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Brentford and ‘Moneyball:’ Will it work in the Premier League?

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Brentford and ‘Moneyball:’ Will it work in the Premier League?

The 2021-22 Premier League season is scheduled to start in less than a month. Top title contenders are eager to get going, while a newly promoted team is eager to make an impact. The very obvious pun makes it very clear that the club is, of course, Brentford. The Bees won promotion to the top flight for the first time since the 1946-47 season after defeating Swansea City 2-0 in the Championship Play-Off final.

Soccer – Championship Play-off Final – Brentford v Swansea City – Wembley Stadium, London, Great Britain – May 29, 2021 Pontus Jansson of Brentford lifts the trophy as they celebrate after winning the Championship Play-off Final. Image credits: premierleague.com

Led by former Danish national youth team coach Thomas Frank and captained by former Leeds United defender Pontus Jansson, Brentford is famous for his unique and scientific way of managing operations, including player transfers, sales, prospect of results and more. Although that does not guarantee the survival of the Premier League from the start, they are certainly better placed than many of their predecessors.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE BOARD ROOM

One of the first things that stands out at Brentford is its ownership and the structure of the boardroom. Its owner, Matthew Benham, took over the majority stake in 2012, along with soccer co-director Rasmus Ankersen. This is where the unique relationship between the club and Denmark began to flourish.

Matthew Benham and Rasmus Ankersen

Matthew Benham (left) and Rasmus Ankersen, the men behind Brentford’s rise. Image credits: bunteto.com

Ankersen was already installed as director of the Danish club FC Midtjylland, which is famous for its world-class soccer academy that has developed some of the best footballers over the years. Benham, by contrast, is a childhood Brentford supporter who made his earnings in the gambling business as the owner of the Smartodds gambling company. We will return to Smartodds in a moment.

Benham also became the owner of FC Midtjylland in 2014, which has since won three Super League titles. The duo were also responsible for hiring Thomas Frank as an assistant coach at the club in 2016, before promoting him to manager in 2018. Frank’s tenure got off to a terrible start, losing eight of his first 10 games, but the ownership support did. do not hesitate.

Brentford has also strived to be the “most inclusive club in the country.” Monique Chaudhuri, a black woman who is the director of the club, stated: “We have a motto of ‘Bee Together’ and what we seek to do is place EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) at the center of our entire strategy. “This is where the unique nature of how the club works comes to the fore and it’s time to see how they work. The approach to football called ‘Moneyball’.

HOW THEY WORK

Brentford has been one of the most consistent players in the Championship since promoting from League One in 2013-14. They have never been flirting with relegation aside from Frank’s early days as a coach and have been in the top six for more seasons. This is due to the fact that the club’s approach in dealing with player transfers is based on data and science.

Thomas Frank with Captain Pontus Jansson

Thomas Frank with Captain Pontus Jansson. Image credits: foxnews.com.au

One of the key indicators, especially for attacking players, is the expected goals (xG) that reflect the true potential of the goals. Brentford’s thinking is always positive: how can a player benefit them? How can you increase your value in the club? What kind of profit can be obtained in the future? So scouting plays a crucial role in all of this, as first-team players are briefed at least 15 times before being signed. The kind of great attention to the finest details speaks volumes for Benham as an owner, whose Smartodds company helps a lot.

Being a large-scale betting company, they help to collect data and knowledge about the players to offer the best chances of success of a new signing. Naturally, along with all of this comes the obvious of being patient to make ambitious goals come true. “Benham told fans when he took over that he had a strategy and asked them to accompany him on a trip and urged them to have a great time,” says Kieran Maguire, professor of football finance at the University of Liverpool. .

The kind of data tracking and analysis that Brentford does helps to recognize players with high future value who are not the best known. In fact, names like Neal Maupay, Scott Hogan, Andre Gray, Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and others became world leaders before leaving the club. Plus, the one thing Brentford knows he can’t stop doing is selling.

It is a club that relies heavily on player sales, which explains why they have been so successful in that regard as well. Maupay, their top scorer in 2018-19 was sold to Brighton and Hove Albion before 2019-20 began. Watkins and Benrahma teamed up with Bryan Mbuemo to form the deadliest front line in the second division in 2019-20 scoring nearly 60 goals, the season that ended in the final phase of the play-offs.

There was to be no sentiment attached to the two attackers, and both were sold for an incoming amount of £ 60 million. That money was used to sign Ivan Toney for £ 5 million, who had just won the League One top scorer award. Toney scored 33 goals and provided 10 assists in his debut season with the Bees, including the first game in his final against Swansea.

With great interest from Premier League clubs, there is no guarantee that Toney will not have a new home before the end of the transfer market. One key contributor in that final is gone in that sense. Emiliano Marcondes, who scored the second game-ensuring goal in the final after a run across the field along the field exploded his lungs, let go and joined Bournemouth.

INVESTMENT AND YOUTH

Investing in youth has been a mainstay of Benham’s time as a homeowner. That prompted Brentford to launch a B-team and an academy that focuses on developing future first-team players. Not only do they sign youth talents on their own, but they also get those who have been fired by other academies as they saw no chance of getting into the first team.

Brentford B Players

Brentford B players in action. Image credits: brentfordfc.com

In fact, getting into the first team of a “big six” club is many times more difficult for a youth player than it is at Brentford. Another key formula for its success has been the signings made from outside England. In the British transfer market, prices are inflated by a considerable amount and all other teenagers are seen as the next big thing. That kind of wealth doesn’t work for a club of the stature of Brentford which has led to the purchase of many underrated stars, aside from the names already mentioned.

They had four players getting playing time at Euro 2020, including two of their Danish players. Many of the other team members have represented their country at the senior and youth levels, including Jansson, who went to the 2018 World Cup. This says so much about how the club is run that international players don’t see it as a step back in his career. The type of environment fostered by the property and management has been key to all of this.

“The fans see it [Benham] first as a fan and then as a smart and successful businessman, ”Maguire said. “Brentford fans have realistic expectations and know that the player development model can help the club overcome their weight.” Certainly, Brentford has already shown it by reaching back-to-back play-off finals and winning on the second try.

FINAL VERDICT

Can any or some or all of these factors help the Bees avoid relegation in the upcoming Premier League season? It’s hard to say right now, given that the league is one of the most competitive and demanding in the world. Hitting the best clubs week after week will truly be the toughest test on Benham’s property in a decade.

Brentford has a tendency to start the season slowly before gaining momentum as the games progress. The Danish connection is strong, with Frank considered a maverick among coaches. The club have also been seeking a transfer for Harry Wilson from Liverpool, who spent last season on loan at Cardiff City alongside Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer. If they manage to further strengthen the team and get some hair from the big fish, there’s no reason why Brentford can’t mix it up with the best for much more than just one season.

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