There is a shyness about the way Bryan Mbeumo talks that is not in keeping with his fearless style of play.
“Life is very good”, he tells Standard Sport. “I have my family here at the moment. They live in Troyes, in France, and they’ve come over for two weeks.”
Mbeumo left Troyes for Brentford four years ago. Now more than ever, manager Thomas Frank is relying on him to step up while Ivan Toney serves his eight-month betting ban.
“It’s going to be hard [without Ivan]. We’re going to miss his character, his energy, his leadership. I message him to ask him if he’s good. He’s doing well,” says Mbuemo. “But we have the players to replace Ivan. Everybody needs to take responsibility now.”
Mbeumo, in particular, seems to have found another gear. Ahead of Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace, the 24-year-old and strike partner Yoane Wissa have scored all five of Brentford’s league goals in the new season. He is already stepping into Toney’s boots to become Brentford’s main man — and he is comfortable with the task.
“To be one of the best you have to assume the pressure that comes onto you,” he says. “If I have to take this position then I will take it.”
He scored from the spot in both games, and is tied as the Premier League’s joint top scorer. “It’s very good for my confidence, especially scoring penalties,” says Mbeumo. “It’s important for a striker to score in the first few games. I’m the penalty taker now, so I have to train hard at this.”
Mbeumo reached new heights last season, netting nine Premier League goals and tallying eight assists, as well as representing Cameroon at the World Cup. But that led to defenders paying him closer attention.
“This is something you have to be aware of,” he says. “I always set targets for goal involvements. For a striker, this area is very important — to help the team by winning, scoring, making assists.”
Brentford finished ninth last season, recording their record top-flight points total of 59, and missed out on European football by just two points.
“We didn’t talk too much about this,” Mbeumo says about European targets for this campaign. “We just said we had an amazing season last year and want to recreate it. All the staff have the same mentality as us. They push us in every aspect.”
Mbeumo seems to embody the quiet optimism that has lifted Brentford to places the club has never been before. He says: “We don’t want to put limits on ourselves. I don’t want to put limits on myself.”
Reflecting on his four years in England, he says: “There have been some ups and downs.
“My agent told me about this project when I was at Troyes in 2019. The staff travelled to see me in France and I liked the project. It was tough. Even if I had a good English level at school, people speak faster in the actual country. It took time to adapt.
“I had a great first season here. The second was a bit of a down. The third was better, and then last season made me a better player.”