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Football Reporting
Football Reporting


Premier League 2021-22 preview No 4: Brighton | Brighton & Hove Albion

Guardian writers’ predicted position: 12th (NB: this is not necessarily Michael Butler’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position: 16th

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 250-1

The plan

Such is the quietness of Brighton’s transfer incomings that one of the biggest arrivals on the south coast has been Graham Potter’s new beard, with the manager switching vibes from primary school teacher to craft beer enthusiast. If aesthetics off the pitch have changed, on it they look largely the same.

The notable exception is Enock Mwepu, signed for £18m from Red Bull Salzburg – a box-to-box midfielder as versatile as he is rangy and who should form a formidable central partnership with Yves Bissouma. Nicknamed ‘The Computer’ because of the 23-year-old’s ability to read the game, Mwepu admitted to being so nervous for his first training session that he forgot his boots, but he has since said that Brighton feels like home.

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Mwepu has progressed hugely since Salzburg signed him in 2017 after Zambia’s triumph at the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations, accruing Champions League experience alongside his compatriot Patson Daka, who has made a big-money move to the Premier League with Leicester.

Worryingly, the only other additions have been the teenager Jeremy Sarmiento from Benfica and Kjell Scherpen, a 6ft 8in goalkeeper from Ajax who would be the joint-tallest player to grace the Premier League. Neither is expected to start.

Significant departures from the squad include Ben White (to Arsenal), Mathew Ryan (to Real Sociedad), Davy Pröpper (to PSV Eindhoven) and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has joined Feyenoord for £3.9m, returning to the Eredivisie where he scored 21 goals for AZ in 2017-18. Big things were expected of the Iranian but two league goals in four years tell their own story.

The £50m fee for White, making the 23-year-old the 10th most expensive defender of all time, vindicates Brighton’s decision not to cash in on the defender this time last year for about half that, after his breakthrough season on loan with Leeds in the Championship.

But what to do with the money? Rumours of a bid for Odsonne Édouard continue to grow, particularly now that Celtic are out of the Champions League, and the Seagulls are reportedly interested in a Swan: Matt Grimes is on the radar of Potter and Dan Ashworth, Brighton’s acclaimed technical director.

Graham Potter has grown a beard, but not much else has changed at Brighton this summer.
Graham Potter has grown a beard, but not much else has changed at Brighton this summer. Photograph: Nigel Keene/ProSports/Shutterstock

Brighton’s biggest problems, however, remain in wide areas. Leandro Trossard is the chief creator off the right, but they lack a similar threat on the left, with Danny Welbeck, Percy Tau, Aaron Connolly, and Solly March filling in to mixed effect.
Full-backs remain an problem, too. Tariq Lamptey is one of the most exciting prospects in the league at right-wing back, but his recovery from a season-ending hamstring injury in December has been frustrating and he is expected to miss the start of the campaign. On the left, Bernardo has been released, and March and Dan Burn have felt like stand-ins rather than long-term solutions.

Without more investment, this season could be another struggle for Brighton, who have a capable first XI but lack depth. Potter earned plaudits for style last season but results often eluded them, especially at home, although a deserved 3-2 win over Manchester City in the penultimate fixture was heartening. Brighton avoided the drop with a club joint-record 41 Premier League points but their survival was eased by the paltry totals of the relegated sides. The three coming up from the Championship – Norwich, Watford and Brentford – will surely not be so limp.

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The manager

Potter took Östersund from the fourth tier of Swedish football to a last-32 tie of the Europa League before moving to Brighton in 2019. He likes his side to play out from the back, even if this may be hindered by White’s departure. Potter has done well to bring through academy prospects such as Steven Alzate and Robert Sánchez, and limited forays into the market have been shrewd, signing Lamptey, Joël Veltman, Welbeck and Adam Lallana for less than £5m combined. Brighton’s 41 points last season were built on defence: only five teams kept more clean sheets (12). Pep Guardiola has called Potter “the best English manager in the world” and the 46-year-old was linked with Spurs and Everton this summer. Brighton would demand compensation of up to £20m, with his contract running until 2025.

Key player

“In training, he didn’t tie his shoelaces and he had everyone on skates. He’s a blessing for Brighton, but if you love watching gifted players, you should wish for him to make the next step.” The former Brighton defender Leon Balogun, now of Rangers, wanted to talk about one man, Yves Bissouma, after facing him in a pre-season friendly. The 24-year-old is the heartbeat of his side, defensively and with the ball, but with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City sniffing around, it feels it is a question of when, not if, he will leave.

Yves Bissouma (left) in action during Brighton’s win over Manchester City in May.
Yves Bissouma (left) in action during Brighton’s win over Manchester City in May. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The owner

Tony Bloom, nicknamed The Lizard, started gambling on the fruit machines on West Street in Brighton, at eight years old. After making millions in poker, gambling and property, he became chairman of his home town club in 2009 and paid £80m of interest-free and unsecured loans to help build the Amex. His grandfather Harry was vice-chairman during the 1970s. Tony is a local boy done good who dreamed of playing for Brighton. When he realised that was impossible, he did the next best thing: he bought the club.

Euros factor

Brighton had more players in the Spain squad for Euro 2020 than Real Madrid. Well, they had one, Sánchez, and he did not play. But the stat stands. Of the Brighton players who went only Leandro Trossard (Belgium) and Jakub Moder (Poland) got on the pitch (Veltman and the now-departed White also did not) and neither shone brightly.

We’ll be singing

Brighton’s season starts with a relative whimper: an opening-day trip to Burnley followed by a home match against promoted Watford on 21 August. These games could be pivotal, however, come the end of the season, particularly the visit of Watford to the Amex, where fans are expected to belt out their customary “Sea, sea, seasider” bangers.

Back to the Amex

The good The atmosphere and guest ales from breweries near the visiting team help to cheer supporters.

The bad Nearly five miles out of the city centre, the stadium is not the most convenient for fans.

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The crest

The design was updated in 2011 to reflect the club’s nickname, which started when Brighton fans responded to Crystal Palace supporters shouting “Eagles, Eagles” outside a pub in the 1970s with the cry of “Seagulls, Seagulls”. Before that, the club had been known as the Dolphins and even had one on a short-lived crest in 1975-76.

Trending topics

“Palace have a blue and white third kit? They want to be us so bad”

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“Announce Édouard!”

“Somebody get the magic sponge on Lamptey, we need him back ASAP”

“Potter’s new beard is lush”


Gully is sometimes seen with his partner, Sally, and when he is not at the Amex he can be seen doing 10k runs for charity and has even walked a bride down the aisle.

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