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Villan4Life
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Not seen any thread on Brentford in Other Football so thought i'd start one

Great read here about their recruitment strategies using analytics:-

 

https://talksport.com/football/fa-cup/659667/brentford-data-revolution-england-smartest-club-championship-leicester-fa-cup/

 

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How do you generate more than £120million on transfers over five years, but still maintain one of the most talented squads in the Championship?

“If David wants to beat Goliath, you can’t do that by using the same weapons,” Brentford’s co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen tells talkSPORT.

Meet Rasmus Ankersen, one of the men at the forefront of football’s data revolution

You’ve seen Moneyball, right? Well, Brentford are a bit like that. They understand that underdogs don’t win by playing the same game as everyone else.

Their weapon of choice is football analytics, which helps them scour the globe for what Ankersen describes as ‘whispering talents’.

Or, in other words, under-performing individuals with high potential, but no-one knows it yet. Sports history is littered with them.

Flamengo refused to pay the original Ronaldo’s bus fare to get him to a second trial. It was worth about 50p. He went on to be named the world’s greatest footballer three times.

Michael Jordan was kicked out of his college basketball team, Asafa Powell couldn’t find an athletics club just years before becoming the fastest man on earth in 2005, and Paul McCartney’s teachers failed to spot any musical talent.

Imagine overlooking Asafa Powell? Well, most of Jamaica did

Ankersen, Brentford’s charismatic Dane who has written books on developing talent, reckons most companies spend two per cent of their time recruiting and 75 per cent managing their recruitment mistakes. Most of his days are spent ensuring he doesn’t fall into that trap.

He knows that what you see is not necessarily what you get, especially when it comes to football.

Sure, Liverpool are top of the Premier League, but what’s their shot conversion rate? Is it freaky? What’s their expected points tally? Are they the best team, or have they simply been lucky?

Ankersen was one of the first men in football to realise that, contrary to cliche, the table does lie. And as a result, football’s data revolution emerged from a small old ground with a pub on each corner.

“Football is such an overheated and irrational industry,” Ankersen says.

Griffin Park is the only ground in the land to boast a pub on all four corners
“If you get on a bad run of results, what’s the average lifetime of a manager? 16 months?

“When we evaluate how well we do, we don’t look at the league table. We look at these underlying ratings which we trust more. They’re more predictive for where we’re going to go.

“Because of all the randomness in football, you can overachieve with 15 points or underachieve with 15 points. The league table isn’t always so reflective of how strong you actually are.

“Thomas Frank lost eight of his first ten games as Brentford head coach. We didn’t panic and now things are going a lot better.

“It’s about knowing when to stick to the plan and when to drive change. We have a much more rational and objective approach than the classic emotional approach in football.”

He’s right, football is full of randomness and luck, more so than most other sports. A deflection can win a game for a team who had one shot and 20 per cent possession. But any wise gambler knows you don’t back that team next time, just because they won.

There are few wiser than Brentford owner Matthew Benham – one of the smartest men in football.


An Oxford physics graduate, Benham has spent decades becoming a football scientist, removing outcome bias and other wrong judgements we make without even realising.

“It might sound arrogant, but people do talk a lot of rubbish in the stadium,” Benham once said. “If the opponent ventures forward once or twice after we have dominated for five minutes, someone will immediately say, ‘They want it more than us!'”

Even in 2008, his mathematical methods of evaluating performance were more sophisticated than the current algorithm used for expected goals (xG).

He made his millions through a company called Smartodds: a team of genius statisticians who calculate the outcome of football matches to gain an edge over bookmakers.

So when he became majority shareholder of his boyhood club in 2012, he already had the perfect model to guide them from the third tier of English football to the edge of the Premier League.

When Ankersen met Benham in 2013, the Bees were third in League One with a few games remaining. Ankersen asked Benham whether he thought Brentford would go up. The reply? They had a 42.3 per cent chance.

Despite his career as a professional player and coach, Ankersen’s whole outlook on football was instantly transformed. And suddenly, so was Brentford’s recruitment model, with the help of co-director Phil Giles and technical director Robert Rowan, who sadly died at the age of 28 in 2018.

