The rise of Brentford’s future star: Josh Dasilva

Jawad Choudhary
By Jawad Choudhary
13 Min Read
Josh-Dasilva-Brentford

In late August of 2018, Brentford announced the arrival of free transfer signing Josh Dasilva. An energetic and dynamic young footballer, Dasilva made his name through Arsenal’s youth academy where he highlighted his versatility as a player from an early age, progressing from a striker at youth level before converting into more of a box-to-box midfielder.

At just 19 years of age, Dasilva took it upon himself to reject a new contract offered to him by Arsenal as he looked to progress his career and develop himself at a different club; one where perhaps Dasilva could envision a clear pathway into first-team football that he may not have been guaranteed at Arsenal.

Jost Dasilva ended up signing for Brentford, who were playing in the Championship at that time under Dean Smith. The former Brentford head coach labelled Dasilva as “a player who fits Brentford really well”, claiming that: “He [Dasilva] has huge potential, is an excellent footballer with a great personality and wants to continue his development by working hard every day

For Dean Smith and Brentford at the time, it was clear that Josh Dasilva was a unique footballer and personality. The trait of having such determinism and maturity at a young age particularly stood out to the club and Dasilva’s desire to work hard to earn his reward is a mindset that had already come pre-engraved in his mind and is quite a rare occurrence.

Since joining the club, Dasilva has already racked up an impressive 120 appearances for the club, as well as 12 goals and 8 assists in that period. It’s clear that Josh Dasilva has risen rapidly in stature in his career and still at just 23 years old, the midfielder’s career only looks to improve from here on in.

Positional Fluidity

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With then-new manager Thomas Frank hired, Dasilva found himself in more of a ‘super sub’ role under the Danish boss for 2019/20 season. Frank opted to use a 4-3-3 formation for his Brentford side and after a number of good performances coming from the bench, Dasilva found himself in the starting line-up for Brentford playing on the left side of the three-man midfield. Thanks to the tactical prowess of Thomas Frank, Dasilva’s abilities were exampled through his diverse skillset of positional play. Frank’s 4-3-3 could comfortably split into more of a 4-2-3-1 formation with Dasilva pushing forwards into a more classic ‘number 10’ position where he could influence play through his intelligent passing and dribbling abilities on the ball. Brentford also had the option to switch to a 3-4-3 formation that involved central midfielder, Dasilva, dropping far deeper into the play alongside his fellow central defenders and comfortably dictate play.

Thomas Frank quickly recognised the all-roundedness of Josh Dasilva and, in every position he was tasked to play, it looked almost seamless for Dasilva to transition into a role. It became clear that Dasilva was more than just a utility player for Brentford and that he could more than capable as a full-fledged starting player from whom Frank could use as if Dasilva counted as two or three players on the pitch.

Dasilva’s quality was quickly recognised and appreciated by Brentford as after just seven games into the 2020/21 season, he had been rewarded with a new four-year contract. Dasilva maintained his exemplary form for the club and continued to play as a starter for Thomas Frank. His positioning on the pitch, however, changed slightly for the new season as Dasilva was deployed on the right-hand side of the midfield three which remained to be a 4-3-3 formation for Brentford once again.

It was a slight tactical tweak for Dalsilva as it allowed him to take up a wider position on the pitch when Brentford was on the front foot or the counterattack. The raw pace and direct dribbling capabilities of the Englishman made him more than comfortable when in one-versus-one situations against the opposition and being able to drive forwards with the ball. His tactical intelligence was also on show with Josh Dasilva constantly repositioning himself all over the pitch in ‘temporary’ positions to allow other players to run forward and exploit unoccupied positions. For example, a common routine of play for Brentford that season was for Canos to drop deep and Dasilva to pick up the ball in wide areas to allow Toney and Mbuemo to play on the shoulder of the now stretched opposition backline – Dasilva uses his footballing IQ and natural technical ability to completely dismantle opposition sides and makes it look effortless.

