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Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

Life after Toney: How Brentford can adapt to life without Ivan Toney ahead of the summer transfer window – scout report

Thomas Frank’s Brentford side currently sits in the top half of the Premier League table in what would be classified as another impressive season in the English top flight since their promotion from the Championship back in 2021.

Defined by many as a hard-working, pragmatic and effective footballing side, teams have struggled to play against the vertical and direct playing tactics the Bees implement. Beating the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and current Premier League champions Manchester City all in one season is no easy task. Though the impressive run of results this year and potential top-half finish can not be down to the impact of any one single player, it’s hard to argue against the importance of Brentford’s Ivan Toney.

A talented striker who has a knack for finding the back of the net, Toney has scored a whopping 20 goals in 33 appearances in the Premier League this season, scoring 37% of all Brentford’s goals this season. Only Harry Kane (41.5%) and Erling Haaland (39.1%) have a higher share of their team’s goals in the English top flight. With Toney now unlikely to see the pitch until early next year, the recent eight-month ban on all football-related activities means Brentford will have to do without their talismanic forward for the first half of next season’s Premier League campaign. 

This tactical analysis will look at how Frank’s Brentford side plays. The analysis will focus on Ivan Toney as his role at Brentford during different phases of the game, what he brings to his side and who the Bees might look towards as a potential replacement for the English international next season.

Ivan Toney’s strengths

When Frank was asked how much he thinks Toney is worth, he said: “100 million plus? I love Ivan and it’s fantastic what he has achieved here…what would you pay for a striker that guarantees you 20-plus goals? And this is 20 goals for a mid-table club. What can he do in a bigger club?”

Besides ranking third in the goal-scoring charts in the Premier League up until his ban, Toney has also registered four assists this campaign in a Brentford side that registered the second-lowest amount of touches in the league ahead of Nottingham Forest. What is obvious from the data visual is Toney’s all-round game, contributing as much defensively and in possession as he does when Brentford attack.

His obvious attacking talent is backed up by stats, showing incredible goal contributions per 90, ranking even higher than his xG per 90, demonstrating his elite finishing ability in and around the box.

In possession, Toney’s link-up play is important for Frank’s team. Complimented by Brentfords style of vertical play, Toney’s dangerous passes per 90 rank him in the 83rd percentile in the Premier League. This is marked by his recent development, dropping deeper to help facilitate Brentford’s build-up, but more on that later.

As good as he is at scoring goals and providing dangerous passes, Toney’s true strengths are in his ability to win headers at either end of the pitch, something Frank and Brentford rely heavily on. Toney ranks first in aerial duels won amongst forwards in the top flight, and fourth overall behind James Tarkowski, Tomás Soucek and teammate Ben Mee. With a preference for vertical passes, long balls and direct set pieces, Toney’s aerial prowess to win the first ball is pivotal to Brentford’s style of play.

Brentford’s attacking style of play, and the role of Ivan Toney

There is a fantastic article written by Ahmed El-Daly on Brentford’s style of play this season. Characterised by pragmatic and dynamic football, the Bees play a very different style of football compared to the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal at the very top of the table. Brentford rank first in long balls attempted this season, and 16th in average possession per game at just 43.7%

This season, Frank has lined up his Brentford side in a typical 4-3-3 formation, but at times reverting to a 5-3-2 against stronger opponents, both with the idea of Toney spearheading attacks and forming the first line of defence.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

Although Brentford ranks top when it comes to direct long balls, they aren’t launching passes immediately into the opponent’s half during the build-up. Instead, they start by progressing the ball slowly and prioritise short passes along the back four, with the purpose of attracting opponents towards them, baiting the press and then playing the ball up to Toney and bypassing the midfield.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

By creating a false build-up and attracting opponents towards the ball, it allows greater space in and around Brentford’s target man to win flick-ons and hold up the ball. Their play is focused on maximising their chances of successful effective vertical play by giving Toney every chance possible to win key individual battles up top. Without attempting short build-up passes, teams drop deep and the likelihood of winning the first ball decreases significantly.

Another component of this effective play is Brentford’s use of their wide players working in tandem with Toney. When the long pass is on, the wingers gravitate towards the forward, making direct runs behind the opponent’s back line for a flick-on, or to further stretch the pitch vertically and maximise space and create goalscoring chances.

Brentford also creates further numerical advantages by asking their willing runners from midfield to step closer to Toney to create higher value chances, winning second balls and adding to the chaos, rather than isolating him against opposition centre-backs.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

Brentford recruited Toney back in 2020, as he has specific attributes that contribute well to this style of play. With the ability to win aerial duels to great effect, the success of long direct passes no longer falls in favour of tall dominant centre-backs and instead becomes a tool for immediate chance creation and successful progression of the ball up the pitch.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

After winning the initial aerial battle, it’s often you see Brentford’s wingers take on the role of a creator of the side. In particular, Bryan Mbeuno has struck up a great partnership with Toney, playing off the right in a front three, or more evidently forming a partnership as a front two when Brentford line up in a 5-3-2.

Toney’s ability to win flick-ons and duels against an opponent often means teams tend to gravitate towards the English International when Brentford play direct to him. This commitment of players to the centre of the pitch benefits the likes of Mbeumo, Yoane Wissa, and Kevin Schade by giving them more space down the channel and opportunities for 1v1s, causing problems for the opposition with their pace and direct running.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

Brentford’s defensive style of play

Although the focus for Toney in a centre-forward position is the attacking side of play, he does play an important role in Brentford’s defensive phase. Brentford are adaptive and resilient. As mentioned before, they often switch between a back five and a back four between games. Frank also has a tendency to switch formations up mid-game, whether they need to throw on an extra defender to seal a victory or pile men forward to chase the win. What is evident within these changes are their fluid defensive principles.