Matthew Benham went to his first Brentford match at the age of 11 and now owns the club

Benham’s tools compare the relative quality of clubs around the world, helping Brentford find your classic Football Manager wonderkids, usually on the Continent, where the player market is less inflated than England.

“It’s not that data tells you who to pick, data can tell you where to look,” Ankersen explains.

“Using data and using models to compare the strength of different teams and different leagues, we’ve been able to identify some of the markets or some of the leagues that have a higher level than people think.

“This is what Matthew has been doing for the last 25 years – finding inefficiencies in the market and exploiting them.”

Brentford have to generate £15m profit in the transfer market every year to function as a profitable business. This is the reality for most Football League clubs without a billionaire owner willing to cover their losses, but the Bees are up against it more than most of their Championship rivals.

Ankersen adds: “At Griffin Park, we have one of the lowest commercial revenues in the league.

“We don’t have any hospitality facilities, so we’ve been relying on successful player trading. That’s been the bread and butter of the club.

Brentford are currently five points off the automatic promotion spots

“The key is being able to identify undervalued talent in the market, develop them, and then sell them on for profit, gradually building more value into the squad and gradually increasing the level of the squad.

“Now we come to a place where we have a huge amount of value in the squad and we’re good enough to compete at the top of the league.”

If you haven’t seen Moneyball, that’s basically the plot right there. But Benham doesn’t see it that way. He actively dislikes the comparison, because it removes all the human aspects to Brentford’s model.

“I don’t know why he doesn’t like the Moneyball analogy,” Ankersen says. “He sees all the nuance and all the other things that go into the process of getting deals done and evaluating players. I think he just doesn’t like too much publicity.”

But at the risk of oversimplifying, Brentford’s success still derives from out-thinking, rather than out-spending the opposition.

Brentford's player trading profits (selected)
Neal Maupay to Brighton – £18.2m (bought for £1.6m, sold for £19.8m)Chris Mepham to Bournemouth – £12.2m (B team product, sold for £12.2m)Andre Gray to Burnley – £10.65m (Bought for £550k, sold for £11.1m)Ezri Konsa to Aston Villa – £9.5m (Bought for £2.5m, sold for £12m)Scott Hogan to Aston Villa – £8.7m (Bought for £750k, sold for £9.5m)Ryan Woods to Stoke – £5.5m (Bought for £1m, sold for £6.5m)Jota to Birmingham – £4.5m (Bought for £1.2m, sold for £5.7m)
They have the fourth-lowest playing budget in the Championship, but they’re fifth in the table. And according to xG, their performances make them the second-best team in the league this season, behind Leeds.

What’s more, Benham and Ankersen have been doing the same thing at FC Midtjylland in Denmark.

Initially frustrated with the lack of change he could implement in a conservative Football League unwilling to change, Benham bought Midtjylland in 2014 and installed Ankersen, their former player and coach, as chairman.

They made wholesale changes overnight: transfers were inspired by mathematical models and obscure stats were sent directly to the touchline at half-time to influence tactics.

“At first, I thought it was all bullshit, because football is about showing heart,” Midtjylland’s then-captain Kristian Bach Bak said.

Midtjylland made headlines over here in 2016

The Danish club won their first-ever Superliga title in 2015 and beat Manchester United in the Europa League the following year.

If Midtjylland were the world’s first truly modern football club, Brentford quickly became the second, and the Bees suffered their fair share of criticism, too.

But like Kingston for sprinters, or South Korea for female golfers, west London soon became a goldmine for undervalued footballers due to the club’s unique understanding of potential.

There’s no better example than Neal Maupay, the Brighton striker currently linked with a £40million move to Napoli.

Brentford picked him up from the second tier of French football for £1.6m just two-and-a-half years ago.

“Maupay was not a perfect player,” Ankersen recalls. “If you ask people in France, they thought he was too aggressive, too angry.

“It’s about understanding which problems you can fix and which problems you can’t fix.

