Home F365 Says Eriksen returns, but he alone can’t save Brentford from relegation
Date published: Saturday 26th February 2022 6:16 – Ian King
Christian Eriksen has now made his return to football with Brentford, but his new club are a team with serious problems on the pitch at the moment.
Five minutes into the second half at The Brentford Community Stadium, a ripple of applause rang around the ground, rising to a swell as confirmation of the substitution was made. As he ran on, some of the players joined with the reception. Eight months after collapsing on the pitch during a Euro 2020 match for Denmark last summer, Christian Eriksen returned. As if to complete a circle, he replaced Mathias Jansen, who had been his stand-in for Denmark when his life was hanging in the balance.
Brentford needed an injection of something following a wretched 45 minutes. It didn’t take long for things to start going wrong, when Josh Dasilva made a hash of a step-over and ended up raking his studs down Matt Targett’s leg for an early but deserved red card, and by half-time Newcastle were two up through goals from Joelinton and Joe Willock. It was a performance that is becoming rather too familiar to Brentford supporters: aesthetically pleasing but largely toothless in attacking positions and with a soft, inviting defensive underbelly.
What a special moment 🌟
The entire stadium stands up and applauds Christian Eriksen who returns to competitive action 259 days after suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 👏🏽🇩🇰@TheAthleticUK #BrentfordFC #BRENEW pic.twitter.com/qC9W27AWY4
— Jay Harris (@jaydmharris) February 26, 2022
Eriksen’s introduction lifted the crowd; it even seemed to rouse Brentford’s players for a while. But he couldn’t really make that much of a difference. Although Brentford did improve in the second half, the best chances continued to fall to Newcastle and they held on to record a comfortable 2-0 win – another three points towards the ultimate aim of Premier League survival. Considering how big a loss it looked like Kieran Trippier might be for them with his injury, Eddie Howe has done a good job of managing it. They’re not yet safe yet spending more money than any other club in Europe in the January transfer window seems to have worked out well for them.
But Brentford need an injection of something from somewhere, that much is clear. Dasilva’s early rush of blood to the head was bad luck but it was also poor decision-making and that sort of behaviour is not atypical for a team on the sort of run that Brentford are on. Tensions are high. The pressure is enormous. The cognitive functions that keep the worst aspects of somebody’s thought process can become corrupted. Dasilva’s tackle didn’t seem to come with any malice, nor was it to gain any particular tactical advantage. It was just a bit stupid and quite careless, and that’s all you need to do to earn yourself a red card.
It was also costly. Brentford barely had time to get their teeth into the game and they were having to reshuffle to accommodate their disadvantage. It didn’t make much difference. The two goals between the teams looked like a chasm by half-time and Eriksen’s arrival didn’t make enough of a difference to turn this game on his head.
The football intelligence is still there. You don’t ever lose that. But coming back after such an absence was always likely to be more about feeling his way back into playing rather than just being parachuted in as some sort of saviour. There’s little doubt that he was somewhat ring-rusty, but anybody who has seen Eriksen play will be fully aware that his signature has a potential to be one of the bargains of the season for Brentford if they can get him back to where he was before his forced break from the game.
He wasn’t the only talisman to appear from the Brentford bench either. Ivan Toney had been out since January 22 and Brentford had only scored once in his absence. Even his return couldn’t spur them. By the time Toney took to the pitch, midway through the second half, it already felt as though Newcastle had full control. They had the best chances and most of the possession, running down the clock without too many issues. They were good value for their win.
But the improvement that Brentford had with Erkisen’s introduction was noticeable. If he can integrate into this team then the added creativity he brings along with the goal threat always present when Toney is available gives them a fighting chance. Brentford’s defensive issues are real and coach Thomas Frank will have to fix those with what’s already at his disposal, but Eriksen offers him a calibre of attacking player he may never have expected to be able to attract to the club.
If he can get back to where he was before the events of last summer and if Toney can start scoring goals, Brentford could yet rescue their season. With 11 games to play and three points and two clubs between them and the relegation places, there certainly isn’t any need to panic quite yet. But in a broader sense, at end of a confusing and frightening week, it’s welcome to be reminded of the positive emotions that the game is capable of stirring. It’s good to have Eriksen back.