Brentford have become one of those clubs who are annoyingly good when it comes to transfer dealings.
Just 12 years ago they found themselves scrapping for promotion from the fourth tier, only to now be able to proudly call themselves a Premier League outfit.
Of course there’ve been multiple factors behind the Bees’ rise to prominence, though their stellar work in the transfer market has undoubtedly been the catalyst for their success.
The club recently announced the arrival of midfielder Frank Onyeka – followed by groans of ‘oh we should have signed him’ from supporters of every other club in England, presumably – but what can the Bees expect from the 23-year-old?
First of all it’s important to note that former club FC Midtjylland play in a very similar shape to Brentford – whether that be 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 – and so despite the obvious challenges a move to another country brings, the transition between systems hopefully shouldn’t be too problematic.
The Bees’ recruitment team are renowned for their thorough use of footballing data when assessing a player’s credentials – a topic discussed in depth by the club’s director of recruitment Lee Dykes recently in an exclusive interview with 90min – and a brief check of Onyeka’s stats from last season will tell you a lot about the midfielder.
No Midtjylland player committed more fouls than the Nigeria international in last season’s Danish Superliga, though he also drew the most fouls of any of his side, with his ability to run with the ball at pace a key facet of his game.
It’s fair to say Onyeka is something of an all-round midfielder, possessing both the nous and the physicality needed to sit in midfield and break up play, while also being able to carry the ball from midfield and drag his side up the pitch.
Despite being a combative midfielder whose six-foot frame makes him a commanding presence in the centre of the field, one area of Onyeka’s game which does need improving is his heading ability, though Brentford will be hoping their preference for getting the ball on the floor and moving forward with pace means that doesn’t hold him back in the Premier League.
Speaking of Brentford’s style of play, so far we’ve focused almost solely on Onyeka’s physical strengths – but he’s far more than just a battering ram of a midfielder.
The 23-year-old’s footwork in tight spaces is as good as you will see, and his ability to play one and two-touch football to keep the ball moving is perfect for Brentford’s current system.
Although Onyeka has the ability to drive forward with the ball at his feet, more often than not he’ll look to offload to a teammate to allow himself time to settle back into position. But given his pace and power it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Thomas Frank allow him more freedom to move through the thirds.
One of the defining aspects of Brentford’s promotion-clinching side last season was their fluid midfield, with no player confined to the role of ‘sitting midfielder’ or ‘number ten’. Onyeka has all of the attributes needed to slot into such a system.
If the Bees are going to avoid being drawn into a relegation scrap next season then they needed to add more bite and more tenacity to their midfield.
Having good footballers in your side is all well and good, but when you come up against teams with better footballers in their side – something Brentford will experience on more than a few occasions next season – you need to level the playing field by other means.
Not only does Onyeka have the footballing ability to slot into Brentford’s midfield, he’ll also add a nastiness that the Bees have been lacking and he could prove to be a massive player for the club next season.