Brentford transformed Maupay’s career and hes already thriving at Brighton
“If players were fully developed, Brentford wouldn’t be able to buy them. You get an unfinished package, and you need to make it better.

“Maupay was a very talented player. He played in Ligue 1 when he was 16. The football potential was always there. He lost his way a little bit because of some bad career moves and an injury.

“You look for players that have potential and analyse the context: why have they not fulfilled their potential?”

Maupay, sold for £19.8m, was comfortably Brentford’s best player last season, and for most clubs, losing such a star on deadline day would signal trouble.

But departures at Brentford only pave the way for the next big thing. For example, Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma are among the most highly-rated players in the Championship. Neither of them cost Brentford more than £2m, both are now worth eight figures.

“You try and find a stock that is undervalued, right? It’s cheaper than it should be, then you get the upside.” Ankersen has a knack for transforming complex ideas into simple analogies.

BMW – the front three driving Brentford’s success this season

BMW – the front three driving Brentford’s success this season
Essentially, Brentford are fiercely determined to find young, hungry players who want to prove themselves. And they know where to look. It’s no coincidence that Maupay, Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo all came from Ligue 2.

This season, the average age of Brentford’s starting XI is 24 years and 324 days – the second youngest in the Championship. Not bad for a club who were widely scrutinised for scrapping their academy and replacing it with a globetrotting B team.

“An academy exists for two reasons,” Ankersen explains. “Either you want to produce first-team players or it’s a profit-maker. We didn’t do any of those things.

“When a 17-year-old player finishes his scholarship, he’s basically a free player. So when we thought we had a good one who could make it here, big clubs came in and paid the player much more than we could afford. And we got a ridiculously small amount of compensation.

“You’ve got to be different. When you’re in London and you’ve got all these big clubs around you, you can’t do the same things they do. We wanted to flip the model.

Brentford have made their status as a small club work to their advantage
“Look at the number of players being released from Premier League academies. They’re being released at an age when it’s very difficult to see who’s going to make it and who isn’t.

“If we can pick up the rejects, we’re not competing against these clubs anymore, we become their friends.

“It was a strategic decision on how to create a model where we can produce first-team players and make a business out of it, rather than spending £2m a year on something that doesn’t work.

“Since we made the decision, we’ve had 15 debuts in the first team. We sold Chris Mepham [a B team product rejected by Chelsea] to Bournemouth for a lot of money.

“We’ve got some good stories this season, like Mads Roerselv, who came in from FC Copenhagen, started with the B team, and has now made two appearances in the Championship.”

The success of the B team, much like Brentford’s overall model, was born out of necessity. But with a new 17,800-seater stadium arriving this summer, and the increasing possibility of Premier League football alongside it, what happens when it’s not David vs Goliath anymore?

Brentford’s stunning new stadium should be ready this summer
“The Premier League is a much more even playing field because of the TV deal,” the Dane explains. “In that sense, the Championship is probably the most unfair league in the world.

“It would be easier to retain Premier League status than to get promoted to the Premier League.

“We will always be open to do good deals. If we’re able to replace a player with a better player and pay less, we’ll do it.

“I don’t think the model will change, but we’ll be in a much more stable financial situation.

“You can say ‘no’, you don’t have to sell. You have a much more stable cash flow than in the Championship.”

Leicester’s remarkable Premier League triumph in 2016 was largely inspired by Steve Walsh’s recruitment of N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, and Jamie Vardy. Three unknown superstars lying in wait, two of them learning their trade in Ligue 2. Sound familiar?

But Ankersen knows better than anyone that the events at the King Power were among sport’s greatest-ever statistical anomalies. Rather, it’s the high levels of performance since which truly impress him.

He adds: “I have a lot of respect for what’s gone on at Leicester, especially what they’ve done after the title win. They’re still there among the top teams in the Premier League. That’s a remarkable achievement.

“They seem to be a club that’s punching above its weight as well.”

Brentford haven’t experienced top-flight football since 1947, a 73-year exodus. But the Premier League hasn’t seen anything like the Bees, either.

