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Brentford 3 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 11th January 2020 Kick-off 12:30
Down the road - Preview
Friday, 10th Jan 2020 20:42 by Clive Whittingham

QPR are free-scoring and in form, but face a tough ask to continue that at their recent bogey ground Griffin Park on Saturday.

Brentford (13-4-9, WDWLWW, 3rd) v QPR (10-5-11, LDLLWW, 15th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday January 11, 2020 >>> Kick Off 12.30 >>> Weather – Grey, windy >>> Griffin Park, Braemar Rd, Brentford, TW8

As God gives with one hand, he takes away with the other. QPR fans in a state of euphoria at 6-1 and 5-1 home wins inside four days now fear that was just a rather large, and very welcome, bone being thrown our way by the powers that be ahead of the annual, miserable trip down the Westway to face Brentford.

For so long Brentford were a quaint lower league team down the road, useful for plundering the occasional Andy Sinton from or running our top flight team out against in a pre-season friendly. Thanks lads, same time next year. QPR fans would pop along on Saturdays they didn’t fancy the journey to a long away game – like they do with Wealdstone.

To go from that to losing four times in a row on this ground, by increasingly emphatic margins and having been comprehensively outplayed each time, would have been galling enough without Brentford also streaking past Rangers in just about every metric going. Now they stand on the brink of a promotion to the Premier League, with a beautifully drilled and riotously exciting young team, and a brand new stadium in West London about to open just around the corner. QPR are fifteenth, as they have been for several years now.

Naturally a few of the Brentford fans are fucking full of themselves about it, as I suppose you would be – between 1965 and 2015 these teams met only six times competitively, and Brentford didn’t win any of them – which only makes matters worse when this fixture comes around and our team rolls over to have its tummy tickled. Three QPR managers – Chris Ramsey, Ian Holloway and Steve McClaren – were given the cardboard box for their things after taking the long walk across the pitch from the Griffin Park dugouts after heavy defeats here. But you don’t get where Brentford are now in the modern game by making snap decisions when you’re angry and upset, tired and emotional.

Theirs is a tale of shrewd strategic decisions at the right time, with a phenomenal ratio of right moves to wrong. It’s sickening, so we won’t dwell on it, but they recognised where football was going with the Premier League, parachute payments, EPPP, Financial Fair Play, and the increasing importance of deep dive analytics, scouting and recruitment earlier than just about anybody else. They’ve done it over a period in which QPR, by comparison, lost their damn minds, making one wrong move after another, lording Sandro and Joey Barton types. Hence the abrupt switch in respective status.

Clubs arriving in the second tier three at a time, loaded up with Premier League TV money and subsequent parachute payments, at a time when you’re trying to comply with FFP gives you a couple of choices. You either ignore the rules, spend money anyway chasing the dream, and if it goes all Wolves or Bournemouth for you then you’re away to the races and good luck to you. If you go up and then come back, as QPR did and Aston Villa might be about to, then you’ve got all kinds of problems – trying to pay for the FFP breaches of before, while using the parachute payments you should be using to try and get back to prevent another breach second time around. Boats must expel water quicker than they take it on, otherwise things go badly very quickly. If you don’t go up at all, well then you become the varying degrees of shambles we now see at Derby, Sheff Wed, Birmingham and others. Or you take the rules for what they are, abide by them, and try to find other ways of skinning the cat. Brentford, and to a lesser extent Preston, are becoming masters at this, and QPR need to as well given the constraints of our ground, attendances, facilities, location, historic losses and mistakes.

The only way clubs in our situations can move forwards is by recruiting players cleverly, developing them, and selling them on for enormous profits. Brentford, controversially, did away with their academy entirely, sick of the disgusting EPPP regulations that allow the likes of Man City to come and take who they want and hoard them together in a banal academy set up where they can occasionally go and play Scunthorpe United in the Freight Rover Trophy and mock the local players for how little the earn. They focus on data analytics and scouting to sign players others have missed the value in, and then sell on at huge mark ups to the sort of clubs too lazy or big time to do that themselves.

