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Soccer-Brentford play numbers game as Norwich, Watford eye survival

Brentford are back in English football's top flight for the first time in 74 years but the community club from west London are markedly different from the Premier League monoliths they will be pitted against.

Brentford have overcome the heartbreak of nine playoff failures to win promotion and vindicate an alternative approach to running a football club, based on finding good players cheaply through data and analytics before selling them on at large profit.

Club owner Matthew Benham, a trained mathematician, is the driving force behind the approach, which has drawn comparisons with Billy Beane at the Oakland Athletics in Major League Baseball - a manager whose use of statistics to recruit quality players rejected by conventional scouting methods has been told in the book and film "Moneyball".

Benham has enjoyed success with a similar methodology at Danish club FC Midtjylland, where he is a co-owner, and draws heavily on the Scandinavian connection at Brentford, where head coach Thomas Frank hails from Denmark.

While Brentford provide a fresh face, Norwich City and Watford return after just one season down in the Championship

Norwich were 13 points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League when relegated in 2020 but kept their manager and most of their squad intact to win last season’s Championship comfortably from Watford, who took the other automatic promotion spot.

The Canaries have since sold the influential Emiliano Buendia to Aston Villa but are hoping the addition of Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour on loan from Chelsea and American striker Josh Sargent from Werder Bremen will compensate.

Watford manager Xisco Munoz sees survival as the first priority.

“Staying in the Premier League is the first step and afterwards we see. Last season in the Championship, maybe you are the king. Now we need to work every day to build our idea and take points, take points, take points," he said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Source: Reuters

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