How will Brentford and their Moneyball approach fare in the Premier League?
Photo by Getty Images/Catherine Ivill

Brentford's arrival in the Premier League won't steer them away from their usual and successful transfer policy.

So far this summer, the club has announced the signings of Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic (£14million), Frank Onyeka from FC Midtjylland (£9million), Yoane Wissa from Lorient (£8.5million) and Myles Peart-Harris from Chelsea on a free. These players might not be household names, but that's exactly what Brentford's transfer policy is all about.

Brentford have in the past been very open about the fact they aren't able to outspend their rivals, instead aiming to outthink them. This approach started back when lifelong fan Matthew Benham bought the club. Benham made his money through gambling and betting companies before setting his sights on his beloved club. The owner altered the Bees' youth system and the overall framework of the club, in the hope of attracting young, foreign talent dreaming of playing in the Premier League

Brentford's recruitment is mainly down to their Director of Football, Rasmus Ankersen. The Dane has always claimed that due to the randomness of football, nothing is ever as clear as it seems. Instead of looking at the league tables, he believes that clubs should be looking at underlying stats in key areas.

This approach is no different when it comes to transfers. The club prides itself on buying cheaper talent and selling them for huge profit, as seen with players like Ollie Watkins, Neal Maupayand Said Benrahma recently. 

The whole idea of this Moneyball approach began in America's elite basketball league, the NBA, specifically at the Oakland A's. Manager Billy Beane believed that instead of signing big stars, they would sign overlooked talent that stats prove over-perform in certain areas. 

One of the best examples of this is Brentford's groundbreaking use of expected goals (xG). While xG is now more commonly being used, Brentford were one of the pioneers of the stat.

The expected goals metric analyses the quality of the chances that take place in a match. Each shot has a value that shows the probability of it becoming a goal. This number is the percentage (0.1 means that this shot ends up in goal 10% of the time) that is assigned according to the place of the shot, the distance to the goal and the angle, as well as the part of the body (head, foot or others) with which the ball is shot, adding to the variable the speed of the play, the pass that precedes – if any – the shot, etc.

Benham's company, Smart Odds, were one of the first companies to see the potential in xG. They used this to accurately assess players and teams and win large amounts from bookmakers. 

After the success this brought him from the gambling industry, Benham decided to use it as a foundation for Brentford's recruitment strategy. This has allowed the club to unearth players who then flourish and eventually leave the club for huge profits. The money is then reinvested into the squad, allowing Brentford to spend more and repeat the cycle.

Brentford now being promoted to the Premier League means they will have more money to spend and may mean they are no longer in a position where they need to sell. This will be great news for Bees fans as English forward Ivan Toney was rumoured to be a target for a number of Premier League clubs. Toney joined the club in 2020 from Peterborough United for £5million plus add-ons. Last season he enjoyed one of his best goal-scoring campaigns to date, scoring an impressive 31 goals in 45 games.

When you look back at how successful Brentford have been with forwards, you can see where the xG philosophy comes into play. Toney is following in the footsteps of Watkins and Maupay, who both after having a great spell at Brentford were sold to Premier League clubs for sizeable fees.