Under Chris Hughton, Brighton defied the odds and retained their Premier League status after a remarkable debut campaign – could they go one step further and retain it once more?
The 2017/18 Season
In what was Brighton and Hove Albion’s first ever season in the Premier League, the Seagulls surpassed many people’s expectations as they managed to avoid relegation.
The club also enjoyed a respectable run in the FA Cup, reaching the quarter-finals before being knocked out by Manchester United. Finishing 15th in the league, Albion secured safety in their last home game of the season when they got revenge on United, winning the game 1-0 to start the party.
Manager and tactics
Chris Hughton joined Brighton in 2014, and it is largely thanks to him that club has made significant progress in recent years. Despite a relatively modest transfer budget, Hughton built a team that was very well disciplined in all aspects of the game. Only conceding 54 goals during the season (which may seem a lot if you support Manchester United), the lowest of any team in the bottom half, Brighton relied on their strong defence to keep them up.
The centre-back pairing of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk worked together magnificently, putting their bodies on the line every game. Hughton’s favourite formation was the 4-4-1-1 system, one that was very rigid, and without trying to belittle Hughton’s style of play, one that was very sensible. It allowed Brighton to play to their strengths, and although they seldom produced thrilling football, it was certainly effective enough in keeping the club up.
37-year-old Bruno is the club’s captain, with the veteran right-back recently signing a new one-year deal at the Amex stadium where has become a very popular figure amongst the Brighton faithful.
In his absence, centre-back Lewis Dunk took over the captaincy towards to the end of the season and led the team by example. Both players epitomise what Hughton wants at the club: disciplined grafters who are willing to do anything for the the club.
Pascal Gross was the team’s talisman last season, and also a hit with many Fantasy Football players. Bagging seven goals to go with his eight assists in the league, the German attacking midfielder enjoyed an excellent debut season in England.
Gross’ creativity was Brighton’s best attacking asset outlet last season, and he enjoyed a prosperous partnership with veteran striker Glenn Murray. Playing in every game in the league last season, Gross could find competition in being the Brighton’s main man again this season following the Seagulls’ promising activity in the transfer market.
Brighton have spent big in the transfer window this summer, smashing their transfer record by signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh for £17.1 million from Dutch outfit, AZ Alkmaar. The 24-year-old winger was in outstanding form in the Eredivisie last season as he notched 21 goals and 12 assists in 33 appearances for AZ, scoring hat-tricks in two of his last three league games.
The Seagulls have also spent big on Yves Bissouma (£15 million from Lille) and Bernardo (£9 million from RB Leipzig). The former is a talented central midfielder who comes with a growing reputation, and the latter is a Brazilian defender who can play at either left or right-back. In total, Brighton have made eight signings for the first team. It remains to be seen whether or not it will be enough to beat the drop, with the Seagulls many people’s favourites for relegation.
Despite a solid yet unspectacular first season in the Premier League and a busy transfer window, Brighton remain one of the favourites for relegation ahead of the new season.
Chris Hughton will want to establish Brighton as a constant fixture of the Premier League, similar to what Eddie Howe has managed to achieve at Bournemouth. Avoiding the drop must surely be the main aim for Albion, and if they do so, maybe next season they can start looking up the table rather than down.