When it became clear that Ivan Toney was going to be on the end of a hefty ban as a result of breaching anti-gambling regulations, pundits quickly turned their thoughts to how Brentford would cope without their talisman. There is no replacing Ivan Toney, the striker seems as if he was made in a lab by Thomas Frank to perfectly embody the role of the frontman in his system.
The Englishman’s obviously a good finisher, with a brilliant variety of techniques in his repertoire but he’s also one of the Premier League’s best with his back to goal – strong, good in the air and importantly has an excellent first touch. In traditional Sunday league language: Toney makes the ball stick.
Toney’s ban means that he will return on January 16. This means that the Bees will have to navigate the whole first half of the season as well as the busy Christmas schedule without their starman. One man who will certainly be in line for more game time is young Kevin Schade. The German 21-year-old joined from Freiburg in January and featured 18 times in that period, despite not scoring Schade has shown enough to excite his new fans.
The forward possesses the type of turn of pace that instantly makes a player stand out from the crowd and although his finishing leaves a lot to be desired at the moment, his footwork is already at a very high level. But the tendency in football to look for the newest shiniest toy may mean that many are ignoring a solution that Brentford have right under their nose: Yoane Wissa.
The Congolese attacker has been invaluable to Frank in his first two seasons at the club. Firstly Wissa can play anywhere across the front three, meaning he can fill in for Bryan Mbuemo or Ivan Toney but he can also slot into the team if the manager decides he wants to play 4-3-3 as he sometimes does.
Wissa rarely plays 90 minutes for Bretford, in fact, he only starts in about half of Brentford’s fixtures. But since arriving from Lorient, Wissa has shown himself to be the model professional often seizing his moment when he does get the chance to play. This is highlighted when looking at his goalscoring record in comparison to other attackers who are playing second fiddle at their clubs. Wissa has a pretty staggering 17 goals for Brentford, having started just 26 times during that time.
Some of these goals have been crucial too: A last-minute winner against West Ham at the London Stadium, a goal in the 3-1 home win against Liverpool, and a goal and an assist in Brentford second half demolition of Spurs at the end of the season. There is no doubt Wissa has shown his quality in his limited game time. A composed finisher on both his right and left, with the ability to take defenders on in one on one situations and the desire to press defenders, a staple of Brentford’s system, he has all it takes to be a Premier League success.
Wissa’s wide range of goals is a testament to this statement, ranging from thumping emphatic efforts from 18 yards to clipping the ball delicately over the keeper from close range. There are also other reasons why neutrals may be rooting for the forward to make his mark in the upcoming campaign. Wissa was the victim of a horrific acid attack in July 2021, requiring eye surgery which thankfully was successful. The perpetrator was a woman who approached Wissa’s house seeking an autograph before spraying the corrosive liquid.
Furthermore, the Congolese international has made his way up right up the French league system. He even suffered the setback of having to move back down to the second division after struggling to impose himself at Angers after earning the move to Ligue 1. But a setback was all it was, Wissa was not to be stopped and the humble but determined boy from the Paris suburbs would eventually make it to the bright lights of the Premier League.
At 26 years of age, next season could be the time for Wissa to take himself to the next level and become his side’s focal point. There is little doubt over his ability and he finished the season strongly but Wissa has been here before, he finished the 2021/22 season excellently but failed to earn himself a consistent starting place for the next season. Perhaps this time it will be different, but much will depend on Brenford’s summer transfer activity.
By: Wilf MacDonnell / @WilfMacDonnell
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Jacques Feeney / Offside