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Player Profile: In-demand Brentford forward, Ivan Toney

Ivan Toney will be free to resume his career next week as the forward nears the end of his eight-month suspension.

Toney has not featured for Brentford in the Premier League this season after receiving a lengthy ban for breaching the FA’s gambling rules. Despite his absence from Thomas Frank’s side, transfer speculation surrounding the forward has not diminished.

Arsenal and Chelsea have each been linked with signing the 27-year-old to solve their centre-forward issues, with Toney having thrived since Brentford’s promotion to the top flight. The Bees are said to value Toney at around £100m, but what makes Toney so in demand? We’ve profiled the Brentford forward.

Player Profile: In-demand Brentford forward, Ivan Toney:

Toney took an unorthodox route to the top division of English football. A promising prospect at Northampton Town, he scored 11 times in 53 first-team appearances for his hometown club before Newcastle agreed a deal to sign the teenager in 2015.

The move to St James’ Park appeared to come too early for Toney, however, who made just four first-team appearances for the Magpies. An underwhelming loan spell at third-tier Barnsley hinted at a player not quite ready for senior level, before improvements were made during loan stints at Shrewsbury Town, Scunthorpe (twice) and Wigan Athletic.

Peterborough signed Toney on a permanent basis in 2018, with the club’s £650,000 investment soon appearing shrewd. Toney hit 23 goals in all competitions during his debut campaign with The Posh, and 26 in his second. The second of those campaigns earned Toney the League One Player of the Year and Golden Boot awards.

Brentford signed Toney in a £5m deal that summer, providing the forward with the chance to step up another level, after Peterborough had missed out on the play-offs. The Bees, excellent recruiters in recent campaigns, knew Toney was a talent, but even the West Londoners were surprised by his impact.

Toney scored 31 league goals as Brentford won promotion to the Premier League, breaking Glenn Murray’s record of the most goals scored in a Championship campaign, since the division’s rebrand in 2004. He led the league for goals (31), headed goals (6), and penalties scored (9), before adding another two goals in the successful play-off campaign.

In back-to-back seasons, Toney had won Golden Boots, despite a change of clubs and step up in division. His first campaign in the Premier League was taken in his stride once again, as 12 league goals helped preserve Brentford’s top-flight status. Among English players, only Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Raheem Sterling scored more.

Last season was the campaign in which Toney cemented his status as one of the Premier League’s best centre-forwards. He scored 20 league goals, becoming only the sixth English player to reach that landmark in a single campaign across the last decade. He is one of just three, alongside Jamie Vardy and Danny Ings, to do so for a non-Big Six club.

Only Erling Haaland (36) and Harry Kane (30) outscored Toney in the top flight in 2022/23, with the underlying statistics showing his full range of centre-forward qualities.

Toney ranked in the top 10 players in the division for goals (3rd), goals per 90 (7th), goal involvements (5th), penalties scored (2nd), non-penalty goals (8th), shots (7th), xG per 90 (7th) and non-penalty xG per 90 (7th).

Given Brentford ranked 16th in the Premier League for average possession and 18th for shots per game in 2022/23, it’s an indication of his ability to fashion chances – and goals – from limited service.

Toney, in addition to goal threat, is a physical handful for opposing sides. Only five players in the Premier League won more fouls than the forward (74), while just four committed more fouls (52). Centre-backs, if nothing else, know they’re in for a game.

Toney is also a huge threat in the air. Brentford’s direct brand of football has required their focal point to take to the skies. He ranked sixth in the Premier League for overall aerial duels won in 2022/23, while just three players won more on average per 90 minutes. Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic was the only forward who won more aerials (4.2) per 90 than Toney (3.3) last season.

That influence has also benefited Brentford in both boxes. Across the last 12 months, and despite his ban, Toney has ranks in the top 15% of all centre-forwards in Europe’s top five leagues for touches in the defensive penalty area and defensive third.

It’s part of an all-round defensive makeup that adds to his appeal, with Toney scoring impressively on the percentile rank of his positional peers in Europe for fouls drawn (96th), shots blocked (93rd), interceptions (92nd) and ball recoveries (89) per 90 minutes.

Toney’s pass completion (57%) and shot-on-target percentage (34.9%) are examples of his game that require improvement to take the next step. However, the well-rounded nature of his talents is enough to inspire confidence that he could bridge another step up in level.

For some, the 27-year-old represents the ideal alternative to Harry Kane for England, capable of offering an all-round outlet while being the most natural finisher among a group pushing for selection that includes Ollie Watkins and Dominic Solanke.

Toney will hope to hit the ground running upon his return to action, with a place in the England squad for this summer’s European Championship – and potentially Brentford’s survival – at stake.

Thomas Frank’s side have lost seven of their last eight Premier League games and Toney’s timely return could be the difference in them staying another season in the Premier League. That precarious situation might inflate the price tag of a player already valued at close to nine figures.

Read – Player Profile: Spurs centre-back target Radu Dragusin

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