Can Ivan Toney repeat his goalscoring feats this season at Wembley?
Can Ivan Toney repeat his goalscoring feats this season at Wembley?

Andre Ayew and Ivan Toney have had very different career paths — but they will be equally desperate to return to the Premier League this summer.

Swansea forward Ayew spent three years in England’s top flight from 2015-2018, while Brentford counterpart Toney made just two appearances at the highest level during an unsuccessful spell with Newcastle.

The two frontmen meet in the Championship play-off final this afternoon as Brentford face Swansea. But who will fire their team to the promised land at Wembley?

A bargain buy

Brentford’s exceptional recruitment record has seen them consistently buy low and sell high over the past few seasons.

The Bees sold Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa (£28million) and Said Benrahma (£20m) to West Ham last summer, while they moved on Neal Maupay to Brighton (£16m) and Ezri Konsa (£12m) the previous year.

That has allowed them to invest in unheralded international and lower league talents like Toney, who arrived for a reported fee of just £5m plus an additional £5m in add-ons from Peterborough in August 2020.

Having seen him net 40 League One goals over two campaigns with Posh, Brentford banked on the 25-year-old being able to reproduce his goalscoring feats at Championship level.

And they were not disappointed — Toney struck 31 times in the league this season, breaking the division’s scoring record in the process.

The forward has attributed his improvement in 2020-21 to the fitness levels required at Brentford under manager Thomas Frank.

Speaking earlier this week, he said: "Now, and throughout the season, I feel like I'm the fittest I have been throughout my whole career and I have just been getting fitter and fitter."

Big money, big rewards

Andre Ayew's goal was crucial to Swansea's play-off semi-final success
Andre Ayew's goal was crucial to Swansea's play-off semi-final success

Brentford have played the market to perfection with Toney but the same cannot be said about Swansea’s signing of Ayew.

The 31-year-old returned for a second spell at the Liberty Stadium while the Swans were still in the Premier League and is believed to still be picking up wages of around £80,000-a-week three seasons later.

A year of that time was spent on loan with Fenerbahce. When the Turkish giants declined to make the deal permanent in 2019, it was assumed Ayew would move on.

Instead, he has adapted to life in the Championship, helping Swansea to two play-off finishes and scoring 31 league goals across those two seasons.

Toney the talisman

The numbers Toney has been posting in 2020-21 are quite remarkable — he has averaged 0.72 goals per 90 minutes of league action and only three players in the Championship have had more shots on target than his 1.36 per 90.

But there is more to Brentford’s No17 than simply scoring goals.

He is a focal point for the team’s attack and plays a crucial role in bringing wide forwards Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo into play.

That has helped the pair score 17 times between them and seen Toney contribute an impressive 10 assists across the campaign.

It is no surprise the Bees are the division’s top scorers (79) with the former Northampton frontman leading the line.

Ivan Toney's goalscoring record has been phenomenal for Brentford this season
Ivan Toney's goalscoring record has been phenomenal for Brentford this season

A man for the big occasion

Ayew cannot match Toney’s goal return but he does have a penchant for popping up with the goods on the biggest stage.

The Ghana international netted a hat-trick in the French Super Cup for Marseille back in 2011 and was the joint top scorer at the 2015 African Cup of Nations.

That ability to deliver under pressure was evident once again in the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Barnsley, when Ayew calmly cut inside and fired into the bottom left corner, curling an exquisite finish past goalkeeper Bradley Collins.

Swansea will hope for more of the same today.

The verdict

While Brentford should look to attack the Swans from the off, their Welsh opponents are more likely to defend in a low block and try to stifle the free-scoring Bees.

They will need to be ready to seize upon any chances that present themselves, so having a clinical finisher like Ayew in their ranks is a major bonus for Steve Cooper’s side.

But it is hard to look past a victory for in-form Brentford, who will be desperate to right the wrongs of their 2019-20 play-off final defeat to Fulham.

If the West London side emerge from Wembley as winners, the smart money is on Toney having a big hand in that victory.

Tags

Andre AyewIvan ToneyBrentfordSwanseaChampionship

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