Since promotion to this league Brentford have sold (figures from Soccerbase of TransfrMarket) Andre Gray to Burnley for £9m, Moses Odubajo to Hull for £3.5m, James Tarkowski to Burnley for £3.5m, David Button to Fulham for £2m, Scott Hogan to Villa for £9m, Jota, Maxime Colin and Harlee Dean to Birmingham for a fee well north of £10m, Chris Mepham to Bournemouth for £12m, John Egan to Sheff Utd for £4m, Nico Yennaris to China for £4.9m, Florian Jozefzoon to Derby for £2.8m, Ryan Woods to Stoke for £6.5m, Daniel Bentley to Bristol City for £2m, Ezri Konsa to Villa for £12m, Romaine Sawyers to West Brom for £3m and finally Neal Maupay to Brighton for a whopping £20m.

As time has gone on, reputation has increased and money has come in, so the transfer fees received have gone up. Brentford are able to reinvest that money in more, better players, culminating this summer when, heading into a particularly weak looking Championship, they were able to splurge a little bit and push for promotion.

Ins: >>> Bryan Mbeumo, 19, RW, Troyes, £5.85m >>> Pontus Jansson, 28, CB, Leeds, £5.54m >>> Mathias Jensen, 23, CM, Celta Vigo, £3.4m >>> Christian Norgaard, 25, DM, Fiorentina, £3.1m >>> David Raya, 23, GK, Blackburn, £3m >>> Ethan Pinnock, 26, CB, Barnsley, £3m >>> Halil Dervisoglu, 20, CF, Rotterdam, £2.7m >>> Joel Valencia 24, AM, Piast Gliwice (Poland), £1.8m >>> Dominic Thompson, 19, LB, Arsenal, Undisclosed >>> Drew Yearwood, 19, CM, Southend, Undisclosed >>> Nikolaos Karelis, 27, CF, Genk, Free

QPR, in the same period, have basically made their money back or slightly better on players such as Seb Polter and Tjaronn Chery, and then done deals of varying value and quality for Darnell Furlong to West Brom (£1.5m), Alex Smithies to Cardiff (north of £3m) and Luke Freeman to Sheff Utd (£5m). We lost our shit, to varying degrees, over all of those deals and people are now fretting about where and when Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Ryan Manning might go. But the simple fact is, in the modern game, we only get out of the mess we got ourselves into by repeatedly bringing players in for a low x and selling them on for a high y. Eze could be the perfect example if we get the £20m figures that are being bandied around, reinvest that cleverly and get three more players out of it who we subsequently then sell on for the sort of money Brentford have been able to get for Konsa (£3m from Charlton) and Mepham (rejected by our academy). But it needs to be repeated over and over again to get you to the point they’re now at – able to spend big money on good players and push for promotion despite having the division’s smallest ground and lowest average attendance. When Les Ferdinand and Lee Hoos say everybody is for sale don’t hammer them for it, they’re right.

QPR, to be fair, have been talking that game since Ferdinand came in as director of football, though there have been multiple missteps since. We’ve still done things like give three-year contracts to Jay Emmanuel Thomas. Money has been spent, badly. Conor Washington didn't work, and now we're wholly reliant on loaned strikers each year. We’ve still flitted between strategies: scout the lower leagues; scout Europe; give the manager whatever he likes; get some big name loans in. We’ve still jumped wildly from one manager to the next at the first sign of trouble: forward thinking youth coach; then promising lower league boss; then ageing club favourite; then a big name; then a coach. Brentford, meanwhile, ignored several long losing runs in both Dean Smith and Thomas Frank’s tenure and kept faith, only twisting once when they decided Marinus Dijkhuizen was an error of judgement. We’ve still had some managers appointed by the owners, some by the director of football, and often for completely different purposes and with completely different styles to the last. Even this season we’ve quietly shuffled the much heralded “head of recruitment” Gary Penrice off, and allowed a manager to come in and sign a clutch of players he’s worked with before. That doesn’t work when you change managers as often as we do.

