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Brighton and Hove Albion

Will Celtic’s Moussa Dembele look to progress with a Premier League move?

Jake Jackman

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Dembele

The transfer window is fast approaching and Brighton look set to make an early breakthrough with the signing of Celtic striker Moussa Dembele. According to Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol, the two clubs have agreed a fee of £18 million for the French striker. The Seagulls had been heavily linked to the player, but it will come as a surprise if a deal has been reached with the Bhoys. The Scottish Premier League club know that the 21-year-old is an asset that continues to increase in value and it could be that this story has been leaked to flush out more interest.

However, the transfer window is rarely clear cut and there are parties operating with different objectives. Every story needs to be treated with caution and The Sun have posted a contradictory report, with Celtic sources branding Sky’s story as ‘nonsense’. This is certainly a story to keep an eye on. The report from Sky may be premature, but they are a reliable source and it does seem like there is some substance to the transfer story.

Brighton fans will understandably be excited about the potential of Dembele, as they are in dire need of more attacking options. Glenn Murray has been their main striker for the first half of the season. Although he is doing well, there are doubts about his ability to be a starting Premier League striker for the long-term. The Seagulls are likely to be in a relegation battle and they need a more reliable source of goals to ensure they do remain out of the bottom three.

During their last seven Premier League matches, Brighton have scored only two goals. An organised defence has allowed them to continue picking up points, but they can’t expect to stay clear of danger unless they score more often. They have some excellent midfield players that are capable of creating chances, such as Davy Propper, Anthony Knockaert and Pascal Gross. If they can bring in a quality striker to help out Murray and chip in with a few goals, they will be in a great position to do well during the second half of the season.

His career to date

The Frenchman first came to England when he joined Fulham as a teenager from Paris Saint Germain.

He initially made headlines for his name, rather than his reputation on the pitch, with the Cottagers losing Mousa Dembele to Tottenham at the same time his younger namesake (a slight spelling difference aside) arrived at Craven Cottage. It was a great piece of scouting from the club and academy director Huw Jennings told BBC Sport why the striker had emerged on their radar:

“When Moussa was 16 there was no doubt he possessed all the raw ingredients you look for in a striker. He’s got pace and power, he can finish, use both feet and he is good in the air. He has got good intelligence.”

“What stood out for me was not only what you could see on the pitch but I felt a calmness and assuredness off the pitch. It is not easy coming across from a foreign country at a young age and the thing Moussa has had to demonstrate more than any others is resilience.”

It didn’t take long for Dembele to feature in the first-team, as he made his Premier League debut in November 2013 and featured on one more occasion during the relegation season. The drop to the Championship was a massive blow for the club, but it provided a chance for the young players to make a mark at senior level. The Frenchman grabbed that with both hands and was one of the best young players during the 2015-16 campaign.

He started 37 Championship matches and made a further six appearances from the bench as he began to develop a reputation as one of the best young players in the Football League. Dembele contributed an impressive 15 goals and six assists, with a goal involvement rate of one every 160 minutes. Unluckily for Fulham, he was in the final year of his contract and he opted to move on at the end of the season on a free transfer.

According to BBC Sport, he came close to joining Tottenham during the January transfer window, with a deal being agreed for £5 million. That deal didn’t come to fruition. but it underlines how highly-rated the Frenchman is in the game. He remained with Fulham for the rest of the season before joining Celtic in the summer. It was a decision that raised eyebrows, but he quickly became the best player in the division and the leader of the attack.

A lot of young players have been criticised for making the jump to a big club too soon, but Dembele’s career has been well mapped out and that shows his impressive temperament. Few 16-year-olds would choose to leave PSG to join Fulham, but the striker is determined to make it to the top and he isn’t afraid for it to be a slow journey.

Since joining Celtic, he has continued to develop and his role in their unbeaten domestic season cannot be underplayed, as he registered 27 goals across all domestic competitions. The Scottish league is not as good as it once was, in terms of quality, but it is still a huge responsibility to play for Celtic and Dembele has thrived under that. Brendan Rodgers has been a huge influence on his star striker’s career and believes that he can go to the very top:

“Moussa showed last year that when he’s fit he’s got that capability to play at that level and that’s all you want.

“Now it’s the case of over the next few years consistently showing that he can do that.”

Celtic and Rodgers will be realistic when it comes to their chances of keeping hold of the 21-year-old. The latest links to Brighton may come as a surprise, as it was expected that a bigger club would come in for him. However, his career path to date shows that he is keen to earn his way to the top and prioritises first-team football over club prestige.

In the modern game, a move from Celtic to a bottom-half Premier League club is a step upwards. It is important that Dembele proves himself in one of the top five European leagues and a transfer to the Seagulls would be a logical move for him.

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.

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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.

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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

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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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