Written for WalesOnline, find the original article here.
Cardiff City welcome a red-hot Brentford side on Saturday afternoon as Neil Warnock’s men look the shake off the general lethargy and staleness that has plagued their last two games.
Here’s all you need to know about the Bees…
Style of play
Brentford like to get the ball forward — and quickly. Dynamic midfielder Ryan Woods is the heartbeat of the team and will dictate the Bees’ tempo, ensuring they remain on the front-foot.
Brentford boast a host of creative talent capable of unpicking a defence. What defines their play, however, is their collective ambition to attack; reluctant to burden a single player with the responsibility of creating something, Brentford’s front four are a blend of movement and fist time passes.
Indeed, many feared for Brentford when their star-man Scott Hogan left for Aston Villa, but those familiar with the Bees’ were confident they would survive. For Hogan, it seems, he was feeding off the players around him rather than carving out his own chances.
Such invention will have to be monitored come Saturday: the Bluebirds defence cannot afford to give Brentford’s attacking players any time on the ball and must track the darting runs in behind.
Jota has electrified Brentford since returning from a dismal loan spell in La Liga, at Eibar. In the 11 games he’s played since his return, he has found the net eight times and turned provider four: averaging a goal or an assist every 80 minutes.
Equipped with a wicked left-foot, vision and an eye for goal, the Spaniard has been in scintillating form.
Jota will be positioned on the right side of a front three; he’s a difficult player to handle and Joe Bennett will have to be on top-form if he is to nullify Brentford’s main man.
It’s a similar story for Brentford’s Danish forward. Nine goals and four assists in his last 10 outings have more than made up for the hole left by departing Scott Hogan.
Aged 30, Vibe had cut a frustrated figure in the shadow of Hogan, but has come to life since Aston Villa swooped in for £15 million.
Vibe is a nifty centre-forward with quick feet and will wriggle his way through most spaces – given a chance, he will finish it.
Manager – Dean Smith
A football journeyman during his playing career, Smith has made a reputation for himself as a bright young manager with good ideas.
After guiding Walsall from impending relegation in his first season in charge, he went on to maintain stability for the Saddlers. After three seasons with his side sitting fourth, other clubs started to take an interest.
Meanwhile at Griffin Park, Mark Warbuton’s departure appeared to be a folly decision. Philosophical differences were cited, despite Warbuton leading Brentford to the play-offs in their maiden season in the Championship.
Dutch manager Marinus Dijkhuizen lasted nine disastrous matches. Lee Carsley then took temporary charge, before Dean Smith’s arrival.
Smith’s attacking philosophy at Brentford has won many plaudits and the ambitious young manager has earned the affection of the club’s supporters.
Despite Smith’s men’s determination to play quick football, they are often left dawdling on the ball; if runs are tracked and covered, the ball on the ball is vulnerable.
If City’s midfield sense an opportunity to steal the ball, they should not heed caution. The chance to snatch possession and take out half of Brentford’s team has been an opportunity exploited by teams this season.
Such are the attacking exploits of Jota and Sergi Canos, their full-backs are sometimes isolated. With just two protective midfielders, forming the base of Smith’s 4-2-3-1, there is little cover when Brentford commit men forward.
Indeed, Canos and Jota are defensively-shy and reluctant to track back; the Bluebirds wingers need take advantage and expose this defensive ill-discipline to work a one on one situation.
There is little chance of Warnock allowing a third poor performance on the bounce, so Bluebrirds fans can expect their side to be fired up when the whistle blows.
On the surface, this looks like it could be another “dead-rubber” mid-table clash, but Brentford are in formidable form, beating play-off mainstays Leeds United 2-0 in midweek and won’t be content to play at a pedestrian pace.
Given Brentford’s thirst for goals and shaky defence, and City’s ambition to emerge from their recent slumber with renewed vigour, this could be a very entertaining match.
Cardiff fans should expect goals, and plenty of them. This will most likely end in a draw, but a high-scoring one at that.
Let’s go for 2-2.