But there are also many signs that the long term strategy is working. We have brought in Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ryan Manning and Ilias Chair for buttons, developed them, improved them, and can now sell them for serious money, as we did with Smithies and Freeman. All four have particularly improved under Mark Warburton’s coaching. There are many problems with the team, particularly the defence, but the new manager has only had one transfer window to address them and has otherwise done absolutely everything he was brought here for – dropped the wage bill, rebuilt the team for less money, given the young players a chance and improved them, played an attractive and attacking brand of football. Players he would like to have picked, like Lee Wallace and Man City loanee Matt Smith, have been made to wait by young players QPR actually own being given a chance. When that’s all the case you stay the course, even when things do go against you in trying and galling circumstances, as they’re likely to tomorrow.

Keep doing the right things and you get your rewards eventually, and QPR are belatedly doing a lot right.

Links >>> View from the Pu – December >>> Big time Brentford – Interview >>> That Bircham goal again – History >>> Brooks in charge – referee >>> QPR 11 Wales 2 – Podcast >>> Official Website >>> Beesotted – Blog and Podcast >>> Griffin Park Grapevine – Forum >>> West London Sport, Brentford – News >>> The Brentford Drone – New Stadium Videos

Geoff Cameron Facts No.82 in the Series – Early statistical analysis by Brentford’s owner Matthew Benham turned up Geoff as a potential player to watch while he was playing for the Poughkeepsie Porcupines U11 side but he was rejected for being “too tattooed”.

Saturday

Team News: QPR’s main concerns are at the back, where Liam Kelly was given a start in the cup and may keep his place ahead of the accident-prone Joe Lumley. Toni Leistner limped out of the previous league game with a calf niggle so while Grant Hall is likely to retake his place ahead of impressive debutant Conor Masterson it remains to be seen whether the German will come back in or Geoff Cameron retain his place in the back four. Ryan Manning and Lee Wallace vie for the left back spot. Ebere Eze will almost certainly come into the attacking midfielders, with Marc Pugh, Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel all difficult to leave out to accommodate him. Nahki Wells and Jordan Hugill have scored five goals between them in the last two games having started one each. Yoann Barbet remains sidelined for a “couple more weeks” according to Warbs Warburton in his press conference this morning.

Brentford rested ten players for last weekend’s 1-0 home win against Stoke in the FA Cup but will return most if not all of them to the line-up this weekend, including 31-goal strike force Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma and the unbalanced Bryan Mbeumo. Sergi Canos is out long term having disappeared up his own arsehole and Nikos Karelis hasn’t been seen since leaving the house to forage for food in October.

Elsewhere: The other game chosen by our Sky overlords this weekend is the South Wales derby between two sides left absolutely bereft after a plundering by the Barbarians of the Valleys QPR last week. That’s bloody remarkable really considering the Champions of Europe are at home to Sheffield Owls on Saturday, which ticks not only the Sky Sports Leeds box of being a Leeds game, but also a game between two teams 50 miles apart which allows them to bill it as a derby like they do with Brighton v Bournemouth (97 miles) and Portsmouth v Plymouth (170 miles but they’ve both got a dockyard so…).

There’s also a north-off this weekend between Grimethorpe Miners Welfare and Danni and Nikki the Cowley Sisters so the M1 and M62 will be doing brisk trade. Over the otherside of the hills, the Mad Chicken Farmers are at home to Preston Knob End. Frankly I’m amazed these aren’t all televised, placed back to back from 06.00 on Sunday morning and trumpeted as the Super Sunday Derby Brunch Spectacular by Don Goodman hanging out the side of a bus. Or 06.01, should a mental health charity want to raise awareness of its work by shifting the kick offs slightly to fuck up everybody with OCD.

Bristol City, always a streaky team under Lee Johnson, have lost five and drawn one of their last seven and were taken to an FA Cup replay by Shrewsbury last time out. Their game against last minute concession enthusiasts Wigan Warriors (one win in 15) doesn’t promise a lot of quality but there’s plenty of intrigue there. Wigan’s one win, incidentally, came against Lutown who are now bottom of the league, nursing a goals conceded column of 56 ahead of their home match with Birmingham.