 

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It's not just the one season that's remarkable, it's the last decade that's been amazing. I've been going on and off since I was a nipper and much more so in the last few years since I moved to that part of London. I'll always be Villa but a day out at Griffin Park is hard to beat.

Most Bees remember shaking buckets to keep the place going but the approach that Benham has taken since he took over in 2009 has been revelatory and transformative. The fact that he's always insisted on an attacking, entertaining style of play is absolutely key for me. That, combined with the analytical side of the business has proved very successful. 

I'm part gutted and part excited that Griffin Park is soon to be no more but without Lionel Road, the progress will be always limited. 

 

 

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Great article:-

https://www.getfootballnewsfrance.com/2020/exclusive-brendan-macfarlane-brentfords-lead-scout-in-france-bryan-mbeumos-transition-from-ligue-2-to-the-championship-has-been-awesome/

 

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With Brentford currently riding high in the Championship, Get French Football News recently sat down with Brendan MacFarlane, the club’s Lead Scout in France. In an exclusive interview, MacFarlane discusses the nature of his role, Brentford’s success in the French market and his own views on French football.

How did you get into scouting for Brentford, and in particular, scouting in France? 

My journey towards scouting on a full-time basis has been fairly atypical. In my experience, the vast majority of scouts are former professional players or sport science graduates, however I took a less conventional route towards scouting – I studied a degree in French and International Relations, and as part of my studies, I undertook a year abroad working as an English language assistant in a French secondary school.

I was posted to a school in Niort in the west of France, and as a result I decided to follow the town’s local side, Chamois Niortais. Following their fortunes in Ligue 2 opened me up to a whole new market of players, and I therefore saw players such as Riyad Mahrez, Ngolo Kanté and Naby Keita while they were still under the radar outside of France.

I then decided to write an English-language blog dedicated to rising talents in Ligue 2 and I continued to contribute to it when I returned to Scotland to finish my studies. I therefore wrote some of the first English-language pieces on players such as Jonathan Kodjia, Sofiane Boufal, Kévin Malcuit and Clément Lenglet, and as a result I was approached by several clubs in England, Scotland the Netherlands for information on their player profiles. At the same time, I also wrote articles on Ligue 2 for several publications, including Get French Football News. 

A few months after graduating in 2016, I was approached by the late Rob Rowan, who introduced me to then Brentford Head of Recruitment Andy Scott, and I then began to scout for the club on a part-time basis, uniquely covering the French market. This then developed into a full-time role and I was then promoted to my current role as the club’s Lead France Scout in 2017 by Rob Rowan, and I haven’t looked back since. 

What does your role entail on a day-to-day basis? 

I am currently based in Paris and this enables me to carry out the primary function of my role; it’s my responsibility to identify talented players for the club in France, playing in all tiers of the French footballing system. In order to do this, my time is divided between watching video matches on a daily basis during the week, and covering live matches on the ground at the weekend. The club itself also has an excellent and extensive range of contacts, therefore our Head of Recruitment (Lee Dykes) and our Scouting Analyst (Chris Bradley) often notify me of players within the French market to follow up on. 

The second most important part of my role is to develop the club’s network of agent and club contacts within France. I speak fluent French and therefore I often make initial agent contacts on behalf of the club and this is something I regularly do on a daily basis throughout the week. Lee Dykes and the club’s co-directors of football (Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen) then take forward the negotiation and signing of the targets that I propose.  

I also make sure to keep on top of the social media and press reports in order to provide the club with primary information pertaining to potential targets in France. 

Are there specific traits or criteria you tend to look for in a player?

I think this depends greatly on the position of the player – some attributes are more important for players playing in certain positions than they are for players playing in others. It’s no secret that Brentford’s philosophy is based around the club playing an attractive style of football, therefore I always look out for players who look able to match the stringent technical demands of our coaches. 

