Brentford will be happy to keep Thomas Frank under the radar after Brighton carvery

Date published: Wednesday 4th January 2023 7:51 - Ian King

Brentford manager Thomas Frank celebrates his team's Premier League win against Liverpool

Brentford have had a remarkable first half to their season, but it may not take long for admiration for manager Thomas Frank to turn into something else.


As ever, much of the reaction to Brentford beating Liverpool at the Gtech Community Stadium was framed from the perspective of Liverpool’s recent fall from grace. Why oh why oh why did they spend money on Cody Gakpo in their first move of the January transfer window when they need an entire new midfield? Has Jurgen Klopp lost the magical spell that once cast over this club? Is Darwin Nunez an uncut diamond or little more than a chaos machine?

These are all fair and interesting questions, and if they’re asked for a reason, that reason is most likely that Liverpool are a considerably bigger football club than Brentford. Every word committed on the subject of Liverpool will draw eyes, all the more so if it’s dripping with schadenfreude at their latest defeat. This is the biggest cost of being A Big Club. The pressure is always on. The tension is always there, whenever you drop points.

Focusing on the Big Club will not only pick up clicks from disgruntled followers of that particular institution, but also from those who support others but who want to see this Big Club knocked off their perch or otherwise taken down a peg or two.

And so it is that an article discussing the attributes of a manager who is definitely not at one of the Premier League’s biggest draws kicks off with a little over 200 words on the bigger club. But the reaction to Brentford’s 3-1 win against Liverpool has been interesting from another perspective, too. It’s almost as though some people are finally starting to realise that Thomas Frank is an extremely capable coach.

Frank has been with Brentford for just over six years and has been the manager for just over four. In that time, he has taken his team into the Premier League for the first time in 75 years and kept them there. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing; this time last year, Brentford were about to embark on a run from which they took just one point from eight Premier League matches, the sort of run which is more than enough to be the end of a Premier League head coach these days. But Brentford revived themselves and ended their season in 13th place in the table, 11 points clear of the relegation places.

Predictions for the team’s progress this season were mixed, but many pre-season previews spoke ominously about Second Season Syndrome and how the team would react to the departure of Christian Eriksen, whose arrival at the club at the end of February had revitalised them after their poor start to the year. Eriksen, in yet another example of the realpolitik of modern football, had opted for Old Trafford rather than another year with Brentford. Would they be able to plug that gap?

Halfway through their second season the syndrome hasn’t yet reared its head, and while it may smart a little to see the progress that Eriksen has made at Manchester United, Brentford seem as well-balanced without him this season as they did with him. Sure enough, there have been a couple of poor results – losing 5-1 at Newcastle and 4-0 at Aston Villa were, putting it mildly, sub-optimal – and the situation regarding Ivan Toney’s FA charges is far from ideal, but on the whole the patterns of last season have continued into this one.

The Liverpool win can hardly be taken in splendid isolation, either. Brentford’s record against ‘Big Six’ clubs this season has been outstanding, with a 4-0 win against Manchester United in their first home league game of the season, a 2-1 win at the Etihad against Manchester City, and home draws against Chelsea and Spurs. Indeed, the only ‘Big Six’ team to have beaten them this season were Arsenal, who won 3-0 at the Gtech Community Stadium in September.

Brentford will go into their brief break for the FA Cup Fourth Round in the top half of the Premier League, having lost just four league games all season. They’re two points behind Liverpool and four behind Spurs and they’re a point better off than Chelsea, and while European football might still be a stretch, it certainly seems more likely than getting dragged into a relegation battle. As things stand, Brentford are 12 points above the relegation places, but they’re also just ten points behind champions Manchester City.

It should go without saying that Brentford probably haven’t minded flying under the radar in the Premier League. The filleting of Brighton & Hove Albion’s coaching and scouting staff and the hungry eyes currently being directed at some of their players has been a salutary reminder of what happens in modern football when a club gets ideas ‘above its station’, and even the fact that things haven’t exactly gone perfectly for Chelsea will not slow that train.

Thomas Frank is contracted to Brentford until 2027, but the example of Graham Potter proved that length of contract tenure can be more likely to affect the amount of compensation to be paid by a poaching club than whether the manager will leave. Frank was linked to Aston Villa as recently as October, but it was reported that he would turn down any offer they made for him. Whether that would be the same in the future is unknowable.

This uncertainty is all part of the life of the supporters of all bar a relatively tiny number of clubs. It’s a Catch-22 situation. You have the binary choice of either living in perpetuity at the level at which you’re already at, or you decline, or… you get it right and find vultures immediately starting to circle. The defenestration of Brighton is unlikely to have ended; the same thing happened to Southampton not so long ago, and they’re now bottom of the Premier League. This insecurity is real, it isn’t groundless, and it’s just another inequality from which biggest clubs benefit.

But perhaps Thomas Frank will stay with Brentford through thick and thin. Brentford are a systems-run club and Frank clearly values that, and he may well be watching the heavy criticism that Graham Potter has been enduring since his Chelsea team started to falter a little and thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. There are certainly good reasons for him to stay at Brentford but then again, there were good reasons for Graham Potter to stay at Brighton too. Brentford are best off on the down-low.

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