Brentford looking to solve PNE conundrum

Alan McCormack
Alan McCormack
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Preston North End face a Brentford side this weekend who have been through a summer of considerable change.

During the close season, the play-off semi-finalists recruited a new head coach in Marinus Dijkhuizen and have gone on to have a major overhaul of their squad.

The Bees made 12 signings and saw 11 departures, their business based on the ‘Moneyball’ statistical method first seen in American baseball in the 1990s.

It is a system which uses key performance indicators and statistics rather than traditional methods.

Such an approach has been successful for Danish side FC Midtjylland who are owned by Matthew Benham – owner of Brentford.

They won the Danish title after Benham’s takeover and he will be looking to make the mathematics approach work in West London.

Their recruitment has been diverse, ranging from the £1.8m signing of defender Andreas Bjelland from FC Twente to Ryan Williams, released by Morecambe.

On transfer deadline day, they bought Shrewsbury’s highly-rated midfielder Ryan Woods – a player who caught the eye of Preston fans in the FA Cup last term.

There have been significant departures too, not least the big-money sale of striker Andre Gray to Burnley.

Estimates of his fee range between £6m and £9m, a tidy profit indeed on a player who was signed a year earlier for £500,000.

Moses Odubajo joined Hull for £3.5m, the long-serving Jonathan Douglas left for Ipswich and Stuart Dallas was sold to Leeds.

It has been a difficult start to the campaign, the Bees’ only win to date being a 4-2 away day success at Bristol City.

They sit in 21st place, two places and a point behind North End, although they have played a game less after the Football League granted them a postponement of last month’s fixture with Birmingham in order to relay the Griffin Park pitch.

Brentford’s latest outing came on Tuesday night when they were beaten 3-1 by Middlesbrough.

That followed a 1-1 draw at Leeds last Saturday, the Bees squad staying in the north between the games to save two trips from London.

Lasse Vibe, one the summer recruits, felt the extended trip will have been beneficial.

The Denmark international midfielder said: “We have got new guys all over the pitch and in the staff too.

“This trip has been about us getting to know each other more socially because we haven’t been able to train as much due to the tight games schedule.

“We have been having tactical meetings and I think socially we are getting to know each other more as a group and there is a positive spirit in the group.

“From the inside I can see an upwards curve but unfortunately it is not that curve that decides where you are in the table so we need to get some points on the table.

“We have got three home games and it is about time that we get some points.

“There’s no better time to do it than at home and show our lovely home crowd that we can play football.” Head coach Dijkuizen had similar views on keeping the squad together.

He said: “It was very good to stay up after the Leeds match and there was a very good spirit in training.

“Preston will be the first of three games at home so it will be nice to have no travelling.

“It is always good to play at home but especially after the defeat on Tuesday, we need to win at home on Saturday.”

Assessing the defeat against Middlesbrough, Dijkhuizen said: “There was a lot of good football from my team and we created a lot of big chances.

“We created the same number of chances but the quality of their finishing was the difference.

“Conceding three goals was not good. We are struggling a little bit on our left side but looked very strong on the right.”

Injuries have been biting in the Brentford squad of late, with the Bees only able to name six substitutes in the Middlesbrough defeat, with two of those goalkeepers.

Josh McEachran has yet to play since his summer move from Chelsea because of a broken foot.

James Tarkowski and Philipp Hofmann both missed out at Boro because of injuries suffered against Leeds. Former Preston midfielder Alan McCormack will feature in the Bees side on Saturday.

The Dubliner came through the youth system at Deepdale and made 11 appearances in the first-team.

McCormack, now 31, has since played for Southend, Charlton and Swindon, with him joining Brentford two years ago.

MEET THE BOSS

Marinus Dijkhuizen was appointed as Brentford manager on June 1, taking over from Mark Warburton who was let go at the end of last season despite a very successful spell in charge.

Dijkuzien was a striker in his playing days, the vast majority of his football being played in Holland. But he did have a brief loan spell in Scotland with Dunfermline in 2001. In Holland, has has managed VV Montfort, VV De Meern and SBV Excelsior. He left Excelsoir in May, soon after they had narrowly avoided relegation from the Dutch top flight.

MEET THE REF

West Sussex referee Tim Robinson is in charge of PNE’s clash with Brentford at Griffin Park. It is only the second time he has officiated a Preston game, the other being last season’s 2-0 away win at Coventry. His seven games this term have seen 33 yellow cards.