West London is to be represented by a new Premier League club in the 2021/22 campaign with Brentford having secured promotion to the top-flight for the first time in the club’s history. The Bees, who have historically flitted between the second and fourth-tiers, have been transformed in recent years thanks to a data-driven recruitment strategy overseen by the club’s chairman Matthew Benham, whose roots lie in analytics-driven sports betting.
In recent seasons, the Bees have sought to cherry-pick some of the finest hidden gems that European football has to offer. Griffin Park has been their platform to shine, with the likes of Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins, Bryan Mbeumo going from zeros to heroes. The first two would go on to bag lucrative transfers to the Premier League that helped the Bees to fund additional signings like Ivan Toney, allowing Thomas Franke’s side to go one further in 2020/21 to clinch automatic promotion.
The latest Premier League odds in the outright markets have Brentford priced as even-money third favorites for an immediate relegation. The recent Premier League betting tips appear to have been tongue-in-cheek towards Brentford’s participation in the EPL this season, with spoof articles alluding to “widespread disbelief” from Premier League clubs at having to visit the Bees new Brentford Community Stadium. Although this is par for the course with most promoted clubs, is there a sense that Brentford can defy the bookmakers and stick around?
In many ways, Brentford fans will be sweating about holding onto their star names from last season’s promotion-winning squad. Striker Toney bagged 33 Championship goals en-route to automatic promotion and is undoubtedly the focal point of the Bees’ attack. Goalkeeper David Raya has proven to be an inspirational signing from Blackburn and is attracting interest from elsewhere, while full-back Rico Henry is also on the radar of bigger top-flight clubs.
It’s true that the Brentford squad currently has a glaring lack of Premier League experience. The sheer fact that Toney, who featured just twice for Newcastle United, is their EPL veteran, says it all. That doesn’t mean they’ll be entering the Premier League merely looking to make up the numbers. During the close season, Brentford have been increasingly active in the transfer market, as head coach Thomas Frank sets about strengthening the squad with the Bees’ newfound Premier League riches.
Only one senior figure from Brentford’s promotion-winning squad has left West London, with Danish defender Henrik Dalsgaard opting for a move back to his homeland with FC Midtjylland. Dalsgaard was promptly replaced by a fellow Scandinavian in the shape of Norwegian international Kristoffer Ajer. The Bees smashed their transfer record to sign Ajer from Glasgow Celtic for a fee approaching £13.5 million.
Nigerian defensive midfielder Frank Onyeka looks like another clever, data-driven signing, ironically from the same club that Dalsgaard has moved to. Onyeka is a relative unknown, but judging by Brentford’s recent success in the transfer market, you can expect him to make an impact.
However, you can be sure that Arsenal will know they are in a game when they make the short trip west on the opening game of the season. The Bees squad is littered with combative types. None more so than the fiery Swedish center-back Pontus Jansson, the club captain. If there’s anyone that epitomizes the fighting spirit that’ll be needed to avoid the drop, it’s Jansson, a man that’s prepared to roll his sleeves up and battle in the trenches this term.