Brighton and Hove Albion are in new surroundings as they compete in the Premier League for the first time in their history. Like several other clubs that are now in the Premier League, the Seagulls have an extraordinary back story as they have climbed from the bottom reaches of the Football League to the promised land.
As recently as the 1996-7 season, Brighton were fighting to retain their league status and they were 13 points from safety at one point during the campaign, but they managed to stay up on the final day. Often a club that has come through adversity is a dangerous one in the Premier League and there won’t be a single team relishing a trip to the Amex Stadium this season.
They should enter the league with confidence as they were one of the best two teams in the Championship last season. Their promotion was never really in doubt after the turn of the year, but their last three matches will leave a sour taste in the mouths of supporters.
After securing their place in the top-flight, they needed only one win from three matches to win the title, but they failed to do that. A late Jack Grealish equaliser on the final day at Villa Park handed the league to Newcastle United. However, they shouldn’t let that take away from their achievement.
The Seagulls risked breaking FFP regulations to secure promotion last season, underlining the ambition of the club. This season will be focused on consolidation, but they aren’t in the Premier League to make up the numbers. Bournemouth and Burnley have shown that it is possible to beat the odds to remain in the league, so both of those are good examples to follow.
How has their summer been so far?
It was a huge disappointment that David Stockdale rejected a new contract immediately after the season ended and opted to remain in the Championship with Birmingham City. His motivation has been questioned, but regardless of that, this was an early blow for Brighton as they started planning for the Premier League.
They have replaced him with the Australian keeper Mathew Ryan and that looks to be a good signing. Although he can be error-prone at times, he looks the part as a Premier League keeper and will benefit from playing every week behind a well-organised defence. Markus Suttner and Pascal Groß have both arrived from Ingolstadt. The latter is highly regarded and could prove to be a great signing for the Seagulls.
Other arrivals have been Izzy Brown, Mathias Normann and Ales Mateju. Brown is an exciting winger, who will look to be direct and he will add more dynamism to the attack. This will be his first opportunity in the Premier League and he will be hungry for success.
The club’s pre-season form has been good and they have gained experience against a variety of teams, but the eye-catching result was a narrow 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid. Hughton’s men acquitted themselves well and dominated for portions of the contest. It was important for the club to gain minutes against a quality opposition to prepare them for the Premier League.
Manager: Chris Hughton
This is a huge test for Chris Hughton as he has never quite done it at the top level. At Newcastle, the board had little faith in him as a Premier League manager and got rid of him at the first opportunity. It went better at Norwich, but his dull football was the undoing of him in the end after a run of poor results.
Brighton looks to be a good fit and he will be given time this season as he was the one to lead them to promotion. The job he has done on the South Coast has been exceptional as he took them from relegation candidates to promotion in little over two seasons.
He has favoured a 4-4-2 formation during his spell as manager and he is likely to continue with that in the Premier League. It plays to the team’s strengths and set pieces will be important for them as they fight to remain in the league. Hughton will need to adapt at times, as the Premier League is now a more tactical division and he could be shown up if he shows the stubbornness that brought him down at Norwich.
How could the Gulls line-up this season?
They are likely going to stay loyal to the majority of the team that got them promoted, with will mean starts for the likes of Bruno, Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy, Dale Stephens, Anthony Knockaert and Glenn Murray. They have a strong core, but a lot of them are unproven at the top level. It would be a concern if they start the season with Murray as their first choice striker, as he has never convinced at the top level.
Who is Brighton’s best fantasy football option?
Anthony Knockaert was the Championship player of the year last season and he will be vital to Brighton again this season. If the Seagulls are to remain in the division, they need their star Frenchman to be at the top of his game. Last season, he contributed 15 goals and eight assists. Since moving to the South Coast, he has averaged a goal or an assist every 163.4 minutes.
The step up will mean that rate is not sustainable, but he is the best attacking option in the squad when it comes to fantasy. A lot of the play goes through him and he will get his opportunities in the final third. It is up to him to prove he has the quality to be effective at the higher level.
Fancy a new challenge this season? Sign up to Draft Fantasy Football and prove your knowledge of the Premier League!
Premier League Verdict
Their work rate and organisation under Chris Hughton will help to keep them in matches at this level, but they have yet to make the signings to suggest they can do enough in attack to stay up with comfort. The home form will be crucial and if they can turn the Amex into a fortress, that will give them a great chance of survival. They need at least two more signings to increase the quality in the squad and if they can secure those, they have a good chance of staying up. A relegation fight seems inevitable.