|Brentford 2 v 0 Swansea City|
Saturday, 29th May 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Swansea City v Brentford : Compelling analysis on this weekends Wembley final
Friday, 28th May 2021 13:09 by Jack Supple & Keith Haynes
Today we link up with Jack Supple at The Analyst and the in depth investigation by the European analytical team In to Swansea City and Brentford. It reveals some very interesting historical data on a potential outcome when the final finishes tomorrow evening.
There is arguably no better way to win promotion than via the EFL play-offs. The highs and lows of an arduous campaign boiling down to just a matter of a few decisive actions in a tense window of opportunity is pure footballing poetry.
As a fan of a team who has witnessed their team win both the Championship title and a Championship play-off final in the last minute (hello Bobby Zamora), I would support the notion that our play-off win was unquestionably sweeter. However, those inside the clubs vying for promotion would happily take the option of an automatic promotion over the agony and ecstasy that the infamous play-offs bring. This season’s Championship play-off schedule has seen Brentford and Swansea City reach the “richest game in football”. A place in the Premier League awaits the winner, with the prize money transformative for whoever edges what is always a tense affair. It pits Brentford, a team all too familiar with play-off heartache, against Swansea, a side with two previous play-off promotions in the bank.
In 2020-21, both Championship meetings between Brentford and Swansea City ended 1-1, with the Bees taking the lead in both games. In fact, the Swans were the only side Brentford dropped as many as four points from winning positions against in the regular league campaign.
From a style perspective, of the four teams to reach the play-offs this season, Barnsley were the clear outlier. The Tykes were far more direct in their passing approach compared to the other trio. Swansea’s more measured style ultimately outclassed Valérien Ismaël’s side and it will be interesting to see how the final will pan out against Brentford – two sides more than comfortable in possession and also attacking on the breakaway.
We will see two of the meanest Championship defences battle it out, with only promoted pair Norwich (36) and Watford (30) conceding fewer goals during the regular season than Brentford (42) and Swansea (39).
The Bees’ defence registered a league-low expected goals against total of just 39.9, suggesting their defensive unit was particularly measly, which could bode well for them in the final against a Swansea side not renowned for their free-scoring ability. As for Swansea, only Watford (23) and Stoke (21) kept more clean sheets in the regular Championship campaign (20), and they also restricted Barnsley to just one goal across the two semi-final legs.
This game could well boil down to which defence holds its nerve the longest. Indeed, recent history suggests a tight game is in store, as no side has scored more than twice in any of the last nine Championship play-off finals since Swansea City ran out 4-2 winners against Reading back in 2011.
Final Heartache for the Bees
Agonisingly, no team has experienced more play-off heartache than Brentford. Prior to this season, the Bees had failed to secure promotion in all nine of their ventures into the EFL play-offs – the most of any side yet to win the play-offs. This season is their 10th attempt at the play-offs, the joint-most of any team alongside Preston North End, who have also experienced nine unsuccessful play-off campaigns.
Including this season’s appearances, only Blackpool (eight) have reached more EFL play-off finals than Brentford and Swansea (five each), while no team has lost more Football League play-off finals than Brentford (four, level with Reading and Sheffield United). The Bees lost in 1997 to Crewe Alexandra, in 2002 to Stoke City, in 2013 to Yeovil Town and in 2020 to Fulham. Brentford will be praying their fifth play-off final ends in jubilation rather than a familiar feeling of dejection.
Great Dane or Wiley Welshman
Frank has helped establish a siege-like mentality at Brentford, an ‘us against the world’ attitude that has rubbed opponents up the wrong way in the process. However, it’s proven to be successful (play-offs aside), with Brentford racking up 61 league wins since his first game in October 2018, which is bettered only by Manchester City (79), Liverpool (76) and Leeds United (65) across England’s top four tiers in this period.
In fact, in all competitions, Thomas Frank has the best win percentage of any of the 19 Brentford managers to take charge of 100+ games in all competitions since 1920-21, when they entered the Football League.
Should Thomas Frank get Brentford over the line this Saturday, he’ll become the first Brentford manager since Harry Curtis in 1934-35 to take the club into the top-flight.
Talk of the Toney
When removing penalties, Toney has scored nearly two goals more than his non-penalty expected goals tally suggested he should have bagged this season, which is a reasonable return and should be maintainable in the future. Toney’s all-round game is excellent and is continuing to progress. His ability to occupy and stretch defenders, bring others into play, and get into dangerous scoring positions suggests he has wide array of attributes for a striker ready for the next level.
Toney’s only previous appearance at Wembley was for Barnsley against Millwall in the 2016 League One play-off final as a late substitute, ending on the winning side that day. This time round, Toney, a player who has taken the Championship by storm this term, will be relishing the prospect of playing a key part to his side’s fortunes in what will be one of the most watched games of the season.
The Only Way is Ayew
Swansea City will be looking to their talisman André Ayew for inspiration this weekend at Wembley, with the Ghanaian making 140 appearances and scoring 47 goals during his time with the club. Ayew, who has netted 10+ goals in three of his four seasons with the Swans, has scored 17 goals this season, three more than any other player at the club.
Under Cooper, Ayew has been the central figure in their attack, scoring and assisting 46 goals in all competitions, 29 more than any other Swansea player in this period. The striker has had a hand in 33% of the goals scored during Cooper’s tenure, which is far and away the highest share of any player. Ayew’s talents aren’t only limited to converting chances but assisting them as well. Since the start of last season, no Swansea player has provided more assists in all competitions (11).
Ayew has scored twice previously at Wembley, netting a brace there for West Ham against Spurs in a League Cup match that saw the Hammers come from 2-0 down to win 3-2. He will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Scott Sinclair in 2011 by firing the Swans back into the Premier League.
All images reproduced with permission.
Photographs licensed from Reuters & The Analyst
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