Preston North End v Brentford focus: New-look Bees’ mixed start to season

Ollie Watkins is Brentford's main man in attack
Ollie Watkins is Brentford's main man in attack

It is only four months since Preston and Brentford last crossed swords but the Bees have undergone significant changes in that time.

They meet at Deepdale on Saturday, having wheeled and dealed over the summer to put in place a squad with a fresh look about it.

There have been three big cash sales, Neal Maupay, Ezri Konsa and Romaine Sawyers leaving Griffin Park.

Maupay went to Brighton for £20m, Konsa – a scorer against PNE on the final day of last season – cost Aston Villa £12m, while Sawyers headed to West Bromwich Albion for a reported £3m.

In turn, there were 12 new arrivals as the London club’s trader concept model came into play.

Pontus Jansson arrived from Leeds for a fee reported to be around the £5.5m mark, the Sweden international coming in to add experience to the defence.

Barnsley were paid a good fee for Ethan Pinnock, with goalkeeper David Raya signed from Blackburn.

The net was cast further afield to bring Mathias Jensen from Celta Vigo, Christian Norgaard was signed from Fiorentina in Italy and Bryan Mbeumo from Troyes.

The starting XI in the 3-0 victory over Derby before the international break had five summer buys in – Pinnock was among the substitutes.

In terms of the players who left for big fees, they are big shoes to fill.

England Under-21s player Konsa played the majority of Brentford’s games last term.

Sawyers was powerful in midfield and served Brentford well for three years.

Maupay scored 41 goals in his two seasons with the Bees, quite a return for a £1.6m buy from St Etienne.

His role spearheading the attack has this season gone to Ollie Watkins.

In the last two seasons, he has been more accustomed to playing a wider role.

But with Maupay gone, Bees head coach Thomas Frank has moved Watkins into the middle and so far to good effect.

The former Exeter player, a good friend of PNE striker Jayden Stockley, has scored four goals this term.

Two of those came in the win against Derby, with France Under-21s international Mbeumo getting the other.

Results have been mixed to date for Brentford. They lost at home to Birmingham City on the opening day before beating Middlesbrough 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium.

A 1-1 draw with Hull City followed, then Frank’s men suffered successive 1-0 losses at Leeds and Charlton.

Derby’s visit to London put them back on track and they will be hoping to stay on it in the coming weeks.

Frank was delighted with the win against Derby.

Reflecting on that victory, Frank said: “It clicked in terms of creating opportunities and giving zero things away.

“ We played so quickly with intensity and tempo that Derby couldn’t get in the game.

“This new team needs time and there are still things we can do to reach maximum performances.”