Brighton face a season of upheaval, but not necessarily through a merry-go-round of incoming and outgoing transfers.
Chris Hughton’s post-season sacking raised eyebrows among neutrals but the Seagulls’ dismal form in 2019 led them ominously close to the relegation trapdoor for the owners’ liking.
Graham Potter has taken the reins and will be looking to radically shift the style and momentum of his inherited squad, while also keeping them alive and kicking in the Premier League.
Fans will be gearing up for another long campaign, but how will they fare once the season kicks off?
RadioTimes.com has rounded up everything you need to know about Brighton and Hove Albion ahead of the 2019/20 season.
???? How about this from @locadiaofficial before we set off for pre-season out in Austria?
— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) July 9, 2019
Where did Brighton finish last season?
17th. The 2018/19 relegation battle was too close for comfort as far as Brighton were concerned, and Hughton paid the price for it.
Heavy investment failed to pay off as Alireza Jahanbakhsh (£17m), Yves Bissouma (£15m) and another £65m worth of new recruits simply didn’t make an impact.
Despite the hefty fees spent on exciting prospects and imported talents, it was 35-year-old workhorse Glenn Murray who led the way with 13 league goals to keep Brighton afloat.
Who is Brighton’s key player?
Lewis Dunk. Homegrown hero Dunk was one of the most consistent performers for the Seagulls last year, earning an England call-up in recognition of his battling displays.
Dunk is commanding in the air at both ends of the pitch – he’s a towering threat from set-pieces.
His bravery and desire to block or clear every ball is to be admired, yet he’s more than a no-nonsense lump, he can actually play the ball out of defence calmly.
Brighton’s season could hinge on Dunk’s future as he has been tipped to replace Harry Maguire at Leicester if ‘Slabhead’ moves on to Manchester United. If Dunk stays, it could the Seagulls’ best news of the summer.
Who is Brighton’s biggest summer signing?
Leandro Trossard (£18m). Brighton have kept the reins on their spending this summer, with just one major investment in the shape of Trossard from Genk.
The left-winger – who can also drift into the middle behind the striker – picked up 14 goals and seven assists during 34 appearances in the Belgian top flight last season.
The 24-year-old has all the traits of a traditional winger, and will be sniping crosses onto the head of Murray all season long, while he also has the passing range to drop deeper and more centrally to slide balls through and over the top of defences.
Arsenal looked at Trossard but ultimately didn’t make a move.
The biggest concern with the uncapped Belgian ace is the level of opposition he’s faced in his career so far.
Many a technical winger has arrived in the Premier League full of promise only to have his confidence sapped in an instant, so Brighton fans must be patient as Trossard fights to adapt to his new surroundings.
Who is the Brighton manager? Meet Graham Potter
Hughton was pragmatic, Potter is innovative.
The new boss enjoyed an eight-year spell crafting Swedish side Ostersunds FK in his image before being handed a chance to bring his blueprints to the UK.
He guided Swansea to 10th place in the Championship last season and has drawn comparisons to Pep Guardiola for his outlook on how the beautiful game should be played – beautifully.
Inconsistency, influenced by a mass turnaround in playing personnel, meant the Swans were always unlikely to nab a play-off spot, but Potter is a long-term project manager who couldn’t entirely revolutionise his squad in one season.
Potter is likely to set up Brighton in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation and will encourage possession-based, slick passing football, a far cry from last season’s style.
Brighton fixtures – The Start
10th August: Watford (A)
17th August: West Ham (H)
24th August: Southampton (H)
Brighton fixtures – The Run-In
2nd May: Southampton (A)
9th May: Newcastle (H)
17th May: Burnley (A)
The fans say…
SCOTT MCCARTHY, WEAREBRIGHTON
What is the mood like among fans going into 2019/20?
The best way of describing it is as being like before you start at a new school or job, it’s a strange mix of excitement and fear.
Excitement because nobody knows what is going to happen under Graham Potter. Whereas under Chris Hughton everything became turgid and predictable by the end, with Potter nobody even knows what formation he is going to use. Fear because we’ve only signed one new player who is likely to be a first team regular.
