Brentford: A club that outthinks rather than outspends in their pursuit of success



When Dean Smith left Brentford to manage his boyhood club Aston Villa in October 2018, Thomas Frank was promoted from assistant head coach to the club’s full-time manager. The Bees were in search of Premier League football but they weren’t going to betray their formula for success by splashing the cash to bring in a proven promotion winner. Instead, they made a modest appointment from within by handing the reins to Frank but they were convinced it was the right idea.

As it turned out, the Danish manager would end up losing eight of his first ten matches as Brentford boss which in most instances would have resulted in a manager being relieved of their duties. Indeed, an apology would be made to the fans for making the wrong appointment and a new broom would be brought in to sweep clean. This is Brentford though, they use statistical metrics and data to determine if they’ve made a mistake and the numbers that came back to the director of football Rasmus Ankersen and club owner Matthew Benham at the time said they were unlucky and that if they persisted with Frank, the wins would come. 

With this being the case and the Bees wedded to their principles on data, the hierarchy didn’t panic which meant that two years later, Brentford celebrated promotion to the Premier League under Thomas Frank, ending a 73-year hiatus from the top flight of English football. In short, data had driven their decision-making and also rewarded the club in abundance. 

In fact, the number revolution continues to pay dividends at the Brentford Community Stadium as the club look settled in the Premier League and find themselves at long odds of 9/1 to go make an immediate return to the Championship. Tellingly, those odds are sourced from bet365 who are among the leaders in sports betting as this will attest to. 

In other words and under Frank, the way Brentford operate will ensure that they won’t be going down this season after a barnstorming start to life in the Premier League. 

Revealingly, part of the Bees’ success this season is down to their attacking philosophy that is bolstered by phenomenal recruitment. It is a fascinating transfer model that is once again driven by data as the club seeks to find the continent’s roughest diamonds before developing them into outstanding players. Crucially, it is also a strategy that earns the club a fortune in the transfer market as they pick players up on the cheap before selling them on for huge profit. Take Ollie Watkins for example, Brentford bought him for under £2 million from Exeter City before selling him to Aston Villa for £33 million. 

And thanks to their data-obsessed approach, a suitable replacement will always just be a click of a button away, as Ivan Toney’s arrival from Peterborough will illustrate. 

This is a remarkable club for many reasons but perhaps mostly for the fact that they outthink their rivals rather than outspend them.