Just how good are Brentford's attacking trio of Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Bryan Mbeumo?

Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins

Brentford are 90 minutes away from reaching the Premier League for the first time in their history.

The Bees haven't featured in the top-flight of English football since 1947 but Thomas Frank's class of 2020 are close to ending that long wait.

Standing in their way at Wembley are West London rivals Fulham. They are looking to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking following relegation last season.

It's clear just how strong Brentford are as a complete unit but the focus is mainly on their influential attacking trio. Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins have been the leading factor in the 80 team goals scored during the regular season.

Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins

The biggest positive for Brentford when it comes to winning the play-off final is that their performances have improved since lockdown. At a vital point in the season, their big players are contributing in more significant ways and that has helped them to reach Wembley.

Their form throughout the season has of course been excellent but it has been evident in this final 'third' of the campaign. Small but vital changes in their game, in a system that suits their strengths and attacking style, have pushed Brentford to the verge of Premier League football.

Arguably the most impressive rise has been from the striker in this trio. Watkins has adapted superbly to life in the central role having played as a winger to Neal Maupay last season.

It's said that Watkins developed his game as a striker by watching Maupay, who departed the Bees for Brighton last summer, and that has been evident in the 26 goals he has netted before an appearance at Wembley; that is one better than Maupay posted in the league during the 2018/19 campaign.

Ollie Watkins in the Sky Bet Championship this season

His showing in the second leg of the play-off semi-final meeting with Swansea was another in a line of good performances from Watkins - a player who has flourished since the league restarted in June.

He may only have scored four goals since the restart but the statistics show that there could and perhaps should have been more. Between January 18 and June 26 (the week after the league got back under way), Watkins had an xG figure of 0.25 per 90 minutes. Since then, his per game total has risen to 0.58.

Watkins could well have benefitted from less time spent trying to beat opposition defenders in possession. He only had one successful dribble in the win over Swansea (from one attempt) and that is consistent with his post-lockdown performances.

In the period between October 5 and June 30, he had a total of 2.69 dribbles per 90 minutes. From the beginning of July until the first leg meeting with the Swans, that figure dropped to 1.17 per 90. Doing less with the ball could explain why he has increased his Expected Goals figure rise over the same period.

Ollie Watkins' passing distribution sonar when home and away

A factor to consider when it comes to that play-off final is how Brentford approach the game and how that could impact what role Watkins is expected to play - particularly in distribution of the ball. It's clear from Watkins' passing distribution sonars that there is a more positive attitude in home matches than away. The above reflects the post-lockdown period between June 20 and July 28.

The away sonar suggests a more conservative approach; drawing midfielders into the attack by acting more of a traditional striker in a form of a 'target man'. His priority is keeping possession for Brentford to build the attack as opposed to looking to hit defenders with pace.

At home, it's clear that they adopt a more positive attitude. Passes are made in a forward direction while he often looks to find Benrahma on the left more than Mbeumo on the right. Given Fulham's more attacking-based full-backs, we could expect his Wembley sonar to reflect the home one more than the away.

Despite Watkins' goals, the eye-catching style of Benrahma means he dominates the transfer headlines and is likely to be a player who will feature in the Premier League next season - whether Brentford are there or not.

Said Benrahma's Sky Bet Championship statistics

Perhaps his appeal is best demonstrated in the fact that the Algeria international strikes at crucial points in games. Since and including the 5-0 hammering of Sheffield Wednesday on March 7, Benrahma's goal contribution (goals and assists) per 90 minutes has been 0.17 in the first-half compared to 1.44 in the second.

Using first-half performances only, Benrahma finds himself 137th for goal contribution among players in the Championship (those with at least 90 minutes in the first-half). In the second-half, he shoots up to seventh for players with the same criteria.

It comes as a surprise when looking at the 'Expected' metric that his xA (Expected Assists) per 90 minutes was 0.17 between 29 September and 15 February and, since then, it dropped to just 0.08. That goes some way to explaining why there have only been three assists over that period.

An area that goes unnoticed, given his presence in attack, is Benrahma's defensive contribution. That is another part of his game that has improved since the lockdown period. Between February 11 and June 30, the winger's defensive actions per 90 minutes stood at 11.54. In the month that followed, that figure increased significantly to 16.27.

Said Benrahma's defensive action area during July

The 'weak link' could be Mbeumo - although his contribution has also been significant throughout the course of the campaign.

The strength of this Brentford attack means the 'quieter' of the trio has scored 15 goals and assisted a further eight. It could be said that his performances post-lockdown haven't quite matched those prior to it; his goal in the second leg against Swansea ended a six-game run without a goal contribution.

Despite lining up on the right wing, Mbeumo was producing an xG rate of 0.38 per 90 minutes between October 2 and February 1. Since then, and prior to that second leg victory over Swansea, his figure has dropped by 61% to just 0.15.

That said, with Watkins seeing his average number of dribbles decrease per game, Mbeumo's has increased. A higher number is natural given his position on the pitch but any upward shift is positive.

Bryan Mbeumo's shot map this season

His dribbles per 90 minutes figure was 2.68 between December 29 and March 7. In the period that followed, that average has shot up to 4.51. The issue there is that the increased figure wouldn't put him among the top-25 in this category across the Championship this season.

Mbeumo hasn't been as involved over recent weeks and that is reflected across the statistics. Watkins and Benrahma are taking the praise because they have become more of a presence - although Mbeumo continues to contribute in some capacity.

Another example of this would be the attempted passes per 90 minutes. Between mid-January and the end of June, Mbeumo's figure stood at 33.3. In the month since then, the figure has dropped drastically to 20.08.

Even with those falling figures, Mbeumo's contribution has been key to Brentford's success.

Brentford celebrate Bryan Mbeumo's goal

It's easy to see why Brentford go into the Championship's showpiece event as favourites. Fulham will need to be at the very top of their defensive game if they are to keep the Bees' forward three quiet.

Brentford have a clear identity but they need to treat it as a 'home' game despite the neutral venue - that has proven to be the most effective way in terms of getting the best out of the Watkins/Benrahma link-up.

Every club has the desire to bring in a prolific striker but Brentford, through their often labelled 'moneyball' system, have created a front three that are perfect for their attacking style and, crucially, understand each other.

Brentford will have a much better chance of keeping the trio together if they do reach the top-flight with victory at Wembley. Premier League performances will be matched by Premier League football.

Their post-lockdown performances suggest they are really hitting their stride ahead of the biggest game of their careers so far.

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