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Brentford recruitment drive kicks off; Onyeka and Ajer in the door

Brentford's Griffin Park

Premier League new boys Brentford have finally kicked off their summer recruitment program with deals for FC Midtjylland’s Frank Onyeka and Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer.

The combined deals are expected to total over 20-million pounds (though the fee for Onyeka is undisclosed according to the club website) and are the first-ever deals done by the club in the Premier League. Both Onyeka (23) and Ajer (23) are current internationals for Nigeria and Norway respectively, and continue the trend of the Bees looking for affordable under-the-radar signings under the Thomas Frank regime.

Brentford connection to Denmark pays off again

Brentford is so much more than their Danish headmaster Thomas Frank, but both he and joint-director of football Rasmus Ankersen have tapped into their home country to assemble a squad that has turned heads in the Championship for the past few seasons.

At current, the Bees have six Danes (Mads Sörensen, Luka Racic, Mads Rasmussen, Mathias Jensen, Christian Nörgaard, and Mads Bidstrup) in their ranks and a combined ten players that hail from Scandinavia, including two Finns in Marcus Forss and Jaakko Oksanen.

While Onyeka may not be from the region, his time in Denmark and the club’s link to FC Midtjylland offered Frank and Ankersen the perfect storm scenario to target the Nigerian international for a move to Brentford this summer.

“I am looking forward to getting Frank in the building. We think he is a strong addition to the squad, and we are looking forward to working with him. He is a very dynamic player. Frank plays as an eight in our system, he is very good at getting from box to box and will be valuable to us when we don’t have the ball. He has come from the Danish league and was one of the best midfield players in that league, we think he has the potential to develop further. All the coaches here are looking forward to working with Frank and pushing him to a higher level.” – Thomas Frank

“Frank Onyeka is a player we, for obvious reasons, know very well. Over the last two years he has grown to become the dominant midfielder in the Danish league and his performances in the Champions League last season convinced us that he is ready for the Premier League. With his pace, power and ability to win the ball I am sure Frank will be a great addition to the Brentford squad.” – Rasmus Ankersen

Transfer coup for highly-touted Ajer

As part of a young core of Norwegian internationals looking to push the country forward on the international stage, Kristoffer Ajer made a name for himself at Scottish giants Celtic over the last few seasons. Brentford has done incredibly well to recruit a player linked with far bigger clubs the likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Newcastle United, as well as fellow promoted-side Norwich.

The 6’6 ball-playing center-back and native of Rælingen was a standout performer for Celtic after nailing down a starting birth in 2017-18 and remained vital to the Bhoys for the last four seasons at Celtic Park.

Also capable of playing on the right side of the defense, as well as easily slotting into a holding-midfielder role, Ajer offers Thomas Frank further tactical options as he looks to perpetuate an escape act for Brentford’s first-ever Premier League campaign.

There is a real possibility that Ajer will line up alongside club captain Pontus Jansson at the heart of the Bees’ defense but will face expected competition from Ethan Pinnock and Mads Sörensen. But Ajer’s experience in both the Champions League and Europa League during his time in Scotland should serve him well as he looks to adapt as quickly as possible to life in the Premier League.

Celtic do have an excellent track record of providing Premier League sides with ready-made talent that can walk into a team and nail down a place in recent seasons, however. Kieran Tierney,  Virgil van Dijk, Frasier Forster, Victor Wanyama, and Sung-yueng Ki all traveled south to star for the likes of Arsenal, Southampton, and Swansea, while Tierney and Van Dijk both went on to become arguably the best players in their position in the top flight of English football.

While it remains unclear if Brentford will have to adjust their recruitment approach now that they are at the highest level in England, this is certainly an encouraging start for a club that has quickly become a neutral fan favorite.

This article was edited by Josh Barker.