Brentford’s injury crisis ‘goes under the radar,’ suggests Thomas Frank

Ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League trip to Brighton, Thomas Frank addressed the media at Brentford’s Jersey Road Training Ground. The manager offered updates on injuries within the squad, before giving his thoughts on Paul Heckingbottom’s sacking, the Christmas fixture congestion, Bryan Mbuemo’s development and what fans can expect from Wednesday’s match.

‘We go under the radar’

As is customary at pre-match press conferences, Thomas Frank gave an update on the status of a number of injured players at the club.

‘Team news is that Kristoffer Ajer will unfortunately be out, probably for some weeks with a foot issue. Matthias Jensen will be touch and go, we hope he will be available for the game. Mikkel Damsgaard can be selected for the squad, so that’s a positive. I think that’s it.’

The Brentford boss went on to say that ‘it seems like with everything we’ve done, we go under the radar but no, we’ve had key players out for a period of the season – players that normally would be starters.’

‘We’re probably missing, if you take Ivan Toney into that calculation, it’s probably five starters, maybe more. For me it’s not only the starters, what do you do in a three-game week like this? You want to sub in different players. I’m a big believer in using five subs.’

Embed from Getty Images

The Dane made it clear that he believes the Bees have ‘been extremely unlucky. Credit to the players who are available that are doing the job, as I said on Saturday against Luton, we played without full-back number 1, 2, 3 and 4 – and found two players who normally don’t play full-back to play full-back and they did a fantastic job in Saman Ghoddos and Vitaly Janelt.’

‘I think it’s very reassuring that the squad we’ve created, which we know is not the biggest or the most expensive, we’ve managed to find some players that are good enough. It’s down to the coaching staff to make sure we prepare them well to step in.’

He was then questioned as to whether the club have already began to formulate a plan for any potential business in January. ‘We always prepare for different scenarios and also worst-case scenarios,’ he explained.

‘Hopefully there will be no worst-case scenarios but of course we have some injuries that we need to look into – will that change anything? Are there positions where we didn’t plan to do something but maybe we need to do something? That’s always part of the process we have now, but we will definitely look into anything we need to do.’

Heckingbottom ‘has done a very good job and got them promoted’

The press conference took place shortly after Sheffield United announced that Chris Wilder would be returning to Bramall Lane, replacing the outgoing Paul Heckingbottom. Asked for his thoughts on the decision, Frank told reporters that ‘for me, it’s always sad when a head coach or manager loses their job.’

‘I think Paul has done a very good job, got them promoted – it’s very difficult to do that, getting out of the Championship when he took over was definitely not written in the stars, so that was an unbelievable achievement.’

Embed from Getty Images

‘Yes they’re struggling in the Premier League, but it’s a tough league and from the outside it looks like maybe they didn’t invest in many players but I’m not one to judge. I think they took the decision, I like what Paul has done but now Chris will take over. I’ve met him a few times before, great coach and a great guy coming back to his old club. I think he will always have an extra feeling for that.’

Brentford will travel to Bramall Lane on Saturday to dispute another Premier League clash. When asked by reporters whether it’s more difficult to face a team that has recently appointed a new manager, Frank insisted that ‘if it’s a new manager that you don’t know, then it’s tough to plan in three days. But the good news is we know Chris!’

Christmas fixture congestion is ‘part of’ professional football

Quizzed as to whether the congested Christmas period needs reform to allow players more time with their families, Frank acknowledged that the festive period is ‘like that little special time, most people have a special connection to that and see it as a big family moment.’

‘I’ve been here for seven years so I’ve almost forgot how it was to be back in Denmark and have a normal week off or something like that! I think when you’re then in it, a lot of people think ‘it is what it is’ and football players, they want to play matches.’

But he disputes the idea that the schedule needs alterations, insisting that ‘I’ve chosen to be a football coach and they’ve chosen to be football players so that’s part of it if you want to play in England.’

Mbuemo has ‘been taking the lead’

Not like clear ones that I can say he’s clearly got mature or worked harder on this area. Bryan [Mbuemo], and it’s the same for a lot of players, work hard everyday. Of course over the last four years he’s added more knowledge to understand himself, his body, how to train and where to push but it’s been an ongoing theme for us to work on his finishing and how to arrive in the box, be more consistent in his buildup play and all these loose balls taken care of. I think he’s just, bit by bit, added layers. He’s constantly improving and he’s reflecting a lot.

[Mbuemo] has been incredible for us. He’s been taking the lead in terms of who’s the go-to guy that helps us in the top moments with goals, assists and important offensive actions. On top of that, his work rate is incredible and yeah, he’s so good for the group.

Embed from Getty Images

Yeah, [Mbuemo going to AFCON is the last thing I want]! Of course, if you miss players in a season, that’s a little bit irritating but I’m also that kind of guy that thinks that is what it is. There’s a competition there, the African Cup of Nations, they have to go and we need to deal with it, and we’ll find a way. I’m only focussing on Brighton now!

I think Bryan is a fantastic player, I’d love to keep him just like I’d love to keep all of our players. You get close to them, I’ve now been there for seven years in total and five years as a head coach and you see them, I know they are grownups, but they grow up. I know when I was 20 and when I was 30, I thought I was unbelievable. I found out afterwards that I had quite a bit to learn still, but you see them grow in confidence, get married, have kids and grow as people. I think that’s a big privilege.

Brighton ‘are probably favourites’

With attention turning to Wednesday’s Premier League fixture, Frank was asked whether he expects another 3-3 scoreline, like when the two teams last met. ‘I’d prefer to win,’ he joked, ‘but 3-3 is probably the second choice because that’d be a great game for everyone involved!’

‘Brighton are a very good team, with very good players and that’ll be a tough challenge for us. I think last year when we played them, they played a good game and I don’t think we played our best game. I think they’ve done well down there, I think [Roberto] De Zerbi has done a good job.’

‘Every game is a new challenge and a new opportunity, so yeah, I look forward to this game against Brighton and the way that they play. We’ve been pushed back a bit [when playing them] so of course, there are spells when we need to defend well and try to press high – we’re pretty good at pressing high.’

Embed from Getty Images

‘I don’t think that’ll come as any surprise for Brighton and De Zerbi. I think it can be hopefully a more open and even game but of course we’re going to Brighton and that’s always difficult. They’re probably favourites but we want to do what we can to make it an even game and we believe we can go there and win.’

With Frank having suggested that Brentford could be viewed as an inspiration by clubs such as Luton Town, the Danish manager was asked whether the Bees look at how Brighton have developed since promotion to the Premier League.

‘We always want to aim as high as possible,’ he told reporters, before adding that ‘we don’t have a specific target about Europe, we just want to improve and add layers and see if we can get as high as possible. I think Brighton, they are probably three or four years ahead of us [in terms of time in the Premier League] so they’ve been able to generate more money, buy some players. They have a good model, I think we have a pretty good football model ourselves so we just need to keep developing.’