Brentford looked set to gain promotion to the Premier League last season, needing just one win from their final two games against Stoke City and Barnsley. However, Thomas Frank's side failed to gain a single point and subsequently went on to lose to Fulham in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final.
This time around though, the Bees look unstoppable and could go one step closer this year and gain automatic promotion.
No more BMW
After falling short last season, the formidable front three of Said Benrahma, Brian Mbuemo and Ollie Watkins were always going to be broken up. BMW scored 57 out of the Bees 80 league goals last season which equates to 71% of their league goals.
The trio were another three examples of the brilliant work that the Brentford recruitment team have done over the past few years. Benrahma joined from OGC Nice for £1.7 million back in July 2018,with Watkins joining from League Two side Exeter City for £2 million the previous summer.
After their failed promotion attempt, the pair both left for the Premier League with Algerian international Benrahma joining West Ham United for £30 million and Watkins joining Dean Smith's Aston Villa for a remarkable £32 million.
From the £3.7 million the Bees invested in the youngsters, they managed to recuit £62 million which is phenomenal for any club let alone a club the size of Brentford.
Recruitment is key
Over the years, the London side have been known to do excellent business in picking up young players and selling them on for a huge fee and subsequently reinvesting into the squad.
In the last five years alone, Brentford have sold seven players for a fee of over £10 million, with none being brought in for anymore than £3 million. Neal Maupay, Ezri Konsa and James Tarkowski are just three players the Bees have sold in recent times who have gone on to make an impact in the top flight.
The summer of 2020 was always going to be crucial for Frank's side if they were to push for promotion again. The departures of star players Benrahma and Watkins had put an even bigger emphasis on the window. Head of recruitment Lee Dykes had to get the right players to make an instant impact but also fit the mould of a youngster with good potential.
Dykes wasted no time in his recruitment with the Bees signing 22-year-old German midfielder Vitaly Janelt from VfL Bochum for £600,000 and 25-year-old centre back Charlie Goode from Northampton Town for £1 million. Brentford also added forward Salman Ghoddos on loan from Amiens to try and more depth to the depleted frontline.
It was clear that Brentford needed to sign a striker to replace the outgoing Watkins and Dykes found just the man.
Ivan Toney was the top scorer in League One for Peterborough United with 24 league goals and Dykes identified the former Newcastle United man as his number one target. However, he would not be available on the cheap. After failed bids from Celtic and a number of other Championship clubs, Brentford agreed a fee with Peterborough for the striker. The £10 million fee including add ons took many fans by surprise with some saying the price tag was "too hefty.”
However by the start of September, the deal was completed and Toney was a Brentford player, becoming the club's most expensive signing in history.
Toney was always going to have a tough act to follow after the season Watkins had previously. However, the 24-year-olds start to life at his new club has made Watkins a distant memory.
After a goaless first two games for the Bees, the club record signing hit a rich vein of form. Toney grabbed seven goals in his next four league outings and since then has never looked back.
After 26 league games last season, Watkins had grabbed 17 league goals, compared to Toney's 20 this campaign. If Brentford's new main man can keep up his goalscoring record, he will certainly eclipse Watkins tally of 25 last season and potentially take Brentford that one step closer to the top flight.
After hitting 20 league goals this season, it now means Brentford have had three consecutive 20+ goal strikers for the first time since 1960/61. Maupay achieved 28 league goals back in 18/19, Watkins hit 25 last season, with Toney currently sat on 20 with 20 games still to go this season.
The former Posh striker oozes class and makes scoring goals look effortless. Despite it being his first full season at this level, Toney has taken to the division like a duck to water. His all round centre forward play is up there with one of the best in the second tier with few strikers able to finish, hold-up play and turn defenders like he does.
The £10 million fee for the striker is now turning out to be an incredible piece of business by Dykes. Should the striker keep up his tremendous goalscoring record, then he could be the next big money departure from the Brentford Community Stadium.
Under the radar
Toney has undoubtedly been the Bees most impressive player this season, however, Frank and his side have great team spirit and some of his players hard work often goes unnoticed.
Mads Bech Sorensen - Centre back
Having to replace the injured Pontus Jansson was never going to be an easy task for anyone let alone for a 22-year-old with no previous Championship experience.
Sorensen joined the club from AC Horsens, before joining AFC Wimbledon on loan. This season, Frank decided to keep the young Dane and have him in his Championship squad.
Swedish international Jansson has struggled with injury this campaign and Sorensen has often been the man to fill his boots. In his 14 league starts this season, he has helped keep five clean sheets and avoided defeat in every game. Standing at 6"4, the centre half has been dominant at the back winning the majority of his aerial battles. He is also a very good balling playing defender which is quality attribute to have especially in a good possession based side like Brentford.
Josh Dasilva - Midfielder
Midfielder Josh Dasilva joined on a free from Arsenal in the Summer of 2018. Since then, Dasilva has been a key part in the centre of the park for Frank's side.
Last season was his real breakout campaign. He played 42 times for the Bees scoring an impressive 10 goals whilst contributing a further four for his team mates.
The 22-year-old possesses many qualities that make him a perfect fit for the Brentford midfielder three. The powerhouse has immense strength and a fantastic range of passing that enables him to pick out the Bees frontline on a consistent basis. This season, he has made 22 appearances scoring three times. He continues to be a crucial part of Frank's side and will be surely playing in the top tier of English football in the coming years.
Tarique Fosu - Winger
After joining from Oxford United in a joint deal with midfielder Shandon Baptiste in January last year, Tarique Fosu has had to bide his team for first team action.
After the departure of Benrahma, Fosu was given his chance to replace the Algerian and took his opportunity with both hands. The 25-year-old winger, has impressed in recent games especially against Bristol City when he ran the show getting two assists and the man of the match award.
He may not have as much flair as Benrahma, but he is starting to become a real asset for Brentford. His pace and close and control give many Championship nightmares as Adrian Mariappa found out on Wednesday night. Fosu will be looking to add more goals to his game. His three goals from 19 games is not a true reflection on his performances this season and if he adds the final finish the sky is the limit for the former Reading man.
After beating Bristol City at home on Wednesday night, the Bees made it 19 league games unbeaten, the longest run of any side in England's top four divisions. The Bees have not tasted defeat since they fell to a 3-2 defeat away at Stoke City on 24th October.
Frank and his side have lost just once at home all season with that defeat coming all the way back in October at the hands of Preston North End.
The loss of star players Watkins and Benrahma seems to have spurred Brentford on and push them to become an even better side than they were last season.
The sales have inspired players such as Ethan Pinnock and Rico Henry to take a lead amongst the side and drive the team forward to avoid a repeat of last season's collapse.
Should they keep putting in the performances they have shown in recent times, a first promotion to the Premier League seems a certainty this season.
Is it time for Brentford fans to start bee-lieving?