We’re only at the halfway stage of 2019/20, but it has already been a season to remember for Brighton & Hove Albion as new manager Graham Potter has come in and completely transformed the club’s approach and level of ambition, providing fans with a new brand of entertaining football.
On paper, things may not look too dissimilar to how proceedings unfolded under Chris Hughton, as the Seagulls were sat just two points above the relegation zone 19 games into this Premier League campaign. In reality though, there has been a huge difference to the way in which the entire club has operated.
Albion’s twentieth game of the season on Saturday concluded the decade with a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth at the Amex, as Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Aaron Mooy both scored their first goals for the club.
Inconsistency – in terms of results – has been Brighton‘s biggest downfall so far this season, as they seem to be incapable of stringing wins together. Their level of consistency in regards to performances, however, has not been a problem – as Potter’s side have impressed in nearly every fixture they’ve played.
Possession football, coined ‘Potterball’ by Albion fans, has been the method of choice for the new boss as his team has often dominated games with the ball at their feet. In August, for example, Brighton’s 47% possession was the most an away side had registered at Manchester City since Liverpool had 51% in January.
Five wins, five draws and nine losses saw the Seagulls into fifteenth position after 19 matches, but many believe they deserved better at this stage due to the impressive style of football they have played thus far. If they keep performing this well, positive results will eventually follow suit.
As the FA Cup isn’t underway until January, there is only the Carabao Cup to discuss here and, well, Brighton are already out of it. In fact, the Seagulls didn’t even make it beyond the third round, as they were beaten 3-1 at the Amex by Aston Villa.
In the grand scheme of things though, this cup exit wasn’t calamitous as the focus remains almost entirely on staying in the Premier League and progressing to become a recognised side in England’s top tier.
Aaron Connolly’s emergence into the limelight has been one of the major positives of the season thus far. The second round victory at Bristol Rovers played a key part in his discovery as he scored his first senior goal for the club at the Memorial Stadium.
Chris Hughton was often known for utilising the experience of senior players in his team to bolster Albion’s chances of success and this often worked very well. Now though, there has been a clear shift to a more modern style under Graham Potter, as a number of youth prospects – Aaron Connolly being one – have become key members in Brighton’s first team.
This fresh burst of talent has proved to be very important in the opening half of the season, as Steven Alzate has joined Connolly as a regular in Potter’s side. The Seagulls’ remarkable 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur comes to mind, as Connolly bagged a brace of goals and his teammate played 88 minutes in midfield.
Alzate has since debuted on the international level for Colombia and, given his immense versatility, it would come as no surprise if he were to be included in their 2022 World Cup squad.
The success of Brighton’s youth just has to be their biggest strength at the halfway mark.
Brighton are enjoying a third successive season in the top flight, which is a fantastic achievement considering the position they were in at the start of the decade. The focus now though has to be on progressing further as a competitive force in the Premier League, but their inability to come from behind in matches is extremely worrying to say the least.
The Seagulls have never won a Premier League home game in which they have conceded the first goal, losing 14 and drawing a further eight on the 22 occastions an opposition has netted first at the Amex. This woeful statistic highlights a key issue for Potter’s side which needs to be ironed out as soon as possible.
Not only is it a struggle for them, but it has offered an array of opportunities to rivals to go one-up on them, and often too.
Areas to Address in January
Brighton already have a very well balanced squad but there are definitely still a couple of areas which need to be addressed in the upcoming transfer window.
Some competition for goalkeeper Maty Ryan certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed, as the current backup options for the Australian shot stopper are David Button and Jason Steele, who aren’t of a Premier League standard. Not only would it push Ryan to improve further, but another goalkeeper at the club would provide more security at the back if he were to get injured.
Another target man would be next on the list, as Glenn Murray (despite his legendary status at the club) has lost a few yards and at 36 years of age is coming towards the end of his career. Someone of his mould with more mobility would be appreciated by Albion fans – he runs at a granny’s pace.
There have been a few players that you could argue have been standouts for Brighton thus far, but there’s one man that stands central in everything they do – a few goals here and there are just a bonus.
You guessed it – Lewis Dunk. He’s one of their own. He can block shots, score goals, launch 60-yard cross-field balls…he can even net free kicks at Anfield. An absolute sensation for Brighton in 2019/20.
The question now is, when will that be recognised by England manager Gareth Southgate? The Three Lions have been very leaky in defence of late and someone like Dunk just might be the man to fix that.
It would be a huge surprise if Brighton were to get relegated at the end of the season, and it would also come as quite the shock if they didn’t survive comfortably.
Graham Potter and his Albion side have all the tools they need to fix any problems that may have hindered them in the opening half of the season, and they are likely to push on.
Premier League: 13th
FA Cup: Quarter-Finals
There’s a new man in charge and he has delivered nearly every expectation that was drawn out for him. Brighton may not be soaring in the Premier League table, but their performances have been a joy to behold.
There are some exciting times ahead for the Seagulls.