Brentford had never played in the Premier League before this season, but the club’s impressive progression in recent years led many to believe they were ready to make the step up. This belief was supported by the Bees’ momentous victory over Arsenal on opening night of the 2022/23 season.
Recent wins over Norwich City, Burnley, Chelsea, West Ham and Watford have lifted Brentford away from any relegation and into 11th place in the Premier League table. A run of eight defeats in nine games over January and February had some concerned over the Bees’ safety in the top flight, but they now look stronger than ever.
This underlines the remarkable job Thomas Frank has done at the club. Not only has the Danish manager taken Brentford into the Premier League, he’s proven they belong there with the Bees now targeting a top-half finish. This would represent an exceptional achievement for a club that is the Premier League’s smallest in terms of stature.
“We always wanted to be an asset to the Premier League, to end as high as possible and to have that laser focus on the next game, and that’s the reason we’ve achieved what we have,” said Frank. “We did well in the beginning, came through the wobble and that’s why we’re doing very well now. I’m just happy that we have a decent amount of points. But I want more.
“I had a big belief in us before the season and I said that to a lot of people, but we never had a target publicly and we don’t have an internal target because we always focused on the next game. I didn’t know how high we could finish or how difficult it could be, but I’m very pleased we are where we are.”
Frank deserves to be mentioned as a Manager of the Year candidate. Naturally, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will be mentioned in the discussion around this season’s award with Manchester City and Liverpool setting a new precedent at the top of the Premier League. Their title race is one for the ages.
David Moyes’ achievements at West Ham this season also warrant recognition even if West Ham United ultimately miss out on the top four and Champions League qualification while Graham Potter has also done an excellent job at Brighton – just like Brentford, the Seagulls are hoping to finish in the top half.
However, Brighton’s success is the result of a years-long process. Brentford are playing their first season in the Premier League and have yet to reach their ceiling as a club. The signing of Christian Eriksen in particular has demonstrated how the Bees could still take a step or two up the English football ladder. They can progress further.
One of Brentford’s biggest problems might be the interest that will inevitably be shown in their best players. Ivan Toney has been recently linked with a move to Newcastle United while Eriksen is only on a short-term contract until the end of the season – the Danish playmaker will have more than a few options this summer.
If Brentford can keep Toney and convince Eriksen to extend his stay at the club, they stand a good chance of pulling themselves even higher. Frank has built his team on a foundation of good coaching and shrewd recruitment. Brentford’s success isn’t a flash in the pan – they have building to this point for some time.
Of course, Brentford must be wary of the ‘second-season syndrome’ that afflicted Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United two seasons ago. Their slump over January and February shows how easily results can get away from a team at Premier League level, but their recent form proves Frank is in control of matters.