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Positives and negatives: Brentford 0-0 Fulham

Written by Cameron Ramsey on 5th May 2024

Imagine making a ridiculously corny war cry video for that nonsense. It wasn’t a blockbuster, it wasn’t gripping west London derby in the slightest, but there’s still plenty to examine and Cam’s summation tells the somewhat boring tale of how the points were shared at Lego Land.


Bernd’s double digits

While near enough everything we mustered turned to shit in the final third, our defensive quarters managed to maintain a clean sheet for a second consecutive away game and our latest shut-out ultimately took Bernd Leno’s esteemed tally into double digits. For a ‘keeper of a mid-table team, that is absolutely commendable.

That being said, our German stopper didn’t have a great deal to do between the sticks, but what he did do well was field his penalty area with diligence at both set pieces and crossing scenarios and as ever, he marshalled his defensive line throughout to ensure an unblemished afternoon beneath the grandeur of the M4 flyover.

Despite the Bees’ relative inactivity up top, Leno will have his back four to thank as well because alongside his efforts, we defended as a unit and while there were notable outfield stand-outs, having the third safest pair of hands in the Premier League is certainly something to be proud of and to that, we have to bang the drum. He’s secured more clean sheets than Manchester City’s Ederson, and as he greeted the following masses at full-time, he was serenaded and that Cheshire Cat grin stitched across his face told his appreciation of our devoted support.

Left locked down

Bryan Mbuemo and Ivan Toney are an offensive duo that tend to inflict pain and peril upon lesser defenders on a weekly basis but they were both held under lock and key by Antonee Robinson and Calvin Bassey and actually, it was light work for our left-sided partnership and it is a connection that’s tailored specifically for the Premier League.

Toney is undoubtedly a wanker, the chants don’t tell fibs, but he is a very awkward helmet of a striker to contend with nonetheless and Bassey was having none of it. As Brentford hoisted play into the wantaway England striker’s orbit, CBass stuck to his man like a limpet on a whale’s scrotum and when he had to get physical, you better believe he ragdolled the serial betting swindler into the gulag.

Sturdier on his feet, quicker across the turf, unparallel in the air, Calvin was first to absolutely everything and alongside an improving Issa Diop, he handed Brentford’s penalty merchant his P45 because on Saturday afternoon, he belonged to our resident bailiff and before long, he was thrown out on his arse to comic effect. No goals in ten outings, farcical dreams of Real Madrid in tatters, cry more, Ivan, it only fuels the inner thrill.

Working in tandem with Bassey was indeed Robinson and our Player of the Season contender tightened the leash on Mbuemo and that takes some serious doing. Like Fulham’s strike force, Brentford’s equivalents weren’t really up for it but one man that looked as though he could make something from nothing was their explosive Cameroonian.

Matching Mbuemo stride for stride was all-important for Jedi, and though our left-back was occasionally sidestepped, his recovery runs were far too hot for Mbuemo to handle and more often than not, Antonee was well on top and in complete control.

He sensed danger before it came to light, the slightest twitch from Mbuemo led to engagement and while the Bees’ prolific winger is extremely tough to cordon off, he was apprehended by our flying fullback time and time again. Making an impact moving forward was a chore Robinson, especially as our decision making across the board in key areas was atrocious anyway, but in deeper reaches where he had to be alert, he was presiding and he reaffirmed his standing as one of the club’s top ranking performers.

Cairney’s 360 vision

We were losing the midfield battle miserably before Tom Cairney replaced Sasa Lukic with 15 minutes of regular game time to go but as soon as our playmaker in chief got on the ball, pragmatism returned to Fulham’s play in the middle of the park. Where Lukic typically plays the way he’s facing, Cairney’s 360 vision refreshed the Whites’ purpose on the ball and his silkiness and studied sensibility soon became apparent.

As the Whites overturned possession, Cairney stamped his trademark with shape-splitting slip-ins and inviting lay-offs and when he had to eat up the yards to regain territory, he spun on his heels to encourage late breakaways which, frustratingly, promised very little joy despite Tom’s direct approach.

He is a magnificent technician, his footballing IQ is up there with the best I’ve probably ever seen and as he restored balance and order centrally, he also snatched a few bodies in doing so. I don’t know who they were, but two, maybe three Bees players were carted off to the mortuary as Cairney dipped from a cul-de-sac and into swathes of unmanned space and even if he was doubled over within five minutes of coming on, his presence and intelligence made a noticeable difference as we attempted to break the deadlock in the closing stages of the game.


Willian the Honkerer

Another reason why Fulham couldn’t carve out convincing goal scoring situations was also partly down to Willian’s stinker of an afternoon, too. He was hooked in the 64th minute for Adama Traore and truthfully, he should’ve been swapped at the interval because he was honking. Simple as.

He was yards off the pace during the opening 45 minutes, he didn’t commit his marker in his usual ankle twisting fashion and when he offloaded possession, his passes were tame, misguided and hurried. The Brazilian was massively off colour, more Hackney Marshes than Samba style, and seeing as he’s meant to be a primary source of creation, he actually hindered our offensive charges at the Gtech.

We’ll blame it on the surroundings, the concrete outskirts of Hounslow aren’t exactly the leafy fringes of Bishop’s Park, but if he is angling for an improved contract once the season’s up, he has to accept that outings such as this will not help his cause one bit. Bad outings don’t occur too often for 35-year-old, but Saturday’s showing was far from flattering and in a game where leaders had to be counted for, Willian was merely present in body, not mentally.

That Raul shank

Having experienced a mini revival of his own earlier this season, Raul Jimenez’s minutes have dried up quiet considerably of late and his lack of match action as well as confidence above all else was obvious as he shanked a bread and butter scoring opportunity over relieved Mark Flekken’s crossbar.

Considering there had been 13 goals scored across three previous Premier League meetings between the two sides, clear-cut scoring opportunities were at a premium. Brentford has brushed the woodwork in the first half, Rodrigo Muniz couldn’t get the required oomph on a Timothy Castagne cross in the second but Raul’s chance was golden.

As the ball swung into his path, the Mexican simply didn’t recognise just how much time he had at his disposal. He could’ve hung his washing out before picking his spot but his posture and execution was indicative of a striker that’s lost their way once more. Maybe with the arrival of Armando Broja in January and Muniz’s awakening, Raul could possibly feel redundant, undervalued, but for an attacker of his experience and capability, the target should’ve been worked and for that, there can be no excuses.

Brentford haven’t played that poorly against us in years and years, and we didn’t assert ourselves with any conviction. It’s an instance Raul will not want to see the footage again, nor will we, but there’ll be no escaping it. He was virtually in his own postcode and he dispatched his strike like an Evri delivery driver in need of a piss and a cig at the end of a 12-hour shift.

Nobody can be sure of what will become of Raul in the summer, but if we’re going to press on as a squad, we have to be burying those kind of opportunities and that means we have to recruit a No.9 with better quality, as a stand-in, or one that is going to genuinely contest Muniz. It may seem harsh, but I think we should cut our losses with Jimenez because he just isn’t going to be that guy, not at this stage of his career.

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