The Daily Telegraph - Sport

Why Brentford’s long throws will cause some big problems

►It will not just be Arsenal who suffer at the hands of Mads Bech Sorensen – and it is all thanks to a specialist coach from Denmark

- By Ben Bloom

Around six years ago, Thomas Gronnemark, the world’s only full-time, profession­al throw-in coach, was working with Danish side AC Horsens when he first came across a player he knew did not fit into the normal realms of throw-in takers.

Even before a single session with Gronnemark, centre-back Mads Bech Sorensen was capable of throwing the ball 34.90 metres (38.2 yards) – the approximat­e distance from the touchline to the front post.

By the time Gronnemark had worked his magic on Sorensen, first at Horsens and then at Brentford, his fellow Dane was able to launch it 40.80m. “That is totally extreme. Ridiculous­ly far,” Gronnemark said. “It will be close to the back post in the air. It’s the longest I’ve ever seen in the 5,000 players or so that I’ve coached.”

Brentford manager Thomas Frank this week admitted his side’s first Premier League match could not have gone any better: “Everything came perfectly together.” Tasked with opening their campaign against 13-time top-flight champions Arsenal, Frank’s side earned a deserved 2-0 victory courtesy of goals from Sergi Canos and Christian Norgaard.

It was the second of those that most pleased Gronnemark, coming after substitute Sorensen’s long throw caused mayhem in Arsenal’s penalty area and allowed Norgaard to nod home from two yards.

It was precisely the kind of goal that provides vindicatio­n for Gronnemark’s belief that the throwin provides the greatest opportunit­y for improvemen­t in the profession­al game. Gronnemark, a former Denmark sprinter and bobsleigh brakeman, spent two seasons, in 2016-17 and 2017-18, helping Brentford perfect their long throws.

While much of his work elsewhere focuses on what he calls “fast and clever throw-ins”, the west London club were particular­ly interested in improving the distance their players could achieve.

Brentford director of football Rasmus Ankersen recently voiced his frustratio­n at the “inefficien­cies” in how football is played, describing the perception that a set-piece goal is not worth as much as an openplay goal as “romance and bull----”.

It is no surprise that Ankersen has worked closely with Gronnemark, both at FC Midtjyllan­d and Brentford. When Midtjyllan­d won the Danish Superliga in 2015, almost half of their goals came from set-pieces, while nine were directly from long throws. “You can at least double your possibilit­y for dangerous set-pieces if you have a world-class throw-in taker,” said Gronnemark.

With Sorensen in their ranks, it is easy to assume Brentford will follow Stoke City’s blueprint from the late 2000s, when they were frequently propelled by Rory Delap’s bullet long throws.

But Frank suggests such an oversimpli­fication would be incorrect, and in today’s match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, Brentford may well have a different outlook.

“I felt it was an area where we were stronger than Arsenal – that’s why we put a lot of throws in,” Frank said. “But it’s not to say we would do it every single game. Are we going to be the new Stoke? I hope we’re going to play a few more passes.

“For me, it’s not one or the other. It’s both. I hugely respect teams that are strong on set-pieces or long throws. We will try to do both, to build up from the back sometimes, but also go more direct sometimes.”

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