The club have had great success in their recruitment of players from Ligue 2 in recent seasons, with the likes of Neal Maupay, Saïd Benrahma, Julian Jeanvier and now Bryan Mbeumo. What is it about Ligue 2 as a division and the players within it that helps them flourish in England? And do you feel there are specific areas of the game in which players who develop in France excel?

I’m often left a bit bemused by the negative overall opinion the average French fan seems to have of the country’s second division. Although the level of football isn’t always of the greatest standard, I feel that it’s a league that possesses several advantages. It’s a competitive league, and though the atmosphere is often a lot less impressive than in the English or German second-tiers, I think it serves as a perfect development league for two main reasons. 

Firstly, people outside of France often forget the size of the country – metropolitan France is around eight times larger than England, therefore players moving from Ligue 2 can adapt easily to the nature of travelling to away matches and overnights when they move to a Championship club. Players regularly travel the length and breadth of the country, often flying to matches, from as far north as Valenciennes to as far south as Corsica. 

Secondly, I think French players have a very good tactical understanding of the sport, as teams in France often play in a whole multitude of different positions, in comparison to simply playing 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 as is often the case in the UK.

Finally, players are often required to play in several positions in France, i.e. it’s not unusual for a left-sided centre-back to have also played left-back and left defensive midfield throughout the course of a season. 

How have players from France been able to adapt so well to life at Brentford? Does the club have any special measures in place to help players settle? 

To put it simply, Brentford is a club that cares about the welfare and mindset of its playing staff and therefore players feel the benefit of this dynamic. I can recall Neal Maupay revealing in an interview that the extensive research carried out into his background was a defining factor in his decision to join the club, as he felt like the club already knew him before he had even signed. Bryan Mbeumo also spoke recently in an interview about the feeling he had upon meeting the people at the club, and how this played a key role in his decision to make the move to England.

The club’s use of specialist experts, including sleep coaches, nutritionists and psychologists enable players to have access to information which can enable them to make as seamless a transition as possible to life in England. The club has been well equipped to integrating from players from a whole host of countries, and French players are no exception to the rule.

The physical and technical improvement we have seen in every player that has signed to the club from France has been nothing short of outstanding, and this is a direct result of the diligence and competency of our coaches and medical staff, who have helped the players to really unlock the elements of potential that they had demonstrated with their previous clubs. 

Finally, it’s also worth noting Brentford’s strategic importance – as a London-based club, French players are only 2h30 from Paris by Eurostar, and therefore it’s not uncommon for relatives and friends to come to Griffin Park to watch them play. In many regards, a move to Brentford for a Parisian player isn’t logistically too different from a move to a club in the south of France. 

Given Brentford’s success in the French market, do you foresee the club stepping up their efforts to recruit players playing beneath the top tier in France? 

We of course can’t deny the relevance of France to our recruitment strategies, however it must be noted that the club has a holistic approach to its recruitment – no one region has any more strategic important than any other. Although we have had excellent results within France, I don’t believe that the club would seek to intensify any approach to the French market any more so than it would seek to strengthen its approach to any other market, be that in the UK or further afield.  

Of the current contingent of players from France at the club, who would you personally single out as one to watch? 

I think we’re extremely fortunate to have such an exciting crop of players who have signed from French clubs, with each bringing their own qualities to the first-team group. It was particularly pleasing to see both Neal Maupay and Saïd Benrahma named in the club’s team of the decade at the end of December! 

Maupay is continuing to excite and enthuse with his work-rate and natural goal-scoring ability at Brighton, and he created many memories that will live long in the minds of Brentford fans. Jeanvier has grown and adapted to the physicality of English football and has resolutely carried out his tasks in the back line, while continuing to impress with the precision of his passing game. Benrahma is a player who gets fans off their seats with his flair and ingenuity, and his physical improvement in comparison to when I first saw him playing for Gazélec Ajaccio has been incredible.

Finally with 10 goals in his first 25 games, Bryan Mbeumo’s transition from Ligue 2 to the Championship has been awesome. He is an impressive young player who has adapted so quickly to life abroad for the first-team, and I’m sure that he has a very bright future ahead of him. 

