Brighton and Hove Albion secured promotion on Easter Monday with a win over relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic and they will go on to become the 47th club to play in the Premier League.
This has been a long time coming for the Seagulls, as they have finished in the play-off positions in three of the last four seasons.
Although they didn’t have the luck or quality to triumph on any of those occasions, they have been one of the best sides in the Championship over that period and they have now finally achieved automatic promotion in spectacular fashion.
There has been sustained progress from the club since they were promoted to the second tier and their potential as a club is huge.
How did they earn promotion?
After the disappointment of missing out on finishing in the top two on the final day of last season, it would have been understandable for there to be a hangover at the beginning of this campaign.
However, that wasn’t the case.
The club strengthened in the summer with the signings of Shane Duffy, Glenn Murray, Oliver Norwood and Sebastien Pocognoli, while Steve Sidwell made his loan move permanent.
These were shrewd pick ups from the club and they have all played their part in the Seagulls’ promotion campaign.
A quick start was crucial and they managed to take eight points from their first four matches, keeping three clean sheets in the process.
Their success has been built on a solid defence and an incredible team spirit. They have the best defensive record in the league, conceding 36 goals in 43 matches. In addition to that, they have kept 21 clean sheets.
Chris Hughton has done an excellent job at making sure his side is solid at the back with good organisation defensively.
Their first-choice centre-back partnership of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy have been exceptional and they should both be able to take the step up to the top flight.
It was a coup to keep the former at the club last summer amidst interest from the Premier League, while the signing of the latter ensured that they had a quality player to partner Dunk.
Brighton are a physically imposing team, but they also have a lot of technical ability. It is the perfect blend for the Championship and it isn’t a surprise that they have gained promotion with relative comfort this season. They have been the most consistent team and deserve all the praise coming their way.
In terms of their team spirit, it is easy to see the friendship that exists among the players. After the death of Anthony Knockaert’s father earlier this season, the squad came together with ten of his team-mates flying to France to offer support at the funeral.
This isn’t common in football and it definitely will have had a massive impact on the French winger, who later won the Championship player of the year award.
Did everything go to plan?
It is difficult to criticise a team that have earned promotion as comfortably as Brighton have, but one disappointment will be their record in big matches this season. They lost both matches against Newcastle United, while they also lost away to home to Leeds United and Huddersfield Town.
The Seagulls have built the perfect squad for the Championship, but there are doubts about whether some of the stars of this season can make the step up. Glenn Murray has struggled to assert himself at the highest level, while Bruno, Steve Sidwell, and Liam Rosenior are all the wrong side of 30.
There are many in the squad that haven’t had experience at the highest level and they will certainly need to strengthen in the summer. However, they are a club that have consistently progressed and Chris Hughton will know better than most what changes need to be implemented before next season begins.
Can they establish themselves in the Premier League?
Brighton and Hove Albion have everything to not only stay up in the Premier League, but to push on from there and establish themselves at that level.
The Amex Stadium is an excellent modern-day arena and has only been their home since the beginning of the 2011-12 season. It was designed with the Premier League in mind and they have now finally got to the top flight.
Their training facilities are also excellent and this isn’t a club that will be happy with only one season in the Premier League. They will have ambitions greater than that. T
here are question marks about Hughton’s ability to manage at the highest level, but he has more than earned the opportunity to have another crack with Brighton. T
here will be money available to him this summer and it is an exciting time to be a Seagulls fan. It is too early to speculate about whether they will stay up next season, but they have more than a fair chance.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Nige B
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.
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.
Tottenham Hotspur should consider Pascal Gross this summer
The German has been in fine form this season with eight Premier League assists.
Arsenal’s recent woes continued this weekend. They lost 2-1 to Brighton and Hove Albion on the south coast. Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray proved enough to earn the win for the Seagulls. But it was another player who proved the thorn in Arsenal’s side. Pascal Gross was electric for Brighton on the day.
The German swung in the perfect delivery which created the first goal for Dunk. He then stood up a sumptuous cross for Murray to head home the side’s second goal.
Gross continuously found himself in between the lines of Arsenal’s defence and midfield. He ghosted around the likes of Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere throughout the fixture and it was a performance which helped add to the German’s growing reputation.
