Brighton and Hove Albion were one of three teams that the vast majority of Premier League fans worldwide expected to drop back down to the Championship last season.
But with an excellent blend of faith from the board of directors, splendid transfer policy, a good manager, and motivated players, they defied the odds and cemented their spot in this season’s competition; a season that could be considered a big win for Chris Hughton and his men.
The challenges that they must surmount this season primarily include keeping hold of their best players, such as the likes of Jose Izqueirdo, Pascal Groβ and the CB pairing of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk, but also to make additions to the squad to enable them to better sustain domestic cup runs, as well as the longevity of the season itself. Especially without a winter break, the demands on a trim squad in the superlatively cramped December to January spell utter disaster for a club’s ambition, by virtue of injuries as well as dropped points.
The Brighton transfer department were owed a huge pat on the back, for they moved swiftly to go out with the old, and in with the new. A total of nine major additions were made at an extremely tight budget, five of which became indispensable cogs of the first team (Exhibits include Matt Ryan, Pascal Groβ and Jose Izqueirdo). This season, much of the same is required, with the additions requiring similar quality to those procured last season.
Brighton have already moved fast to secure the signatures of both defender Leon Balogun from Mainz and forward Florin Andone from Deportivo. Both areas needed improvement, so it once more underlines the efficiency of the Brighton board in identifying targets and completing deals. CB is an area they are still looking to improve upon, with Reading’s Liam Moore high on their list of targets.
Two bids have reportedly been rejected already for the former, whilst hardball persists over the fee for the latter. Out of contract trio Jack Wilshere, Yohan Cabaye and Andre Pierre Gignac could be some ambitious transfer prospects; the former pair of midfielders will add solidity and creativity to Brighton’s midfield, and the latter will give them a different dynamic up top, with Gignac’s physique opening avenues of playing with a target man approach.
Wilshere and Cabaye would need no time to adapt, having played in the Premier League for a significant time of their careers, whilst Jurgen Locadia will be hungry to prove himself worthy of a club record fee should Gignac, if he arrives, take time to settle.
With Newcastle signing Dubravka on a permanent basis, Brighton should not have too much hassle in signing Krul on loan this season too. However, an addition at left back may also be on Hughton’s mind, with Marcus Suttner having failed to provide adequate competition to Gaetan Bong, but it wouldn’t be at the top of their priorities.
Brighton’s ability to fend off potential suitors for Dunk and Duffy may define their season, for there are few in the league who played more minutes than Brighton’s central defenders. Leonardo Ulloa looks unlikely to return after a dismal season on loan from Leicester, but that won’t worry the Brighton boss too much.
Keeping their core intact and taking steps to increase both the quality and quantity of the squad from within the market will be essential to Brighton pushing for an improvement on the season in which they defied so many expectations. With the right additions, a mid-table finish may well be on the cards.
Written by Ayush Verma.