Brighton (13/8 Top half finish) are now firmly established in the Premier League and, despite the imminent departure of star centre-back Ben White, hopes are high on the south coast that the Seagulls might be finally ready to push for a top-10 finish in the upcoming season.
Even though Albion (4/9 – Bottom-half finish) are preparing for their fifth straight campaign in the top flight, rarely have they ever looked like finishing in the top half as they’ve ended up 15th, 17th, 15th and 16th in the past four years. The likeable team from the Amex, with their much-praised young coach Graham Potter, play football the right way but it’s fair to say they are beginning to approach a crossroads.
Further progress is needed, with treading water just above the relegation zone unlikely to satisfy ambitious fans for an extended period. However, with White and several other regular first-teamers departing this summer, Potter must find replacements and bulk his squad up with more quality additions before mid-August.
Hopes for new season
There’s no doubting Brighton are a well-run, financially-stable club with an emphasis on developing players and relying on Potter’s tactical acumen and a sprinkling of talented players to keep them competitive in the top flight. But that can only take them so far.
Routinely praised for their brave, attacking, possession-based, approach, Brighton often try to take the game to the opposition but, naively, they regularly seem to come off second-best. As one of the oldest cliches in the book goes, results and the table don’t lie and fans will be hoping for a bigger points haul to sit alongside good performances.
Pushing for a European place seems fanciful but there’s little to suggest the Seagulls aren’t good enough to be competing with the likes of Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Leeds United for a mid-table spot in 2021-22.
Arrivals and Departures
Enock Mwepu – Undisclosed from RB Salzburg
Kjell Scherpen – Undisclosed from Ajax
Ben White (pending) – £50m to Arsenal
Jose Izquierdo – Released
Davy Propper – Undisclosed to PSV Eindhoven
Bernardo – Undisclosed to RB Salzburg
Mat Ryan – Undisclosed to Real Sociedad
Matt Clarke – West Bromwich Albion – Loan
Alireza Jahanbakhsh – Undisclosed to Feyenoord.
The temptation is to suggest they have yet to sign the player who will be Brighton’s star man this term, and whoever comes in for White has big shoes to fill.
Of the players currently on the Seagulls’ squad list, young full-back Tariq Lamptey showed bags of potential before getting injured last season and should come back fresh and firing, Others, like Neal Maupay, Danny Welbeck and even Adam Lallana, all have the ability to step up and show more.
However, it’s hard to look past influential central midfielder Yves Bissouma, who is a class act and makes Brighton tick. There’s plenty of interest in him from Champions League clubs but if Potter can keep hold of the 24-year-old, he can begin to lead them up the table.
Potter is very highly respected with Manchester City chief Pep Guardiola and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp among a host of top managers to turn praise his way last season. The former full-back has a clearly identified strategy and tactical set-up with his players usually asked to try and dictate possession and the flow of the game.
It doesn’t always work against the better sides, though, and a more conservative approach at times may just help them dig in and secure key points when required. They need to be tougher to beat and there remains a suspicion, Bissouma aside, that they are too nice in key areas.
Much will depend on who is bought and in what areas Potter is able to strengthen in but, at a quick glance, the current squad looks thin and somewhat fragile.
Last season – 16th.