What else do I have for you? Jeffers and Ajay are slumming it up at Jarrod Bowen FC this weekend. Promotion chasing West Brom are away to Charlton, whose new owners have just upped Steve Gallen to director of football after his work in recruitment there. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are at Middlesbrough, where Woody Woodgate has been named manager of the month for the league. Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers head to in form Hayes and Yeading.

Stoke v Millwall.

Referee: John Brooks is a referee marked out for bigger things than the Championship judging by his appointments, but has made fundamental errors in three of his four QPR appointments to date (one in our favour, two against). Details.

Form

Brentford: Only Preston (nine) and Fulham (eight) have won more home games in the Championship than Brentford (seven) this season. They’ve only conceded eight goals at Griffin Park so far, which is the joint best home defensive record in the league with Leeds. Since a 1-0 loss to Huddersfield here in November the Bees have won six home games in a row, scoring 15 and conceding two (although seven of those goals scored came in one game). They’ve kept clean sheets in six of their 14 home games this season and conceded just once in seven of the others. Millwall are the only team to score twice here this season, and they lost 3-2 having led 2-0 with ten minutes to play. That result was the catalyst to turn a run of three wins in 12 in all comps to start the season into their current sequence of 11 wins in 16 games. Of their nine league defeats this season, seven of them have been 1-0. The Bees are fourth top scorers in the league with 41, and have two players in the top ten goalscorers in the Championship with Ollie Watkins second on 17 and Bryan Mbeumo joint tenth with ten. They don’t, however, spread the goals around much. Only seven outfield players have scored for Brentford this season and three of those (Mokotjo, Jensen, Dalsgaard) have one each. The other two are Benrahma with four and Da Silva with six (three of those in the 7-0 v Reading). By way of comparison, Leeds have had 11 different league scorers, West Brom 15 and QPR ten.

QPR: When Rangers and Brentford shared a division between 2001 and 2004, QPR were unbeaten in three visits to Griffin Park (two draws, one win). That stretched an unbeaten run on this ground out from 1965 to 2015, although they were the only three competitive meetings there in that time. Since then, however, Rangers have been absolutely dire when playing here, losing four out of four under three different managers (Ramsey, Holloway, McClaren), culminating in last year’s 3-0 second half surrender. The R’s have given away penalties in each of their last three visits, although only two were scored. They couldn’t come into this meeting in much better form, with 6-1 and 5-1 wins against the division’s two Welsh sides under their belts in the last two matches. But wins have tended to come in twos followed by a series of poor results so far this season – two nils against Preston and Birmingham were followed with three defeats and a draw, and prior to that

High scoring victories against Blackburn and Hull were proceeded by seven without a win including a 3-1 home defeat against the Bees in the first meeting. Rangers have won five away games in the league so far this season, as many as they managed in the whole of the last campaign. Only West Brom (48) have scored more league goals than our 44, but only Luton (56) have conceded more than our 48. Luton lost 7-0 when they came to Griffin Park.

Prediction: This year’s Prediction League is sponsored by The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last year’s champion WokingR says…

“Back to earth and reality this weekend with a defeat to the noisy upstarts. Brentford are where they are in the league for a reason. Currently second in the overall form table and top for home form so think they will be just too good for us.”

Woking’s Prediction: Brentford 2-0 QPR. No scorer.

LFW’s Prediction: Brentford 3-1 QPR. Scorer – Nahki Wells

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TacticalR added 21:32 - Jan 10
Thanks for your preview.

I think that in football you need some kind of edge. For some teams it's the style of play (that's what raised Swansea through the divisions), for other teams it's a good manager (like Eddie Howe). Even teams with infinite resources like Manchester United can lose their edge. Brentford appear to be quite unique in their statistical analysis of players, and pretty bold in their decision-making (I would hate us to dump our academy).

Let's hope that our recent wins will put some wind in our sails tomorrow, although Brentford should be a much more serious test than certain teams from South Wales. I can't help thinking we need to be 3 nil up for us to make a game of it. In other words attack is our only defence.
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