 

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Reading that last article @Villan4Life it's easy to start wondering about Hogan. He was obviously settled and succeeding at Brentford but he looked like a pub player at Villa. I understand there's more than one factor involved but you have to wonder if we have the same sort of set up that helps players settle that Brentford has implemented.

 

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I really have soft feeling to this club. Not sure if it's the fact that we kept getting their players and then taking Smith at the middle of a season then he took us out of championship? or is it because the hard work they're doing with low resources? I can't say that I want them to be up. The only thing that I'd regret is not getting Benrahma and not being able to get him if they're up.

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11 hours ago, TheAuthority said:

Reading that last article @Villan4Life it's easy to start wondering about Hogan. He was obviously settled and succeeding at Brentford but he looked like a pub player at Villa. I understand there's more than one factor involved but you have to wonder if we have the same sort of set up that helps players settle that Brentford has implemented.

 

It's such a tough one with Hogan. I was STH at Griffin Park for his time there. The way they played was just perfect for him and he looked a real talent. Even then though he was anonymous for much of any given game but he was always on the shoulder and fed off the service that has been Brentford's hallmark since Waburton came in. It seemed that all he needed was a chance or two in any given game and he was going to score. 

When we came in for him, I just couldn't see how he was going to fit in to a Bruce-type team. I know these arguments have been done to death ever since and the general consensus now is that Hogan is just pony but I know a number of VTers at the time were similarly perplexed and couldn't see how he would work in the team we had at the time. He isn't a workhorse, he is a poacher. Give him good balls to run on to and he will convert (or at least that's what he was then). Put him in a Villa team, playing the style they were at the time, and he is the squarest peg in the roundest hole. Of course, there's the argument that a good striker should be able to adapt but I never saw it working. 

Like you say though, there's so much that adds into it. Knowing the support set-up at Lionel Rd (Brentford's training ground), it's night and day to BMH. It's portakabin city but the work they do there with the players is so much more than just cones and bibs. The articles V4L posted give a small insight into the wholistic approach that Brentford take to player development and player support. I just can't imagine a set-up existed at Villa at that time. I'm sure it's a confluence of events, Bruce got him for goals, without a thought for how to play him, there wasn't a support network for him, he realised he was out of his depth and unable to adapt, who knows?

It's a real shame though as he was a delight to watch back then. 

I saw him warm up as a sub for Stoke at GP a couple of months ago and he just looked so miserable - like his heart wasn't in it and he was just going through the motions. Can't imagine what it's like to have to turn up at Wast Hills every day now. 

 

I'm very aware that there is an alternative viewpoint prevalent on VT. He had a few lucky months at Brentford, got a big move for which he was totally out of his depth because he's a poor footballer. I can understand that perspective and the more the memory dims of his time at Brentford, the more realistic it becomes. I still think there's a decent player in there though. Not a £15M one but I don't get the level of hate for him. 

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4 hours ago, LakotaDakota said:

Actually think Hogan will do pretty well at Birmingham with Jutkiewicz up there with him rather than just sticking him up front on his own and wondering why he isn't scoring

Also they will make him feel welcome as they are mostly a loose alliance of thieves, thugs and outcasts

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Just now, mykeyb said:

They will pinch one of the automatic spots

Dunno. They pretty much have to better West Brom by one game. It’s a ridiculous run they’re on but it has to come to an end soon. 

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Even if they don't go up through automatics i can't see anyone stopping them in the play offs. So much flow, momentum and genuine quality

25 goals on Watkins

17 goals and 7 assist on Benrahma

15 goals on Mbuemo

 

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14 hours ago, supermario said:

Apart from Villa escaping relegation, Brentford pipping  the Baggies to an automatic spot would really help make my season! I would bloody love to see that happen!! 

Honestly I'd rather leeds bottled it again than West Brom to be honest

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14 hours ago, It's Your Round said:

West Brom have got Huddersfield and QPR left to play, I can’t see them dropping any points there. Brentford have Stoke and Barnsley. 

So a Huddersfield win could stop West Brom going up and help send Birmingham down 🙃

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