While Brentford are not mathematically safe from suffering the drop at the time of writing, with three victories on the trot recently, Thomas Frank’s Bees have reached the 40-point benchmark usually required to secure Premier League status for another season. And their chances of returning to the Championship next year are now incredibly slim in the relegation odds.
After blowing a great chance to seal automatic promotion and then losing the play-off final to local rivals Fulham in 2019-20, Brentford fans would have been desperate for just a taste of Premier League football after being starved of top flight action for over 70 years. But after winning the play-offs last season, their first campaign back in the promised land has surely exceeded the expectations of the most ambitious Bees fan.
With a tight budget and not the strongest of squads, Frank’s men were expected to drop straight back down to the Championship at the first time of asking — with a scrappy 17th-place finish perhaps a great escape. But the west London side are 14th at the time of writing and if they can carry on their current run of form for their last three games, then they can climb even higher up the standings.
The worry for Brentford fans ahead of the 2022-23 campaign will be the potential of second season syndrome slipping in. In recent years, we’ve seen Sheffield United and Leeds United both record very respectable finishes in their first seasons back in the Premier League. But the Blades crumbled last season, finishing rock bottom with a mere 23 points, and Jesse Marsch’s men are in serious danger of the drop this year.
Of course, with Ivan Toney likely to look for a move away from the Brentford Community Stadium this summer regardless of the side’s Premier League survival, after being recorded taking aim at the club on more than one occasion over the course of the season, Frank will need to find a talisman to lead the line for the Bees — which is easier said than done given Brentford’s strict recruitment strategy.
But Brentford have proved they can cope with losing their target man in the past, with Ollie Watkins’ departure to Aston Villa and Saïd Benrahma’s loan-turned-permanent move to West Ham United, both in 2020, not proving as costly as many involved with the club would have initially thought.
After giving Christian Eriksen a route back into football, signing the midfielder on a short-term deal in January following his shocking collapse at Euro 2020 last summer, it seemed Brentford would be unable to keep the Denmark international for much longer than his initial contract — with plenty of top suitors expected to swoop in for signature in the summer.
But Frank revealed after the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford that he believes the club ‘have a very good chance’ of keeping hold of his Danish compatriot and that will be music to the ears of Brentford fans — who have unsurprisingly really taken to the 30-year-old, but probably thought it work out to be nothing more than a no commitments fling.
The idea of a serious relationship is now on the table and it would undoubtedly be a win-win scenario for both the player and the club. Eriksen wants to represent his country at the World Cup in Qatar later this year, and regular playing time at Brentford is perhaps his best chance of featuring in Kasper Hjulmand’s final squad — as opposed to going to a top European club and sitting on the bench.
But for the Bees, it also means their hopes of staying in the Premier League for a third campaign are handed a massive boost. In what is now a stats-driven game, one goal and two assists in eight games might not be the most convincing from a player of Eriksen’s standards on paper. But the reality is that the Danish midfielder’s performances have been outstanding and there is thankfully no concern for his fitness!
It’s also worth noting that Eriksen has played the deepest of Brentford’s midfield three, often dropping back well into his own half — using his ability to dictate play and find openings with his wide variety of passes to create chances for the Bees that wouldn’t necessarily see him awarded with the assist.
He has demonstrated his can still get forward though, like when he burst into the box to grab Brentford’s second in the shock 4-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month. He’s certainly pulling the strings for Frank’s side, and keeping him for at least another season could be the key to avoiding relegation again next season!