We speak to Beesotted‘s Billy Grant Billy ahead of the Swans’ trip to Griffin Park this weekend…
How’s your season been so far?
Weird. Last season we couldn’t buy a win in our first 8 matches even though we were playing brilliantly. Then we picked up after that. This season it’s almost the inverse. We started off flying. Playing brilliant football and getting the results to match. Well saying that, we were winning at home and drawing away – with the odd loss here and there. But we weren’t worried as we were looking like world beaters.
We started by smashing Rotherham 5-1 where everything went right. The following week we should have been out of sight with Stoke. They were delighted with getting a point as we ran them ragged but did not deliver. Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan and to a certain extent Nottingham Forest at home we were well in command. Then is started to go horribly wrong.
We’ve gone from world beaters to a situation where currently we couldn’t beat an egg. And it’s very strange.
Currently we’ve won one game in fourteen. That’s a pretty terrible run. If you break it down even more, we have lost eight of those fourteen matches and six of those losses are in the last eight matches.
We’ve lost a lot of confidence – something that can affect a young team (our average age is just over 24 years) as Swansea well know. We also lost our head coach Dean Smith (although when he left we had gone already six games without winning to be fair)
We’ve also been really unlucky with injuries. You don’t realise how much injuries affect you until you have them come in their droves. We were great at the start of the season but lose two or three key players with no suitable replacement and suddenly you are making do – playing players in their wrong positions.
The season when we got to the playoff semi final with Mark Warburton, we didn’t have any real injury worries all season. We were lucky. And we didn’t realise how much that good luck affected our season at the time. If we had lost a couple of key players like Andre Gray and Alex Pritchard that season, we would have struggled for sure as it’s a fine line in this division between doing really well and doing really badly.
Saying that, we seem to be losing every game by the odd goal. So it’s not as if we are getting battered.
And we don’t generally have a 90 minute bad game. We seem to lose the plot for 15 minutes or so and when we recover we are two or three goals down (Derby – three goals conceded in 15 minutes after going one up. Preston – three goals conceded in 20 minutes. QPR – three goals conceded in 10 minutes after going one up. Sheffield United – two goals conceded in 5 minutes after going one up).
We’re hoping our luck has finally changed. After getting battered at West Brom for the whole of the first half – where they missed a hatful of chances – we equalised in 90th + 1 minute to get an undeserved draw.
That has happened to us on so many occasions over the past few seasons so it was wonderful the tables were finally turned.
Hopefully that bit of luck helps to kick-start our season.
How much of a setback was it losing Dean Smith to Aston Villa?
Obviously if you lose a cog in the wheel, and the new cog takes a while to get oiled up, naturally the cart is going to stall.
The question being… whether this is the right cog. Or did we buy the wrong part for the cart and do we have to go back to the cog shop and tried it in for a different version.
Dean Smith was great for Brentford. He was very good with the players. And he also helped get us to a next level up – becoming upper mid table team that played great football.
He had to deal with the fact that whenever we got a decent player, he was then sold (albeit for a good price). But we seemed to then be able to find a suitable replacement who did even better.
Who would ever have thought after selling Andre Gray (who scored 18 goals for Brentford in his one season here) to Burnley, we would have Lasse Vibe banging in 16 goals in a season we didn’t finish in the Top 6. Scott Hogan scoring 21 goals in just 34 appearances for the Bees. And Neal Maupay looking to possibly those 18 goals in just four months?
The whole idea was if Dean Smith was ever to leave – and Swansea know all about this – another head coach would seamlessly pick up the mantle.
With 6 losses out of 8, some would argue it wasn’t a seamless join. But to be fair, Dean Smith left us on a win-less run so it’s too early to judge.
The club are also looking to recruit a second assistant coach – rumours have it ex-Bee Keith Millen and also Lee Carsley who was our caretaker manager before Dean Smith – are in the frame. This could help very much in retaining the balance between technical coaching and man-management within the whole coaching team.
Why have things not clicked yet under Thomas Frank?
No idea I have to be honest.
We talk about this every week on the PrideOfWest.London podcast <<>>
As I said earlier, he has been unlucky with injuries. If Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma and more recently Kamo Mokotjo are not in the side you notice for sure. They are key players for us.
Some say it is hard for one to graduate from an assistant coach to head coach of the same side.
Others say Frank is very technically minded. And understands the game implicitly. But maybe needs to work with another head coach to help him get his often very complicated ideas across to his young players.
There are so many theories flying around.
Maybe it’s just the fact that … he’s been a bit unlucky and needs to simply get a few wins under his belt. Just like Daniel Farke did at Norwich and Garry Monk did at Birmingham when those two teams were floundering.
Who are your star performers and who needs to up their game?
Of course the star is striker Neal Maupay. To score that many goals (14) in your second season in English football is fairly impressive.
Ollie Watkins is a great player when he is fit and a real goal threat.
I personally like Said Benrahma. A tricky little winger. He came over from France in the summer and is still acclimatizing. When he gets to grips with this division, he will be a big player for us.
The transfer window is approaching, is there money to spend and what positions need strengthening?
We don’t spend willy nilly. If we look like we will hit a playoff spot we may spend. Although, we also know this is the window for inflated prices. We could do with a defensive midfielder. Or maybe a box-to-box midfielder seeing as Nico Yennaris will be leaving us for China in the New Year.
Our biggest fear this window is the fact that – if we are mid table – we will lose some key players if someone bids big money for them.
So Neal Maupay. Or maybe central defender Chris Mepham. They could go in this window if someone came in with a wheelbarrow of cash.
What do you make of Swansea and which players if any do you fear?
Swansea seem quite similar to us. The way we buy our players. The type of coaches we choose The style of football. The fact that we’re consistently inconsistent at the moment.
Young team. Susceptible to mistakes. If you check our podcast his week (https://audioboom.com/posts/7108880-was-wba-a-turning-point-pre-swansea-rodcast-from-the-pub-and-radio-studio), we spoke to ex Swans player Alan Tate. He described how Graham Potter has got Swansea back on the straight and narrow after the collapse of the infamous “Swansea Way”.
We have to remember, no matter what position you are in now, you have just come down from The Premier League. And you have Premier League players.
Wilfred Bony is on £120k a week. Goalkeeper Erwin Mulder is on £20k a week. Martin Olsson sits on your bench on £22k a week. Many of our players would love to be on £10k a week. But unfortunately we’re not loaded with cash so we have to work within the resources we have.
Obviously Oliver McBurnie is one player to look out for. Hopefully, our defence is a little more watertight this weekend than it has been as of late and we can keep him at bay.
Predict the score and where both teams will finish
Score prediction. I believe for once we’re going to actually keep a clean sheet and we’re going to nick it 1-0.
As things stand, we’ll probably finish 10th and Swansea 11th in May.
Billy Grant writes, podcasts and blogs for Beesotted the Brentford Fanzine. You can catch Beesotted’s post-match podcast from around 7pm on PrideOf West.London – talking to both Swansea and Brentford fans in the pub after the match