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Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton and Hove Albion: 2017/18 Premier League Season Preview

Jake Jackman




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.

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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.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Rodrigo reported as Brighton target, but he is surely too expensive?

The Valencia striker is reportedly wanted by a trio of Premier League clubs.



Photo: Getty Images

Brighton, along with Tottenham Hotspur and Everton have been linked with a move for Valencia forward Rodrigo this summer.

Calciomercato claims that all three clubs are interested in signing the Spanish international come the summer. The report discloses his massive €120 million (£105.4 million) release clause, but that offers in the region of €40 million (£35 million) are expected.

Which is surely when the links to Brighton have to stop.

Rodrigo, who had a spell at Bolton Wanderers as a young player on loan from Benfica, would be a tremendous signing for Brighton.

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old has scored 16 goals in 35 games for Los Che this season. Such form could see him earn a place in Spain’s squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

Brighton, however, simply cannot afford such a massive sum of money on one player, especially considering the club recently broke their record to sign Dutch striker Jurgen Locadia.

According to the Guardian, that fee was around £14 million. Paying more than double that on Rodrigo is simply inconceivable.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It would immediately undermine the money they spent on Locadia, who arrived from PSV Eindhoven and leave very little in the kitty to improve other areas of the team this summer.

Rodrigo would undoubtedly be a dream signing for Brighton. The Seagulls look increasingly safe in the Premier League and bringing in a top name this summer would be a popular move among fans at the Amex Arena.

But simply put, £35 million is just not a figure Brighton can or should pay for just one player. Instead, such money should be spread out throughout the team evenly. Distributing the funds in this way will allow Brighton to fully strengthen their side and maintain the balance that has taken them to a brilliant first Premier League campaign.

There might come a day when Brighton can afford to splurge £35 million on just one player. That day, however, will not be in 2018.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Is Brighton’s Christian Walton a future England star?

The 22-year-old stopper has been in fine form at Wigan Athletic.



Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup run has come to an end. The Latics lost 2-0 against Southampton at the DW Stadium, despite being the better team in the first-half. However, Southampton came alive in the second period and goals from Pierre Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares settled the tie.

It could have been more, were it not for a brilliant penalty save from Wigan goalkeeper Christian Walton. He dived to his left and got a strong palm to a driven effort from 12 yards by Manolo Gabbiadini. Unbelievably, Walton managed to get enough on the ball to turn it around the post and keep Wigan in the tie.

It was a brilliant save in what was another excellent performance from the young stopper. So do Brighton and Hove Albion have a future star on their hands?

Walton is on loan at Wigan from Brighton until the end of the season. It is the fifth loan spell of Walton’s career after similar spells at Bury, Plymouth Argyle, Luton Town and Southend United.

The 22-year-old’s brilliant performance v Southampton was no anomaly. He was in fine form in Wigan’s recent famous win against Manchester City.

Brighton clearly know they have a top talent on their hands, yet Chris Hughton has not yet pulled the trigger on the player.

In the summer, when Brighton lost number one David Stockdale to Birmingham City, Hughton signed two new keepers. Australian international Mat Ryan arrived from Valencia whilst Tim Krul was a free transfer from Newcastle United.

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

But Brighton did secure Walton to a new deal, keeping him at the Amex Arena until 2021. With Krul’s deal ending at the end of the season, perhaps Walton will be in line to be the Seagulls second-choice keeper from next season.

England currently have something of a concern regarding the goalkeeper position but the future is bright. Sam Johnstone, Freddie Woodman and Angus Gunn look like top talents and Walton must be included in the same company.

Not only an excellent shot-stopper, but Walton is confident coming off his line and good with the ball at his feet.

The competition is certainly fierce, with the likes of Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope also potential future England goalkeepers.

But Walton might just be in with a shout of such accolades in the future as well if he can find his way at Brighton.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Manager of the Month: Can Chris Hughton now play out a dream season with Brighton?

The Brighton boss was recently crowned February Manager of the Month.

Jake Jackman



Chris Hughton
Photo: Getty Images

Chris Hughton has not received a huge amount of exposure for the job that he is doing with Brighton, but back-to-back Premier League wins have seen the Seagulls rise to 10th position in the table and he has subsequently been rewarded with the February Manager of the Month award.

As a newly-promoted team, they will have targeted survival. Although it remains tight at the bottom, it would take a considerable drop-off for the South Coast team to suffer relegation, especially following an unbeaten run throughout the last month.

