It’s never ever easy to be a Premier League new boy, especially in the modern-day footballing environment where the competition to stay up is as fierce as it can get. Every newly-promoted outfit faces the challenge of avoiding the red zone during their Premier League and it is a case of easier said than done. Well, that’s exactly the situation Brighton and Hove Albion will face when they play their first ever Premier League season.
Clubs like Bournemouth and Swansea have faced situations where they have managed to stay up rather convincingly after making their maiden appearances in the first division of England and the onus will be on the Seagulls to repeat a similar feat after finishing second in the Championship last season.
The club impressed many and nearly won the league before letting go of the first spot on the last day of the season to Newcastle United. Despite that, Chris Hughton’s men caught the eyes of many throughout the campaign, even more so than the Magpies themselves.
The club has done quite well in the market and has adhered to a rather international-oriented approach in recruiting players this summer. It isn’t as if they haven’t signed players from England itself, but they have brought in players from nations like Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
It’s their latest capture though, that raises eyebrows. Davy Propper was recently acquired for a £11.70m fee from PSV Eindhoven and what makes him an intriguing capture is the experience of playing against top-level opposition he brings to the plate. The 25-year-old was one of PSV’s most important players in the midfield last season, scoring six times and assisting eight times.
Former Valencia star Matthew Ryan will be the club’s first choice goalkeeper after his £5.40 million move from Los Che. Left-back Markus Suttner and central midfield player Pascal Gross, who have been roped in from Ingolstadt in Germany, are players who were quite important for the club in recent times and they are expected to be first-choice players as well. One can expect Gross and Propper to play in midfield together.
It remains to be seen whether Ales Mateju will play a part in the first team proceedings after signing from Vitoria Plzen for a £2.25 million fee. Izzy Brown, who was an important player for Huddersfield during his loan spell, has been acquired on a loan deal from Chelsea. The 20-year-old’s versatility in the final third will be key next season.
How are they expected to line up?
It’s pragmatism and directness that made Brighton a feared outfit in the Championship last season. Hughton prefers playing the 4-4-2 formation with the duo of Sam Baldock and Glenn Murray playing up top, flanked by direct wingers in the flamboyant Anthony Knockaert and hometown boy Solly March.
This season, the look of the side will change. Murray has the Premier League know-how and his fox in the box nature will make him a vital part of the side. Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy will carry at centre-back and the duo of Propper and Gross in the midfield. They can as box to box midfielders who suit the hard-working style that Hughton professes. Berem Kayal’s ball-winning abilities can be used and Propper and Gross can rotate around in the left out midfield role.
Suttner will slot in at left-back for former West Brom man Sebastien Pocognoli and will rotate with the Belgian international.
How do they start the season?
The start to the campaign is a tough one. The campaign kicks off with a home game against title favorites and contenders Manchester City on the 12th of August and not many would expect anything from the game.
It’s followed by a trip to the King Power to face Leicester a week later. It’s the next three weeks though, that will make the Seagulls fancy their chances. Watford, West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth face them following to trip to the Midlands.
Hughton has the Premier League experience and has managed to make his team play in a way that is no-nonsense and thrives on the physicality that the players have. Teams like Burnley and West Brom survived the rat race last season because of their direct approach. They have an equal amount of flair in that side as well, though.
It’d be interesting to see how Knockaert performs during his return to the Premier League and Brighton have every reason to be excited about him too. He brings to the fore the pace that the side needs and Brighton will thrive on him for goals.
They will involved in things down the bottom, but Hughton’s experience and the pragmatic approach to the game might well be enough to keep the Seagulls safe.