20 Days of the Premier League is back, this time with Brighton & Hove Albion stealing the show.
Brighton finished 16th last year and never rose above 12th after the first month of play, and they could be in for an even worse fate with competitive Championship teams achieving promotion.
Brighton Last Year
Brighton had one of the better defensive records in the Premier League, tying the sixth-lowest mark with 46 goals allowed; their goal differential of -6 was also better than any team in the bottom-eight, and by a substantial margin.
The Seagulls frequently organized themselves with three center backs and a pair of wing-backs on the flanks for extra defensive support, though they were not overly successful in driving the game from the midfield pivot that is so important in a back-five system.
In many instances, Brighton’s matches devolved into crude displays that lacked creativity and pragmatism and were instead centered around getting over the line by any means necessary.
To their credit, the Southerners took 10 points off of top-six finishers across 12 matches, which is a pretty impressive return for a team that did so poorly otherwise and is mostly why they avoided relegation.
Neil Maupay led the team last year with eight goals, five fewer than his mark in expected goals. Maupay, a 22-year-old Argentine, was fresh off of a transfer from Brentford and did not set the world alight, though he still led the club.
Pascal Groß was the club’s leader in assists with eight, functioning as an attacking midfielder in what was typically a double-pivot with three attackers in front. The 30-year-old German’s contract is up next summer, and his level of play this season could determine whether or not he is brought back on the wrong side of 30.
Yves Bissouma and Ben White were the only players to participate in 36 league games, with White starting all of them and Bissouma making one appearance off the bench. They form the heart of the team and are two of the most important players at the club heading into the new campaign.
Brighton invested in themselves this summer by bringing in a club-record signing, Enock Mwepu, from RB Salzburg in Austria. The 23-year-old central midfielder demanded a $25.3 million fee and will slot into the heart of Brighton’s squad, with a tendency to drop deeper and support. That being said, the Zambian international did score five goals in 29 Bundesliga matches last year, which is a solid return for a low-lying midfielder.
The Gulls are also getting a litany of players back from loan, which will help their depth despite the logjam it will create.
Star center-back, Ben White, has been linked with a $69.3 million transfer to Arsenal, though nothing has materialized— if he does leave the club, they will be without their best player.
Graham Potter will return as the manager with the goal of getting more consistent performances against lesser opponents, having proven his mind as a tactician against the bigger sides in the league.
Brighton could finish anywhere in the bottom-seven, given their squad and performances. They have a ginormous back-line that can easily put world-class attackers off of their best game, and they can score goals, but they have not been able to link offense and defense together for long stretches since returning to the Premier League in 2017-18.
Time may prove that the club is destined for relegation, given that they have finished between 15-17 for four years straight; it is unwise to tempt fate like this, and with the quality of Norwich, Watford, and Brentford coming out of the Championship, Brighton could be one of a few Premier League-returners that get sent down at the end of the season.