liverpool this weekend, with Bees supporters in bullish spirits ahead of the game.
The Reds could only draw 1-1 at Luton last weekend, followed by a 3-2 defeat away to Toulouse, and improvements are clearly required in their latest Premier League outing.
Next up is Sunday’s visit of a dangerous Brentford side – one who won 2-0 at Chelsea earlier this month – and three points are essential for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.
With kickoff almost upon us, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson spoke to Billy Grant (@billythebee99), blogger and podcastser for Beesotted (@Beesotted) to discuss the season to date, the Bees’ key men and much more.
How would you assess Brentford’s start to the season?
It has been a great start.
Some fans were getting nervous when we had only had one win – against the ‘F’ word (F**ham) – in two-and-a-half months of football, but the truth is, we lost not one but TWO massive players for us; Ivan Toney for gambling and Rico Henry with a season-long knee injury.
Any team will struggle if you lose players so integral to the way that they play, but we have managed to adapt. The players who have stepped in, even though they may not be Toney and Henry, have done a magnificent job.
On top of that, big names like Josh Da Silva, Mikkel Damsgaard, Kevin Schade, Shandon Baptiste and Keane Lewis-Potter are also injured, so it’s not making Thomas Frank’s job any easier.
We lost to Everton but we were well and truly Dyched! We have only beaten a Sean Dyche side once in the last seven, and I told him that personally when I saw him in Nottingham a few weeks ago when we played Forest, as he lives there.
We also unluckily lost to Man United after being 1-0 up until the 92nd minute. Beating Burnley has been the turnaround for us. Getting the result we deserved.
Then to top that up, beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the THIRD time in a row, then beating West Ham for the FIFTH time in a row in the Premier League, meant that our so-called worries were put behind us.
Looking back, our draw against second place Tottenham in the first game of the season, in which we were gutted that we didn’t take all three points, now looks like a great result.
Who has shone this season, and who has struggled?
Nathan Collins arrived from Wolves for a (relatively for Brentford) big price tag. A fee of £23 million is huge for us, and broke our transfer record.
He had a few so-so appearances and Bees fans were wondering exactly why we splashed out on him, but in the last few matches, he has shown exactly why we have spent money on him.
In Toney’s absence, Bryan Mbeumo has gone up several levels. He has been excellent. His rapid breaking when Brentford turnover has caused plenty of problems for opposition defences.
There have been a few question marks has with Mark Flekken, the Dutch international goalkeeper who stepped into the rather large boots of David Raya.
He has made a few basic mistakes which have made Bees fans slightly nervous. And in our last match against West Ham, he was taken off at half-time (apparently he got a knock) to be replaced by Thomas Strakosha.
Who knows who will end up in goal on Sunday.
Will Ivan Toney leave in January?
Simple answer: no. But then maybe! We’re in a great position that we don’t need to sell him in January. We can wait until the summer.
As fans, we all know he is going to go and we’re used to Brentford selling our key players, then buying more key signings. We’re relaxed about it.
But it’s great that we are not getting our pants pulled down any more like we used to back in the day when any club came running offering money for our players.
The reality is, Ivan owes us one, so he can’t exactly kick up a fuss if we decide we will hold onto him until summer.
Saying that, if Arsenal, or even Liverpool dare I say it, came in with a £100m offer in January, I can almost guarantee you our director of football will be driving him down the motorway himself.
What’s one thing you’d change at Brentford?
Not much. I love the vibe at the club, and I love that we have tried to keep our identity from the lower leagues intact.
I also admire the fact that we are not overly commercial in a footballing sense.
If I could change one thing, it would changing Franks’ contract to 12 years, but that’s not going to happen, so I will settle with putting a standing section behind the East Stand where the away fans are.
The West Stand is all standing at the moment, but I think adding a standing section in the East Stand where the away fans are will add to the atmosphere in the stadium even more.
What’s your take on the much-discussed VAR?
VAR is great if it is used properly, but that’s not the case at the moment.
Use it only for important decisions and allow referees to make their own ‘little’ mistakes, as the reality is, many of these do not affect the match.
We have lost sight of why rules like offside and the rest were bought into the game.
Big decisions. Quick decisions. And explain to the fans, like they did in the Women’s World Cup, why the referees have made them.
Which Liverpool player would you most want at Brentford currently?
I think any Brentford fan would accept Allison if he was available, and if we could afford it.
He is a great ‘sweeper keeper’ who plays football the way we do, and he would be a seamless replacement for Raya.
Looking ahead to Sunday, where are the key battles?
It will be interesting to see how our full backs – with no Henry and Aaron Hickey – deal with the onslaught of your wide men Mo Salah, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz (whoever plays).
As for our forwards, Mbeumo and a revived Neal Maupay’s battle with Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate or Joel Matip will be an interesting match-up.
If Mathias Jensen is given the opportunity to dominate in the midfield as he has done recently, it is going to be a really interesting game.
Finally, what’s your prediction?
On the Beesotted Pride of West London Podcast this week, I was the ONLY person who went with a Brentford win, predicting 1-0 to the Bees.
Everyone else is expecting Liverpool to be too strong for us. On paper, that is the case, but in reality, you just never know.