It seems a little weird to look at Brighton & Hove Albion this season and say they’ve improved. Currently sitting at 16th in the table with six points from seven matches and only one win (an opening week throttling of Watford), there doesn’t at first glance appear to be that much difference between Graham Potter’s Seagulls and last year’s bunker-and-pray side led by Chris Hughton that finished a scant two points above the relegation zone. They got pasted at Manchester City and lost 2-0 to Chelsea’s Baby Blues. They drew against Burnley, Newcastle, and West Ham. Doesn’t seem all that great, does it?
And yet, there are indicators that Brighton may not struggle as mightily to stay up this season as they did last season. Part of that is because you can make the case that most of the teams currently below them — Norwich, Aston Villa, Newcastle, and Watford — are either at their level or worse than they are. But also because Brighton made a couple of canny moves in the transfer window this summer and are working with a new tactical system under Potter.
Brighton’s biggest addition is the signing of striker Neil Maupay from Brentford, a player who notched 25 goals in the Championship last season, third behind Norwich’s Teemu Pukki and Swansea/Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham. Maupay has only netted twice in the Premier League this season, well behind both Pukki and Abraham this season, but he’s been central in their attack. The Seagulls also added another forward in Leandro Trossard from Genk, though he has yet to get off the mark this season. Brighton still aren’t an offensive powerhouse — they’re 16th in the league in xG with five goals — but Maupay in particular was a smart signing for a 22-year old player who likely hasn’t hit his ceiling.
Attention was given on the defensive end as well. Last season, Brighton let in 60 goals and were 14th in xGA; this season Potter added Bristol City defender Lewis Webster and switched to a back three with Webster, Lewis Dunk, and Matt Burn in the back line. Burn in particular has given Brighton some additional tactical flexibility on the left side of the defense. The defensive improvement hasn’t been dramatic yet; they still allow nearly 17 shots per game (ironically not that far ahead of Tottenham in that regard), but those stats are also a bit juiced by having had to already play Manchester City on the road.
All that’s to say that the jury’s still out on what Brighton can do this season. It’s probably safe to say that they’re already better than they were under Hughton. However, that’s not to say that they’re especially good right now. Even after a Champions League pasting, this is a talented Tottenham side that should be able stop their road slide at the AmEx Community Stadium on Saturday.
How will Tottenham line up against Brighton?
Dammit, I knew you were going to ask me this. I’ve been dreading it for days. Because honestly, I have absolutely no idea now.
Sure, maybe he does the usual expected things — rotates the fullbacks bringing in Ben Davies and *rolls dice* uh, Kyle Walker-Peters? That sounds good. Maybe Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen come in. Maybe Erik Lamela or Davinson Sanchez. Maybe Harry Winks gets a rest after going 170 minutes in the past week, if Poch thinks Eric Dier is now 90 minutes fit. Harry Kane will start because Kane always starts.
But honestly, I’m spitting into the wind to see which way the wind’s blowing. After a big humiliation, it remains to be seen whether Pochettino is willing to blow up the tactics and try something new. If he does, this all could be hilariously wrong. It probably is hilariously wrong. All I know is that Poch needs to do something. Hopefully it’s good.
Tottenham have the chance to put things right this weekend on the south coast of England, or if not that at least get them on the path to getting things right. The puzzle pieces are as of yet unknown and it’s up to Poch to put them together to form a pretty picture of success.