SOCCER

How far can Brighton and Graham Potter go?

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Brighton head coach Graham Potter, right, applauds the fans at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England on April 20, 2022 .
Image: PA

The question that almost all football fans get from non-football fans, which is healthy, is: “So which team should I support?” You don’t mind hearing it, because it means your friend/acquaintance/bookmaker wants to become a fan, but it’s also an impossible question to answer. Your football club usually finds you instead of the other way around. But given the slant of TV coverage, if you advise them to see which club is talking to them, you’re likely to end up with another City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal or Spurs fan (let’s be honest, no one is being watched Manchester United in recent years and thought: “This is for me!). It’s hard to convince someone to pay for Peacock if they’re not willing to watch teams they’ve never heard of, although those goofus do exist (a very close friend decided to back Everton there is a few years old because he thought it would piss You can visit him on Saturday mornings before 11am, but please don’t mention the world outside the establishment).

But if you rush me and ask which team you should support outside of the top six, Brighton is the one I usually choose. They were the league’s greatest players last season, rising from 16th in the pandemic season to 9th, their highest level ever. place in their history. And they didn’t do it by taking Saudi money or some other type of blood/oligarch money (which amounts to the same thing). They are structurally one of the strongest teams at the moment, as they didn’t have a chance to finish 9th, as their parameters are equal to United in sixth. A boost here or there and Brighton could knock on European football, or so the hope.

They are led by an under-the-radar genius in Graham Potter, a true English Premier League manager, and the one who cut his teeth by taking a Swedish team from that country’s fourth division to the highest level, the Football Manager of all the world. dream in real life. Potter is playing a pretty quick system, especially for a team that seems overwhelmed when it comes to talent. They’re usually in a 3-4-3, which doesn’t stop Potter from doing things like taking a normal striker like Leandro Trossard and playing him at the back or a normal winger like Marc Cucurella and playing him like the one of the centre-backs or convert a former No.10 into a defensive midfielder and make it all work (he’s done it a few times and we will come back to this).
But while Brighton can play wonderfully crafty football, it was actually their defense that propelled them up the table last season. They conceded just 44 goals last season, good for sixth-best in the Premier League, and their expected goals against states that was no fluke. And Brighton did that by selling two of their defenders either before the season or during it… Ben White and Dan Burn.

Of course it’s the back and forth of supporting a team like Brighton, as their best players will be picked up by bigger clubs each season, and the hope is that they can take that money and continue to find more of players to possibly be peddled. towards sequins in the following seasons. This season is

Yves Bissouma went to Tottenham, and he was the defensive shield that even kept things out of Brighton’s box last season. Potter, of course, has a solution for this, which seems to be the same as it was with Bissouma once upon a time, and it converts a former attacking midfielder into a No.6, this time being Alexis Mac Allister. This is where the latter has lined up the most in pre-season, and his passing range is superior to that of Bissouma, who preferred to carry the ball after winning it to launch attacks. Mac Allister is more into the bomb-throwing, kicking role, throwing passes after winning the ball from various lengths to get the team back on the pitch. Moisés Caicedo, 19, could join him in central midfield, and he’s more steely than Mac Allister and has much better defensive instincts, and has a real “Midnight bomber, what bombs at midnight!” atmosphere in its activity and its sense of destruction.

Brighton’s problem under Potter management has always been finishing, as Neil Maupay was their joint-top scorer last year with just eight league goals. Maupay’s problem is that he can’t kick a bull in the ass with a banjo, as he only managed less than 25% of his shots on target last season. Potter appears to be trying to phase him out, looking to rely on Danny Welbeck for the seven minutes a month he’s on his feet and Belgian league hero Deniz Undav this season. The latter scored 25 Belgian league goals last year, but trying to understand what that means for the Premier League is on the same level as reading Sanskrit..

Does all this mean Brighton can continue from 9th? From the metrics, it’s not like they maxed out and landed a hot streak or had a keeper channeling Anubis and keeping an excessive amount of shots. Their expected goal difference was +0.4. They scored four less goals than their expected numbers say they should have, and they conceded one less goal. 9th might even have been a bit low. Even when they finished 16th in 2020-21, they had an expected goal difference of +13.9, which was a level of place in the Champions League. You could argue that they actually regressed last year finishing ninth.

It’s pretty well established that Potter will form a defense with whatever he has to hand. Bissouma’s departure is a huge hole, but fixing holes is what well-run clubs like Brighton do. We know what Welbeck is at this point, and relying on him for more than just a goal here and there is madness. Undav is a huge question mark as he is already 26 and has only scored in Belgium. They have a couple of teen lottery tickets to Julio Enciso and Kaoru Mitoma, the former really getting his hair done standing up with his pre-season performances. They’ll need one to turn it on and skip the street.

Yet where West Ham look more ready to go down than up, and questions about what Leicester or Aston Villa are or Wolves, and Newcastle not quite splashing their endless money still, a small rise of the 9th is still there. So hop on the Brighton bandwagon if you want to be a little hipster about it. You’re sure to be one of a kind, and anyone else you find in Brighton’s outfit bar is likely to become a friend for life.

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