Thomas Frank’s astute tactics were again the key as Brentford saw off promotion candidates Middlesbrough with a 2-1 success on Saturday.
Said Benrahma sealed a second-half comeback on Teeside after the Bees had already cancelled out Ashley Fletcher’s opener through Ryan Shotton’s own goal.
The victory means Frank’s side have now won seven of their last nine league matches in a run that has given them an outside chance of reaching the play-offs.
This comes as a stark contrast to their run before the Christmas period when Frank found himself under pressure after losing eight in ten matches.
But Frank’s switch to a back-three formation against Bolton in late December has been pivotal to a Bees revival which has led them to their current run.
The usual backline trio of Ezri Konsa, Julian Jeanvier and Yoann Barbet has stabilised Brentford’s defence and seen them concede just ten goals since that Bolton victory.
Although Jeanvier was injured on Saturday, Mads Bech Sorensen stepped in for his league debut and helped ensure the Bees’ tactics proved fruitful yet again.
It was laid bare how this formation has proved vital in resurrecting Brentford’s season, by permitting more freedom for Brentford’s bright attacking players.
The installation of wing-backs has provided width to allow the likes of Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins to drop inside and capitalise on any space.
Brentford’s 73rd-minute winner at the Riverside was a prime example of this when Romaine Sawyers glided a pinpoint ball into the path of marauding wing-back Henrik Dalsgaard, who cut it back for the lurking Benrahama to slot home.
The fact this tactic breached Tony Pulis’ well-drilled side with such ease is proof of the damage Brentford’s new formula can cause.
The Bees have long been associated with a progressive brand of football, but this tactical switch has held the key to consistent results.
Benrahama has now been directly involved in seven of Brentford’s last nine goals from open play, which reveals how much the Algerian is benefitting from the Bees’ new system.
Brentford now face a tough test against Sheffield United tonight, who are eyeing up a top-two spot. Frank will consider the need to adapt ahead of facing a side who have also achieved success by utilising a back-three.
Much like the Bees, Chris Wilder likes his defenders to bring the ball forward and so it promises to be an open game, especially with both sides so desperate for a win.
Frank will be aware of the Blades’ threat but the Dane should trust his tactics that have reaped such high rewards in the new year.