Brentford head coach Thomas Frank feels everyone must be patient as Christian Eriksen works towards a much-anticipated debut.
The Denmark international marked his 30th birthday with a return to action for the first time since suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch in June last year when he played an hour of a behind-closed-doors friendly against Southend on Monday afternoon.
Eriksen – who revealed last month he had “died for five minutes” after collapsing during Denmark’s Euro 2020 clash with Finland – joined the Bees until the end of the season as a free agent on transfer deadline day, having been training with former club Ajax.
The former Tottenham midfielder had left Inter Milan by mutual consent as the rules in Italy would not allow him to play after having an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) device fitted.
Frank knows just what an asset a fully-fit Eriksen can provide to his side, who heads to Arsenal on Saturday, but will not take any risks over his long-term well-being.
“It is a delicate balance,” the Brentford boss said. “We want him out there, but just like every other player who has been out for seven or eight months, they need quite a few games in a row to get up to their normal level.
“To get up to that as quick as possible you need to build a foundation that is as high as possible, and that is what we are trying to aim for. One day, I need to put him on the pitch and then then we will take it from there.
“The good news is that he looks good in training, like he is still a pretty good footballer, with that unbelievable quality in his vision, passing range, finishing and deliveries.
“Now it is that extra sharpness and incisive actions that he needs to repeat more and more often – but it is going the right direction.”
Frank added: “Christian feels well and is in a good place. He came into us with a good foundation so he doesn’t need six weeks, but this Arsenal game is just one step too early.
“We have another friendly on Monday behind closed doors – which will be really beneficial for him – so we are aiming for the Newcastle game.”
Frank feels Eriksen can only have a positive impact on the squad.
“I knew it before, but I have just got it confirmed that he is a top player with top quality, you see that in every session – his movements, his touches, vision, the way he plays forward and creates chances,” Frank said .
“Another big thing is that he is a top person. He fits perfectly in the culture, even though he is by far our biggest star player.”
Striker Ivan Toney missed the goalless draw against Crystal Palace with a calf issue, but has again taken part in light training ahead of a late fitness test.
The point against Palace stopped a run of five-straight league defeats which had eaten away at Brentford’s safety margin on the fight for survival below then.
The Bees had marked their return to the top flight for the first time in 74 years with a memorable 2-0 home win over Arsenal in the opening fixture of the new Premier League campaign.
Following such a fine start, Brentford have found positive results more difficult to come by in recent weeks, but Frank will continue in the same mindset.
“It is about trying to keep a cool head and calm in terms of looking at those performances, which have been good, and of course getting another point helps,” the Dane said.
“Arsenal are fighting for the top four so we know it is going to be extremely difficult, but we will go there with belief and hope that we can get something out of game.”