Brentford will make the short journey along the Thames this Saturday for the first west London derby of the season, with both manager Dean Smith and defender James Tarkowski in confident mood ahead of the club’s encounter with Fulham.
“We know how difficult this is going to be.” proclaimed the recently appointed Dean Smith at Brentford’s Hounslow based training ground on Thursday afternoon. The former Walsall manager’s position at the London outfit was made official just under a fortnight ago, succeeding caretaker manager Lee Carsley at the helm, and faces the daunting task of a local derby in just his second match in charge.
“I have been really pleased from what I’ve seen from the players in terms of ability, togetherness and work ethic.” continued the 44-year-old. Smith has reason to be impressed by his new side since his appointment, with an ineffable victory over MK Dons last weekend propelling Brentford to 10th in the Championship after four games without defeat. Lasse Vibe opened the scoring for the hosts before the impressive Alan Judge doubled the Bees’ advantage, the duo two of the three players denied by the woodwork at Griffin Park, but also expertly obtained a clean sheet against their Buckinghamshire counterparts.
“Last week’s performance and manor of the victory fills me with excitement.” stated the manager. “The one thing I’ve been stressing to the players is to go and play like they did last week” he continued before proclaiming: “If we can take that [ability, togetherness and work ethic] into Saturday’s game and play like we did last week then it would be very hard for any team, let alone Fulham, to beat us.”
Following this victory upon his home debut, the former Leyton Orient defender told the club’s official website that the key to their win was how good the team were without the ball. When asked, by VAVEL, about how important this defensive shape will be against the likes of Ross McCormack and the in-form Moussa Dembele, he said: “It will be very important. I believe last week [Matt] Smith played with McCormack and the week before Dembele played with him so it will be interesting to see which combination it is. The players know that they’ll have to be at their best to keep them quiet.”
Smith pleased to see players return from injury
Further good news has arrived for the new boss, with a plethora of first team players returning to full fitness after spells on the sidelines. Jota, who attracted so much attention during Brentford’s promotion contending season, managed to gain 10 minutes of playing time on Saturday and is well on the way to recovery following an ankle injury. Dean Smith also revealed that Maxime Colin, Chelsea loanee John Swift and Josh McEachran are “all in contention, all have trained and all are fully fit” before confirming Alan McCormack will not be available due a groin problem.
McEachran has been ruled out since his permanent move to 2015’s play-off semi-finalists this summer, sidelined due to a fractured foot sustained in pre-season during July, but recorded 90 minutes for the development squad earlier in the week and earned a late place on the bench due to McCormack absence's on Saturday. The ex-Chelsea starlet has remained frustrated thus far but is impressing his new manager, who stated: “Josh has shown he is more than willing to get the minutes under his belt. He has shown great attitude and application since I have been here.”
Such reinforcements have come on the right side of a busy festive period, when Brentford partake in six games in 20 days.
Tarkowski looking forward to derby experience
The visitors have thoroughly enjoyed their most recent encounters with the local rivals, winning their first two league meetings in 16 years last term. Coming from behind at Griffin Park, Brentford recorded a mesmerizing 4-1 win at Craven Cottage to complete the double of their opposition.
James Tarkowski was an ever-present last campaign and subsequently partook in both of these outings. The 22-year-old has been an almost constant present in the club’s back four this season too, a defense that continues to improve after a poor start. Despite the change in managers, the defense’s personnel has rarely fluctuate. With captain Jake Bidwell and Nico Yennaris occupying the full-back positions, Tarkowski ordinally starts alongside Harlee Dean but the latter has been replaced by Jack O’Connell due to suspension.
This consistency, says the former Oldham man, is important to the team’s success. “Playing with the same people week in-week out is a lot easier.” he told VAVEL. “Playing with the same people week in-week out is a lot easier. Obviously me and Harlee [Dean] have played together quite a lot but Jack [O’Connell] has come in and done really well.
“We have kept a consistent back four throughout the season and I think it is starting to show, we didn’t start too well defensively but over the last four or five weeks we have defended quite well.”
With Brentford on form, losing just once in eight games, Tarkowski is optimistic ahead of the squad’s trip to Fulham. He said: “Last week’s performance was very good, both offensively and defensively, and if we can on that then I don’t think we’ll have too many problems going into Saturday’s game.
“Last year was a great day for us and we think we can do the same again this year. We have a team full of confidence and I fancy us to win again by a similar scoreline or even better.”