James Becker analyses the reasons behind Anthony Knockaert’s stuttering start to life in the Premier League with Brighton.
This year as Brighton gained promotion to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1983, many fans were looking to the mercurial talent of Anthony Knockaert to possibly win them games, with moments of brilliance like he did so often in the Championship last year.
Of course, it is well documented that Knockaert was player of the year in the Championship last season, but with only one goal he is yet to set the Premier League on fire this year with Brighton in 2017/18.Embed from Getty Images
As Brighton battled it out for a 1-1 draw on the weekend against Southampton, the game was crying out for someone to produce a bit of magic that would win their team the game.
Last season, nearly all Brighton fans would be very confident that Knockaert, their talisman, would be the right player to do just that. Yet throughout the game he remained relatively quiet, which frankly is a fair reflection of his performances so far in this year’s Premier League campaign.
Knockaert did start the season with a slight injury, and so remained on the bench for the first couple of games, but since then his only significant impact on a game has been his goal against Everton. His performance against Everton was encouraging, yet still not reminiscent of his skill last year.Embed from Getty Images
Brighton fans at the start of the season would’ve been raving to all fans in the Premier League that the player to watch out for this year would be Knockaert. Yet right now those fans are eating their words, as Knockaert has yet to put in a truly match winning performance for the Seagulls.
This season Brighton have got off to a steady start, achieving a modest twelve points off ten games, which puts them 12th in the table. Right now, if they are to progress higher up that table, they will need to turn close games like the one against Southampton into victories. The best way of achieving that is if Knockaert fulfils his full potential in the Premier League.
What got Brighton fans, and pundits so excited last year, was Knockaert’s ability to drive at defenders with such pace, and then use his agility and balance to simply glide past them. But this year, it’s noticeable that he has been much more cautious, when taking on defenders. Perhaps this is due to the increase in quality of Premier League defenders, but many would still back the Frenchman to beat the average Premier League left back one on one.Embed from Getty Images
What is so startling is that Knockaert, has gone from Championship player of the year, to now competing for his place in the starting line-up. With new record signing Jose Izqueirdo occupying the left-wing position, in form Solly March has had to drop to the bench. Many fans thought this was particularly harsh, and March who can play on either wing will be looking to force his way back into the starting eleven.
It is needless to say but at the moment Brighton look a bit flat going forward, and they are lacking that spark, which they had so often last season. If Brighton are going to really challenge team’s week in week out, then they will need their main man Knockaert right up there at his very best.
Written by James Becker.