Tottenham see long-term appeal in Brentford and Brighton strategy
With Newcastle’s limitless resource and now Champions League qualification hastening their ascent to the Premier League elite, it makes sense that Daniel Levy might be feeling amenable to a gamble, as Tottenham seek to ensure they are not left behind.
The Spurs chairman is thought to be sounding out betting experts in a bid to match the successful data-driven models of Brighton and Brentford, two clubs with nothing like Spurs’s budget who could both end up finishing higher in the table.
Brighton certainly will, having secured Europa League football for next term already, and with their highly-watchable football, Manager of the Year-nominated coach and a buying and selling model that has the accounts not merely balanced but overflowing, the Seagulls have become the envy of the Premier League.
Given their historic size and stature, Brentford really ought to still be the envy of the Championship, but in just their second-ever Premier League campaign, the Bees head into the final day with still an outside chance of joining Roberto De Zerbi’s side in Europe.
They need snookers: they must hope that Aston Villa drop points to Brighton; that Tottenham do likewise at a desperate Leeds; and even then beat champions Manchester City themselves.
That they have already done so once this season — the only team to win at the Etihad all year — is another notable feather in the cap, and with the game sandwiched between title celebrations and two cup finals that will define Pep Guardiola’s legacy, City ought to be no bankers to take three points from a ground where only Arsenal and Newcastle have managed the feat this term.
Brentford’s victory at City typified the Bees’ approach to punching several classes above their weight. Thomas Frank has moulded some supremely gifted individuals into a pragmatic side happy to do it both ways — dainty or direct — with a tactical flexibility that goes beyond the Dane’s easy flitting between a back-four and back-five, front-three and front-two.
There is pace, power and set-piece ingenuity, too, all spearheaded by a 20-goal striker and secured by a goalkeeper who should be playing for a ‘big-six’ club next term.
It is Brentford’s recruitment model that has reportedly most piqued Levy’s interest, following several windows of wasteful spending at Spurs, but Ivan Toney’s eight-month ban and David Raya’s likely exit will present the latest test of it this summer.
Notoriously a sell-and-reinvest outfit in the Championship, Brentford avoided the temptation to cash in on any of their stars 12 months ago, the out-of-contract Christian Eriksen the only major departure, but the vultures are beginning to circle and in that sense Toney’s ban may even prove a small blessing.
Brentford’s transfer activity since promotion has not been an unqualified success (record signing Keane Lewis-Potter is, for instance, yet to make an impact), but part of the strategy entrenched by owner Matthew Benham, and indeed his old boss-turned-betting rival Tony Bloom at Brighton, involves living with market risks and, where possible, minimising them (for example, signing Ben Mee, a proven Premier League defender, for no money at all).
A word of fair warning, though. The Brighton-Brentford model does not always deliver instant gratification, the kind a club might be after in, say, pursuing an immediate return to the Champions League. The aim, after all, is to identify potential before it becomes obvious and talent can take time to mature: look at Mathias Jensen, a wonderful footballer who frustrated for years with his inconsistency before filling the Eriksen void, or Bryan Mbeumo, who has all the tools but is for now still too raw a finisher to replace Toney over an eight-month stretch.
Starting out with a model is one thing, but Brentford and Brighton are reaping the rewards of committing to it.