The club seem to be putting all their eggs in a basket which involves Potter getting a lot more out of this squad than Hughton managed, which could be a very risky game to play.
Who will be your key player this season?
Leandro Trossard is that new signing, brought for £15m from Genk. He’s only 22 but captained them to the Belgian title last season, hitting over 20 goals from out wide. Given how reliant we are on Glenn Murray, Trossard really needs to help ease the scoring burden.
Based on pre season, it looks like Pascal Gross could be getting back to somewhere near his 2017-18 levels as well. He suffered with a lot of niggling injuries last season and was hugely impacted when Hughton ditched 4-4-1-1 in favour of 4-3-3.
Potter’s been using him back as a number 10 rather than in a three man midfield so fingers crossed the goals and assists will start flowing again.
Any young talents to look out for?
Our Under 23s came third in Premier League 2 last season, so clearly there is some talent coming through. That’s another reason behind Potter’s appointment – Hughton gave just two league debuts to academy players in four-and-a-half years with a grand total of around 18 minutes playing time.
Potter’s record suggests he will be much more trusting of young players, in which case Aaron Connolly and Tudor Baluta could be best placed to break through. Connolly was voted PL2 Player of the Season last year and Baluta was one of Romania Under 21s star players in their run to the semi finals at the European Championships in the summer, knocking England out along the way.
Chris Hughton’s sacking raised plenty of eyebrows but only Brighton fans can know whether it was the right call… was it?
There were lots of people becrying it from the outside, but how many managers in 2019 keep their jobs after two league wins in 18 and home losses to Burnley, Southampton, Bournemouth (by five goals) and Cardiff? Not to mention setting a club record of going nearly seven games and 13 hours without a goal.
Away from home, we’ve won five games in two seasons. We were 12 points clear of relegation at Christmas when he switched from 4-4-1-1 to 4-3-3 and ended the season relying on Palace beating Cardiff to keep us up.
Every single person who watched Brighton in the second half of the season could see that the formation change was an unmitigated disaster except for Hughton, who stubbornly stuck with it for four months.
Appointing Potter is undoubtedly a gamble but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that with Hughton in charge this season and based on our form since January, we’d have gone down anyway so why not roll the dice and see what happens?
Tony Bloom made his millions as a professional gambler so if anyone is likely to get a decision like this right, it’s him.
The club has spent big money on several players who haven’t made a great impact on the team. Is that a result of how they’ve been used or the players themselves? Is there hope for them under a new boss?
Jurgen Locadia has shown small glimpses of talent but Alireza Jahanbakhsh has been completely hopeless. Three Premier League goals and one assist from a combined £31m worth of talent is a shocking return, especially when Locadia is responsible for all of that.
Given our lack of transfer activity and the fact we’ve let our most productive winger Anthony Knockaert go to Fulham on loan, the club are clearly hoping that Potter can get a lot more out of those two than Hughton managed.
Should he use the 4-2-3-1 he tended to favour at Swansea, then that is probably the formation best suited to both of those but based on what they’ve done so far, I just don’t think either are anywhere near good enough for the Premier League. If Potter can reverse that opinion, then we’ve got one hell of a manager on our hands.
Where will you finish in the Premier League?
We could end up playing free flowing attacking football, Jahanbakhsh and Locadia could score 40 goals between them and we surprise everyone and hit the top 10. Or virtually the same squad that has won two games in 2019 continue in that vein and we finish stone cold bottom of the table.
Personally, I’d settle for anything above 17th, hopefully with a few more away wins chucked in. It’s hard justifying all that time and money when you know that you probably won’t score a goal, let alone win a game.
Where will Brighton finish? RadioTimes.com says…
In terms of philosophy, this is going to be a monumental overhaul for Brighton.
Potter has the ideas, the knowledge and the style, but applying his formula to an unsettled mix-and-match squad will not be an easy task.
A lot rests on his ability to invigorate some ‘write-off’ signings from previous windows and get them firing again. A free-flowing attacking system could be the jolt required.
This will be a gruelling year for Seagulls fans, but patience will be required. Potter may not be able to transform the culture of the squad overnight or even in a full season, but if Brighton stay afloat, they could be on course for a brighter future.