Brentford entertained Stoke City in the Championship this weekend. Being relegated to the Championship last season, Stoke City were one of the favourites to pursue promotion this season to get back to the Premier League. However, they came up against a very strong attacking Brentford side. The hosts were victorious with a 3-1 win over Stoke.
In this tactical analysis, we will have a look at the 3-4-3 formation and the offensive qualities of Brentford that came with it during this game.
Both teams were in need of the three points, but the managers had different ideas of how the formation would benefit them going forward. Thomas Frank’s Brentford started with a 3-4-3 formation with the intention to have a lot of possession in the opponents half. They played with Watkins, Maupay and Benrahma up front. Nathan Jones’ Stoke outfit were different in their approach, as they started out with a 4-3-1-2 formation with Afobe and Berahino as the strikers. Ince playing as a number 10 behind the aforementioned strikers.
Brentford had the intention of attacking and winning, so much was clear when we look at their formation. With a three-man defence it would be a very tricky situation, but they practiced the motto: attack is the best defence.
Their intention was seen as the outside midfielders made plenty of runs down the line. When attacking, Henry and Dalsgaard played as wingers and Watkins-Maupay-Benrahma got into the box, trying to convert their crosses.
The fact that in attack many Brentford players were in Stoke’s half, made it easier for them to distribute crosses into the box. The position of the front five was always in the opponent’s half.
Positionally, not just the midfield contribute to the attacking play, but also the back three play their part. You can see that in the way they are positioned, many yards ahead of the keeper Bentley, which gives them the advantage of playing attacking football.
Attacking style of play: Always a free man
An attacking formation only says so much about a team’s style of play. It’s what you do with that attacking formation to achieve that style of play, that matters. When we look at the numbers provided by Wyscout, we can conclude several things.
The home team were a side that passed a lot in this game. They had a total of 495 passes all game of which 419 were successful, a success rate of 85% which is pretty good. This is not a huge difference with the numbers Stoke City put out: 413 passes of which 322 were successful (78%), but it’s the way of passing that made the distinction in this game.
More meaningful are the passes forward (173) and the passes in the final third (67). They tell us how direct their attacking football and how they construct their chances in the box. The choices the passers make in combination with the off-ball movement of the strikers is vital. Stoke City weren’t prepared for the 3-4-3 formation of Brentford, and the hosts always had a free man going forward. Here are a few examples of that.
When in possession, the midfielders have different options to reach their strikers. Dalsgaard has four options here including another midfielder. Dalsgaard chooses to pass the ball to fellow midfielder, Mokotjo and leaves time for the strikers to organise themselves in proper positions to either receive the ball and distribute it further or to make an attempt on goal.
When recovering the ball, Brentford’s players are quick to react and immediately think forward. Not only do Brentford have plenty of men going forward, but they have several options. Because of the fact that Stoke tries to press the man on the ball, Brentford have two or three men free and have options going forward.
In the situation above in the second half, six Brentford players are on the opponents half and five of them are actively engaging with the play. In this instance, Benrahma chooses to play the ball back to the defence.
This directly follows Benrahma playing the ball back and here you can see how the attack starts at the back. Konsa has five options going forward and three options on the left, those players are left relatively free by their markers.
Every time the midfielders got the ball, the strikers made sure they got in the right position. As I mentioned before, the strikers got into the middle so that midfielders could cross the ball into the box and force an attempt on goal. Maupay, Watkins and Benrahma did this all game long.
Loads of attempts
This attacking style led to 48 attacks in total during this game. Of which nine of them ended with a shot. Which is a conversion rate of 19%. These numbers show the attacking style of play, but what did it mean in attempts? Brentford produced 16 shots in total of which five were on target. Of those five shots, they made three goals, which is a pretty good percentage given the shots on target. The goals were scored by Shawcross (OG), Benrahma and Henry.
The attacking style of play led them to three goals which is excellent, considering their five attempts on target. However, they had 48 attacks and 16 attempts – so the conversion rate of the attempts to goals could have been better. If we look at the probability they would score with the expected goal, something interesting comes to mind. They had an expected goal ratio of 0.73 but scored three goals.
They did exceptionally well in converting the three chances that led to goals, but the other chances weren’t so successful in terms of probability. This is something they have to work, and ultimately this could lead to better results a better place on the table.
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