One team that should be keeping tabs is Tottenham Hotspur.
Gross is extremely similar in playing style to Tottenham’s very own assist king Christian Eriksen. Whilst not as good as the Dane, he would be a brilliant addition to Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Tottenham still need more strength in the attacking lines behind Harry Kane. Gross fits in with the style of play at Spurs perfectly and would also fit in with the club’s financial strategy.
The 26-year-old joined Brighton from Ingolstadt in the summer for a fee reported by Sky Sports to be around £3 million. His wages would also fall far within the current structure at Spurs under the frugal Daniel Levy.
His incredible involvement in Brighton goals has been noted often this season. Only the Manchester City trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and David Silva – along with Paul Pogba – have more assists than the Brighton man this season. The likes of Christian Eriksen, Mesut Ozil and Riyad Mahrez trailing.
Gross was perhaps the bargain of the summer in the Premier League. Such form must be attracting interest, especially as Brighton go from strength to strength.
At the weekend he proved himself unplayable against Tottenham’s local rivals Arsenal, looking every bit a class act in the Brighton side.
Now imagine that the German was doing the same thing, but providing for Harry Kane. The results could see Tottenham pulling off a transfer masterstroke.
Brighton 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Amex
Arsenal lost for a fourth successive game as Brighton & Hove Albion bullied their opponents into submission.
Arsenal suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as Brighton & Hove Albion took a giant leap towards Premier League survival.
The pressure on Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, which has intensified since the turn of the year, looks set to reach new heights after another dismal day at the office for his charges.
Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray put the Seagulls in control before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Arsenal were unable to muster an equaliser.
For Brighton, this was a huge result that lifted them seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Here are three talking points…
Is beleaguered Wenger’s position now untenable?
It lurches from one disaster to another for Wenger.
He probably thought the nadir had been reached after last weekend’s limp performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, when his future became the main topic of debate.
The Frenchman would have hoped for a reaction from his players in the subsequent fixtures.
Instead, his side were brushed aside against City in the Premier League before producing another sub-standard display here against Brighton.
Added to their shock Europa League reversal at home to minnows Ostersunds, it is the first time Arsenal have lost four successive matches since 2002.
After last season’s FA Cup triumph, Wenger penned a new contract that takes him through to the summer of 2019.
Now, however, it’s difficult to see how he can last beyond the end of the current campaign.
Perhaps only by lifting the Europa League, which would automatically qualify Arsenal for the Champions League, could Wenger realistically remain in situ.
Even then, it may not be enough. His players look devoid of any confidence and need an injection of new ideas.
Brighton take a massive step towards safety
The focus will understandably be on Arsenal, but Brighton’s display should not be overlooked.
This victory extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to four games and has all but banished thoughts that they might be dragged into a relegation scrap.
Yes, it was a good time to face Arsenal, but Chris Hughton’s side made a fast start with two early goals that went a long way to recording their first win over the Gunners since 1982.
Brighton’s performance bore all the hallmarks of their season so far.
Despite being one of the lowest scorers in the division, they took their chances when they came, exploiting Arsenal’s weakness from set pieces and aerial balls.
In the second half, the home side remained very organised defensively, which was key when the Gunners upped the tempo.
Modest and unassuming, Hughton has done a terrific job on the south coast.
Defensive shortcomings continue to haunt Arsenal
Wenger has regularly spoken of his belief that Arsenal cannot compete on a level playing field with the likes of Manchester City.
And while his side’s record against fellow ‘Big Six’ clubs is regularly scrutinised, the Gunners’ results against the lesser lights have not been good enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.
In 2018 alone, Arsenal have been beaten by Swansea City, Bournemouth and now Brighton in the Premier League, while losing to Nottingham Forest and Ostersunds in cups.
A lack of leadership has long been an issue on the pitch and it’s an area Wenger has consistently ignored.
Defensively, the Gunners are too easy to bully.
Take Shkodran Mustafi’s defending for the first goal in the Carabao Cup final last weekend, for example.
Particularly away from home, Arsenal are prone to imploding.
Despite the attacking talent Wenger has at his disposal, his failure to invest in proven defenders at the top level looks set to cost him dearly.
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