Ivan Toney has scored 20 out of Brentford’s 57 Premier League goals this season. Without him, 37 goals scored would be equal to West Ham and Bournemouth, who have been battling relegation.
There is no doubt Toney is crucial to Brentford, not just in terms of goal-scoring but how they attack as a whole, and he will be a huge loss for them. However, if there is one club you can rely on to have a plan to cope without him, it is Brentford.
They have, in fact, had one for a while. His eight-month ban, or six months from the start of next season, has been more than a year in the making. The obvious idea would be to go out and sign a new No.9 who could replace those 20 goals immediately, but Brentford do not do the obvious.
The first problem with that idea is that only two other players have scored more than 20 goals in the Premier League this season and the Bees are not about to sign Erling Haaland or Harry Kane. Bringing that number of goals in from abroad or the Championship is not going to be a foregone conclusion either.
So the first questions Brentford have asked themselves are; do we have those goals in the rest of the team? Can we setup the front-three to all contribute? Their 3-1 win over Liverpool without him earlier this season suggested at some answers, while the fine 3-1 win away at Tottenham last time out - their first game without Toney - provided some definitive ones.
Bryan Mbuemo scored twice and Yoane Wissa got the other in a blistering second-half showing. Spurs have been woeful for a while, yes, but that takes nothing away from what Mbuemo, Wissa and Kevin Schade did as a combination.
Brentford consider Wissa a goal-scoring forward player, and the fact they have just given him a new contract shows they are giving the Congo international huge backing. There is an argument that Wissa could excel even further stepping into the Toney void.
Schade is also a future top-talent who the club invested in this January by signing him from Freiburg. Both this and the new Wissa contract have been done in light of the impending ban Toney has had hanging over him since last Autumn.
Add to that the obvious attacking prowess of Mbeumo, who took his tally to nine against Spurs, and last summer's signing from Hull, Keane Lewis-Potter, and Brentford are not short of attacking talent. They are not short of goal-scorers, and head coach Thomas Frank showed at Spurs that he is tactically astute enough to get them putting the ball in the net.
So it would be a very Brentford thing to do for them to go and sign another versatile forward instead; a player that would fit anywhere into their front-five options (Ivan Toney included) to bolster the attacking threat through the middle, on the right and the left, and have another option to play with Toney when he returns.
It is more likely that not to be someone of the Ollie Watkins mould, whom they developed from a right-winger into a centre-forward, or a Brennan Johnson; the type of player they have been interested in for a long time (but are unlikely to get out of Nottingham Forest now they have stayed up).
With the signing of Ben Mee on a free transfer last summer, Brentford have also shown a keenness to step out of their policy of signing young players in order to command a true balance in their squad with experience. So do not rule out the Bees going and bringing in an experienced signing in this role, if the player makes sense.
Also in Toney's absence, Brentford fans and neutral admirers should also watch out for B team prospects Michael Olakigbe, who is backed by the club to have a top future, along with Ryan Trevitt, Yegor Yarmoliuk and Tristan Crama. These players were all key to their Premier League Cup success this year.
So, all in all, Brentford's plan is actually very simple; they have the current third best Premier League striker back with them next January. What a boost that will be, but also what an opportunity it is for all the other players in the meantime.2023-05-24T11:03:53Z dg43tfdfdgfd