But Hughton won’t be getting too far ahead of himself. After all, his team squandered a seven-point lead with three games to go in the Championship last season.

That said, he has done a tremendous job at the Amex Stadium and gone a long way to proving those that doubted him wrong. Hughton is seen as one of the nicest men in football and a safe pair of hands, but he hasn’t always convinced as a Premier League manager.

His first spell in charge of a top-flight club was at Newcastle United. Hughton led them back to the Premier League at the first attempt and the team were in 11th position when he was dismissed. It was considered harsh at the time and even Magpies owner Mike Ashley has admitted since that it was a mistake in an interview with Sky Sports:

“I thought I was very unfair to Chris Hughton, who got us promoted, I don’t think I gave him enough time.”

Hughton was well liked by both the players and supporters at Newcastle. He pulled the club together after the disaster of relegation and managed to win the Championship with ease. Considering it was his first job in management, he was thrown straight into a difficult job and coped well with it. The sacking has unfairly put a black mark on his record and he has been trying to erase it ever since.

The next Premier League he was given was at Norwich City and he fared okay with the Canaries. During his first season, he led them to 11th position. Considering their relative stature in the game, that is a great achievement. However, the style of play was bland and supporters were quick to turn on him in the following season.

The club sacked him with five matches to go in the 2013/14 campaign with the club lying five points above the relegation zone. It was a strange decision, especially as Neil Adams was chosen to take over with no experience of top-flight management. Norwich were relegated that season. They may have faced the same fate had they kept faith in Hughton, but they would have had a better chance of survival.

How he has enhanced his reputation at Brighton

Despite doing a decent job with Norwich before dismissal, Hughton had to drop a division to take his next job and it was with Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls were in 21st position at the time after the poor tenure of Sami Hyypia, but the potential was obvious.

The facilities were great and the new stadium was built with Premier League football as the target. The club had challenged at the top for a number of years previous and had become regulars in the play-offs, but they couldn’t get over the line.

Hughton had won promotion with Newcastle and came close with Birmingham. It was a perfect match as he needed to repair his reputation out of the spotlight. It wasn’t instant success as he fought relegation for the rest of the season and stayed up by only six points. However, he did enough to win favour with the board and he hasn’t looked back since.

During his second season, the club challenged for promotion and missed out only on goal difference by two goals. It was heartbreak on the final day as they needed a win against rivals Middlesbrough, but came up short. They couldn’t get themselves back up for the play-offs and were knocked out by Sheffield Wednesday.

It seemed like both Hughton and Brighton had missed their opportunity of promotion, but they regrouped and earned it the following season in convincing fashion. They may have collapsed late to lose out on the title, but they had won promotion by April and it was never really in doubt.

That was an excellent achievement, but there remained doubts about Hughton’s ability to establish Brighton in the Premier League.

The summer saw him make shrewd additions with Pascal Gross, Mathew Ryan, Davy Propper, Ezequiel Schelotto and Jose Izquierdo coming in to strengthen the first-team. It took some of them time to settle, but they are all now starters. As a newly-promoted club, it is important to add quality to the squad if you are to survive.

Despite being a newly-promoted club, Brighton haven’t really been in much danger of relegation this season. They haven’t been in the relegation zone since the second week of the season. The bottom-half of the table has been tight, but the Seagulls have always had a buffer to the relegation zone. They have taken points from 18 of their 19 matches and their recent match display against Arsenal was the highlight of their season to date.

In the first-half, they attacked with vigour and caused Arsenal a lot of problems. They went 2-0 up and could have scored more on another day.

Although the Gunners got a goal back, the result never looked in serious danger and the home side managed the game well. It was a performance fitting of a Premier League team and the aim now will be to establish themselves at this level over the course of several years.

It is a challenge that Hughton will be relishing. In a period of few British coaches at the highest level, the Brighton manager is proving that he is one of the best and he could start to be linked with bigger jobs if he continues to impress.

The Seagulls remain in the FA Cup and have reached the quarter-final stage for the first time since 1986. Hughton is establishing himself as one of the best managers in the club’s history and although they face a difficult match against Manchester United to reach Wembley, they have the ability to get to the next round.

There is a long way to go in this season, but Brighton could feasibly finish in the top half of the Premier League and win the FA Cup. That would be a season beyond the wildest dreams of many supporters. It remains a long shot, but to be in with a chance is a great achievement by Hughton.

If his side can finish the season strongly, he has to be in contention to win Manager of the Year award.

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