I'm delighted to bring to you all my favourite Football Manager experience of all time. I've been playing the game since '07 which isn't long compared to some more hardcore fans out there, but never have I had as much fun with a single team as I did with the Bees.
Championship clubs make for a great campaign as you look to first prepare your side for life in the top flight, before then challenging for promotion and making your play alongside the big boys. In this regard, there are few teams as well-equipped as Brentford, who already possess a talented squad and are also building a new stadium to meet the minimum capacity regulations in the Premier League.
This guide will focus on the squad available to you in the 19.3 database.
Brentford have played in the Championship since 2014, and in their first season in the second-tier managed to attain an unexpected 5th-place finish before being defeated by Middlesbrough in the playoff semi-finals.
Since then the club has made several changes in an attempt to channel their ambition into success, including the removal of their academy and development squads, and the adoption of a “B-team” as a way to develop its own players.
Their most successful manager of late has been Dean Smith, who led the club to successive top-ten finishes over three seasons before leaving the club to manage and achieve promotion with Aston Villa. Smith built an attractive passing style of play on a shoestring budget and during his last full season with the club, his Brentford side were widely regarded as the “Championship’s entertainers.”
As a result, upon taking over at Griffin Park you will be expected to continue this style of possession and attacking football, as well as achieve a top half finish.
In return, the board will grant you a transfer budget of £2.5m and a stadium move to the under-construction Brentford Community Stadium at the end of the 2019-20 season. If you are lucky enough to achieve promotion in your first season, it is highly likely that you will have to rent out Selhurst Park for a year.
The squad is not rich, and the board have long compensated for this with an alternative transfer approach. Instead of buying expensive players, they work to be more thorough and intelligent with their acquisitions. The highest fee paid for a player prior to the end of the season was the £2.5m paid for Norwich’s Sergi Canos, but the best sale was letting Chris Mepham leave for Bournemouth for five times that.
The two ways to best deal with this transfer policy are to sign young and sell old, but also to stick to the Scandinavian regions. Your backroom staff and scouting network already have good levels of knowledge in the region and players are typically cheap.
With an average age of just 22 and not a single player over 30, the first team is actually in remarkable shape and you can even go as far as to survive without an initial budget. There is good depth in every position and even the wage budget is in good shape. Your only problem is the injuries to Odubajo and Henry, stretching your depth out wide to the very limit.
The first choice spot is supposed to be in contention between Daniel Bentley and Luke Daniels, but if you ask me you should be playing with a sweeper keeper and looking to offload Daniels as soon as possible.
This is due to the two excellent young goalkeepers you have waiting in the wings, who both have the potential to be fantastic given enough opportunities.
Balcombe and Gunnarsson both have the potential to be Premier League-quality sweeper keepers in the future and Balcome in particular can be relied on to fill in for the odd cup match in Bentley’s absence.
Following the departure of Chris Mepham, this area is lacking a little in depth but you can make do until your injuries fade by just playing two in the middle.
Julian Jeanvier is your strongest option followed closely by Yoann Barbet, and Ezri Konsa Ngoyo is already first-choice material at the age of 20. Finally, you have Mads Bech Sørensen who will have to fill in at left-back for Rico Henry but can provide cover here too.
Barbet can be re-trained as a left-back and Konsa as a right-back, in order to help with the injury situation. Once all your players are back to full fitness you might be able to get away with playing five at the back, or three with wing-backs.
At his age, Rico Henry is one of the best players in the league at left-back, not least because he can also play further up the wing. He should be playing in every match, because Cole Dasilva, Sørensen and Field are all nowhere near his ability.
Thankfully, the lack of quality in depth is more than made up for at right-back. You’d be faced with quite the selection dilemma if Moses Odubajo wasn’t out with a long-term injury, but instead you will have to rely on the slower and more consistent Henrik Dalsgaard.
You also have Josh Clarke returning from his loan spell with Burton Albion at the end of the season, and since he’s younger and on a lower payroll than Odubajo, I’d consider letting Moses run out his short contract if his performances aren’t good enough.
Deep Lying Playmakers
The whole centre of midfield in general is mid-table Championship level at best, and this is probably the position that will need the most improvement if you wish to challenge for promotion.
Kamohelo Mokotjo is well-rounded and really steps up to provide both goals and assists in the big games. You also have ex-Chelsea youth prospect and eventual reject Josh McEachran, in case you were wondering what ever happened to him. He’s a quality backup option but that’s about it, and since you should be pushing for the top flight, you’d be best served by letting him run down the final year of his contract.
Box To Box Midfielders
Lewis Macleod is hardworking but has problems with injuries and is unlikely to suit the Premier League, while Josh Dasilva is a fantastic young player who plays box to box well from the start and can grow into a Premier League-quality player given enough game time. He can also be re-trained to be more defensive or attacking if need be.
I assume Emiliano Marcondes was signed in anticipation of Romaine Sawyers leaving the club, but in truth it doesn’t really matter because the lad only cost half a million. He’s younger, more versatile and ambitious with better potential ability, so feel free to let Sawyers leave the club when he returns from injury.
The players in Brentford’s attack are young and some of the best in the division, so they won’t need strengthening for at least another couple of years. Ollie Watkins is your first choice left-winger and plays best as an Inside Forward.
On the right, you face your final selection headache as new signing Saïd Benrahma battles with club-record signing Sergi Canos. The best way to deal with this dilemma besides judging them solely on their performances would be to train them both to play on the left, as backup to Watkins, and provide yourself with more quality in depth.
Dalsgaard and Odubajo are both capable of covering on the right as makeshift wingers, as is Watkins, and on the left you have Chiedozie Ogbene who has perhaps missed his chance and should be treated as a last-resort cover option only.
Neal Maupay managed 25 goals for Brentford last campaign and should be leading the heart of your attack every match when possible. The best Pressing Forward for his age in the division, not only can you expect the Golden Boot in the near future but you can grow him into a Premier League forward in the long-term.
Your only issue is that the quality in depth comes from key players in other positions. Marcondes, Benrahma and Watkins can all play here when not featured in their more natural positions but when called upon Marcus Forss can perform well in the odd cup match. Since he’ll never make it in the top flight, this position will need reinforcing once promotion has been achieved.
Given the injuries you begin with, the players available to you and the requirement to play attractive attacking and possession-based football, it might be best to start with four at the back and five midfielders.
Once everyone is fit, you can think about swapping out a central midfielder for another central defender, which will be especially useful once you achieve promotion as a more defensive tactic will help you to counter the larger teams.
The team also suits Gegenpress tactics as most of the players possess high levels of determination, work rate and stamina. You even have a Pressing Forward!
Brentford aren’t the best team in the Championship. They don’t have the best players, or the most money, and certainly not the best stadium or youth setup. That is your job; to bring long-term structure and stability to the club in the form of results, success, sponsorships and by extension re-introduce the academy and youth teams.
The focus on Scandinavian talent brings a unique twist, giving you an optional challenge to only recruit players from that region. Regardless of your limitations, your goals remain the same; to win Brentford their first trophy in ten years, their first Championship title in 80 years, and their first Premier League trophy of all time.