Frank sets his sides up to stop goals scored against them. At times, they will drop eleven men behind the ball, line up in a 5-3-2 and force teams to find a solution against a well-drilled Brentford side. Toney’s role during the defensive phase is to become the first line of defence and stop play going down the centre of the pitch, forcing teams out wide.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

At the same time, during certain phases of the game, you will often see Brentford players burst forward to chase the ball. When Brentford are in a position further up the pitch, whether from a set piece or an attack, they press teams with intent and force a long pass. Often times these triggers to press are when opposition teams pass the ball back towards their keeper, and Toney will lead the line to press the keeper, with teammates arriving alongside him to prevent short passes into midfield.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer


When looking at Brentford’s incredible ability to get a result against a ‘top six’ side, much of their focus and strength lies in their transitions and set pieces. The fast-paced and direct counter-attacks are one of the cornerstones of Brentford’s success in creating big chances and scoring goals this season. They rank seventh in goals scored this season and in the bottom fifteen for shots taken.

This season, we have seen a development in Toney’s game, with Frank asking more of his striker during offensive transitions. When Brentford regain possession, opposition teams are often pushed forward, thus Frank encourages his players to make runs forward and gain crucial yards before teams are settled.

Toney has adapted his game to facilitate Brentford’s transition in multiple ways. Traditionally in the past, he goes right up against the last defender and pushes opposition teams back by winning aerial duels and causing problems for the back line. This season has seen an emergence of a playmaking side of Toney. He is still often seen as the first point of attack during offensive transitions. However, he now is given the license to step off the last line of defence and receive the ball to feet and feed the ongoing runners from deeper areas.

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

Defensively, Toney does a good job of pressing the ball immediately when Brentford lose possession. He tries to encourage the play to go backwards and in effect buys time for his team to regain their shape. Most of the time, Toney works as the first line of defence when Brentford lose possession. However, as he is the focal point of attack for Brentford during offensive transitions, it is evident that Toney saves a lot of his energy after the initial press to get into good positions in case Brentford regain possession. 

Lastly, it would be remiss to highlight Toney’s importance to Brentford without mentioning his proficiency and danger in set pieces. Besides the aforementioned aerial prowess he possesses that would help win headers in opposition boxes, he is also known for being a prolific penalty taker, scoring 28 of his last 30. With the style that Brentford employ on the pitch, fast-paced and direct play tend to lend themselves to more fouls drawn in and around the penalty area as teams are caught out on the counterattack.

Brentford has the joint-second highest penalties award this season behind league leaders Manchester City. Having someone like Toney with such a high conversion rate from the spot seems like a perfect match.

Potential replacements

With the likelihood of being sidelined until January 2024, Brentford are well aware of the impact of Toney’s absence and what that might entail for the start of next season. Although players like Mbeumo and Wissa have stepped in well when asked to lead the front line this season, with the increase in interest from rival teams in the top flight and eight months away from the Premier League, it would be no surprise to see Brentford look to find a short term replacement for the star man. Perhaps Brentford might even cash in now with two years left on his contract.

Known for their shrewd signings, who could fill the boots of Toney and what type of player might Frank look towards to fill a similar profile to his England International?

Armando Broja

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

After an impressive loan spell away to Southampton last season (data above showing 2021-2022 season), it was no surprise to many the interest Armando Broja garnered as a physical and direct centre-forward.

Though he has missed out on a majority of games this season due to an ACL injury, prior to that, many Chelsea fans might have seen him as the forward to lead the line for the London outfit. With the likelihood of more spending this summer, the incoming transfer of Christopher Nkunku, and a potential return to Stamford Bridge for Romelu Lukaku under a new manager, it seems increasingly likely that Broja will look towards a spell away from Chelsea next season. 

Broja’s style of play is akin to Toney’s, being a physically dominant centre-forward with an eye for goal could be the potential replacement Frank would look for. Adding to the fact that Chelsea are likely to only loan out the Albanian International with his contract extended this year to 2028, it seems that Broja may be the perfect short-term solution for Brentford. Premier League experience, young and talented may be enough to convince Frank on the suitability for Broja to fill in for Toney until January.

Jonas Wind

Brentford F.C. - Tactical Analysis of Ivan Toney’s role, and potential replacements this summer

Jonas Wind is a forward with more experience, albeit not in the Premier League. The Danish centre-forward plays for Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg and is their joint-top scorer this season.

Making a name for himself scoring 36 goals in 88 appearances for F.C.Copenhagen, he initially attracted Frank’s Brentford side back in the summer of 2021 before his January move to Wolfsburg the following year.

Standing at 6 foot 3 inches tall, Wind is a formidable physical presence up front, scoring 11 goals in 14 starts for the German side this season. Besides the obvious similarities between the two forwards, Wind and Frank are also both from Denmark and Wind would be added to the long list of Danes who have been tempted by Frank to move to the Premier League.

If Brentford are looking for a long-term replacement for Toney, Wind may be the potential solution they are looking for.


In the past two seasons in England’s top flight, Brentford have surpassed many expectations and finishing in the top half of the table this season encapsulates their brilliant display of pragmatic and effective football.

At the forefront of everything they do is their analytical approach to football. Whether it’s how they run the football club, or the intelligent signings they’ve made over the past few seasons, one thing that is for sure is that Brentford’s will be without Toney in the near future and they will have already begun planning for his absence.

Toney brings many attributes and tools to this Brentford side, as this scout report has explained. With an unrivalled ability to win headers as a centre-forward, and a natural ability to put the ball in the back of the net, Toney will be sorely missed.

Whether he looks towards his own players like Mbeumo, finds a short-term signing like Broja, or signs a like-for-like striker in Wind, there’s no doubt Frank will be exploring his options.