London: Brentford are back in English football’s top flight for the first time in 74 years but the community club from west London are markedly different from the Premier League monoliths they will be pitted against. The last top-flight match that Brentford played in was a 1-0 defeat by Arsenal in May 1947 and they will face them tonight in the season opener.
Brentford - who have become the 50th club to play in the Premier League - have overcome the heartbreak of nine playoff failures to win promotion and vindicate an alternative approach to running a football club, based on finding good players cheaply through data and analytics before selling them on at large profit.
Club owner Matthew Benham, a trained mathematician, is the driving force behind the approach, which has drawn comparisons with Billy Beane at the Oakland Athletics in Major League Baseball - a manager whose use of statistics to recruit quality players rejected by conventional scouting methods has been told in the book and film “Moneyball”.
Benham has enjoyed success with a similar methodology at Danish club FC Midtjylland, where he is a co-owner, and draws heavily on the Scandinavian connection at Brentford, where head coach Thomas Frank hails from Denmark.
Brentford’s star striker Ivan Toney is fit to start tonight against Arsenal, having missed the final pre-season friendly against Valencia as a precaution because of a neck problem. New signing Yoane Wissa could be involved but injured pair Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen are unavailable.
Arsenal’s summer recruits Ben White, Albert Lokonga and Nuno Tavares are in contention to make their debuts.
Thomas Partey, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel aren’t expected to be available until at least September. Despite finishing the 2020-21 season with five consecutive league victories, Arsenal ended outside the top seven in consecutive campaigns for the first time since 1977.
It will be live on BEIN Sports