Dasilva continued to play a variety of positions throughout the season and amassed incredible statistics, such as averaging 1.1 key passes and just under 2 successful dribbles per game – almost topping every chart in terms of dribbling into progressive actions. Even to date, Dasilva has played in practically every position in both the attacking and midfield line; Thomas Frank declared Dasilva as a player who:

[Hits] new numbers and new standards every single day in training and I can’t praise him enough

Of course, he can create and score goals and that is fantastic, it is really very rare to have that ability

The injury

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During a brilliant 2021/22 season for Dasilva that helped Brentford achieve promotion to the top-flight for the first time since 1947, he endured a freak complex hip injury in February that saw him sidelined for around 18 months in total. The initial condition of his injury gradually deteriorated to the point where Brentford’s medical team questioned whether he could even play football at a professional level ever again. Here’s Josh Dasilva speaking about the situation in an interview with Brentford only a few months ago:

In simple terms, I lost a bit of bone in my hip. It was swollen, so I had to wait for that to go down and then wait for the bone to repair itself … you’re speaking to the best specialist in the UK and he’s telling you he hasn’t seen it in sports before

The initial conversation was that I might not be able to play again

It was more than a setback for Dasilva, with worries of such a unique and promising young footballer succumbing to the dark side of the beautiful game with our bodies, unfortunately, limiting most of us – even at the professional level. But for Dasilva, he ignored what Brentford had warned in the best way possible; he described his response to the above quote with:

I laughed because I wasn’t going to stop playing. I just knew that whatever time it took for me to get back, that’s what it will be

Once again, Josh Dasilva symbolises the ideal model of a footballer by having an extraordinary desire to push and show immense resilience. He has no problem with playing any position that he is tasked with and always runs his heart out on the pitch. This would be a massive player for Brentford to miss out on for such an extended period.

The return

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After originally being left out of Brentford’s squad for the Premier League season, Dasilva successfully fought his way back into the Brentford side after a long recovery process.

Thomas Frank adapted his Brentford side from a 3-5-2 formation that saw now-Manchester United player Christian Eriksen at the heart of midfield into a 4-3-3 for the 2022/23 season. Dasilva, himself, did not have the direct responsibility of replacing Christian Eriksen, as Thomas Frank himself said that would directly “impossible” to replace a player of such attacking creativity and pure quality. However, Dasilva retained his place as a more attacking-minded midfielder on the right of a three-man midfield and, in doing so, could replicate the talent previously put on show during his time as one of the best performers in the Championship.

Dasilva had a competition with fellow midfielder, Mathias Jensen, for a playmaker role although Dasilva’s excellent performance early into the season, scoring his first Premier League goal against Leicester City to rescue a point, proved that Dasilva was more than an ‘option’ for Brentford and would become a key player for Thomas Frank. The Danish boss spoke about his happiness with Dasilva’s comeback:

He has been out for 18 months. I have worked with him for four years. He is a fantastic person and seeing him come back to the level we know he is at and producing that top moment to get us a point was very emotional. I’m very pleased for him

It would be an understatement to say that Dasilva deserved to come back with a bang for Brentford. For a player as hard-working and mentally strong as the Englishman, it was no surprise to see his seamless transition into Premier League football. Whether he is the creator or the outlet for goals in the Brentford side, Dasilva’s quality was once again displayed in a historic 4-0 win against Manchester United by scoring for the second game in a row. In the first two games of the season, Dasilva ran ragged against the opposition lines and caused mayhem whenever he had the opportunity to progress with the ball.

Conclusion

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Brentford’s decent start to the season has meant that the club have only lost one game in all competitions this season. Whilst Dasilva is not the direct cause of such form, he has a big part to play and will continue doing so as he improves with age and Brentford continue to develop their project under Thomas Frank.

There is no doubt that Dasilva will end his career as a top player, most likely as a player known for his outstanding versatility within the midfield role.

Brentford next takes on a difficult challenge in facing Mikel Arteta’s in-form Arsenal side that remains at the top of the Premier League table after 6 matches.

Can Josh Dasilva prove his undeniable quality against his former club by making an impact in such a tough fixture for Brentford?

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