So much for Thomas Frank to savor after Ivan Toney was summoned to England

So much for Thomas Frank to savor after Ivan Toney was summoned to England

Given that Brentford hadn’t produced a player for England’s senior squad since 1939, it was no surprise that Thomas Frank tried to squeeze every drop of satisfaction out of Ivan Toney’s call-up. “I think this is a much bigger moment for Brentford than people realize, especially if you’ve been here for a long time,” he said. “Just 15 years ago we were last in League Two, we played for MK Dons at home and we lost 3-0 in front of 4,000 fans. We now have our first England national team in 83 years and we are playing our second season in the Premier League. “

It’s another milestone and the ultimate proof that Brentford’s top flight adventure is no passing fantasy. There were eyes on Frank’s team at the start of the season: it was questionable whether, without Christian Eriksen’s tricks, they would have returned to the team that started fighting badly after such an exciting start in 2021-22. But they look completely comfortable in their own skin and on Sunday there will be some symbolism in the Arsenal visit, whose humiliation on the opening night of last legislature ignited a fire of possibility in West London.

Related: Ivan Toney gets the first call-up in England for the matches against Italy and Germany

Nobody likes a visit to Brentford Community Stadium, a narrow, angular venue with good acoustics that is relatively rare among newly built stadiums to instill a strong sense of place. “I think Brentford has given us a lot of arguments over the past year, two years, to really believe that you’re going to go there and have a great fight,” Mikel Arteta said on Friday. “You will suffer if you want to go there and take the three points from that stage. I think they are very clear about this and we have many examples ”.

There are two in particular from the last five weeks. Perhaps Manchester United’s capitulation in August will go down in history as the culmination of nine years of decline; the nadir from which Erik ten Hag led them to a glorious awakening. Brentford certainly caught them in a good moment, but the 5-2 destruction of Leeds, who had ensured their survival by winning the same game four months earlier, in the last outing was just as emphatic and hinted at the excellence of the hosts as a common denominator.

Toney has already found the net five times and, at 26, has become an almost complete center forward. The biggest of the defenders can expect to bounce on him multiple times during the match; he can terrify more in the air and, as he demonstrated when he scored two outrageous long-distance goals in his hat-trick against Leeds, he is deceptively adept with his feet. The ferocious, whipping punishment that left Illan Meslier on his feet spoke of a forward with the tools in the round to be a worthy deputy to Harry Kane.

The joy for Brentford is that the moment of Toney’s arrival internationally is unmatched elsewhere in the ranks. Their goalkeeper David Raya could very well receive his second appearance in Spain against Switzerland or Portugal in the next two weeks: he has now been called up for three consecutive teams by Luis Enrique. The back and front of the Bees have realistic chances of appearing at the World Cup this winter and would be an even bigger achievement for Frank.

It also diminishes the idea that Brentford could be cast as a brave underdog for much longer. There is a sense that they are here to stay now, with the caveat that the league seems so tight that the predictions for the three relegations could even be decided by the roll of a die. Brentford made judicious deals in the summer: they were able to spend £ 45m on Keane Lewis-Potter, Mikkel Damsgaard and Aaron Hickey, neither of whom are over 22, no sizable commissions and there was room for a icing on the cake.

Had Shakhtar Donetsk been happy to accept an offer of over £ 25 million for glittering winger Mykhaylo Mudryk, Frank would have broken Brentford’s transfer record while supposedly showing off a cutthroat streak with one or more of his existing options as a result. This is how teams ultimately evolve at this level, but he said a lot that adding Mudryk would be a luxury. Brentford struggled when injuries last hit but now boast genuine depth in most positions.

Toney’s goals are vital, but Bryan Mbeumo hinted at more power with two early strikes while Yoane Wissa and Josh Dasilva, whose fitness is a significant boost, also have a pair each. Ben Mee strengthened the bottom line and didn’t miss last summer’s big signing, Kristoffer Ajer, who is close to comeback after hamstring surgery. Sergi Canós, who opened the scoring against Arsenal last August, is also yet to kick a ball, but Hickey has been a progressive presence as a right-back.

Arsenal will face a more refined and skilled team than the one that knocked them to the ground that night with a mixture of brains and brawn; a consequence, of course, is that there will be a minor element of surprise for Arteta’s toppers. But Brentford believe they have more surprises up their sleeves and Toney’s relentless rise underscores the point.

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