Solly March has recently signed a new three-year deal that will run up to 2026. Everyone at Brighton and Hove Albion are understandably delighted that the winger has committed his future to his boyhood club, not least his manager Roberto De Zerbi who spoke of how he “deserves” this new contract and labelled March a “great” player.
Born on the South Coast, March started his career at local non-league side Lewes but only played once before being snapped up by Brighton. Coincidently at that time in 2011, Newcastle were offering to take March on trial, now 12 years later they appear to be after him again but once again it looks as if he’ll opt to stay closer to home.
March would then play 75 times in the EFL Championship for Brighton, playing only a bit-part role as they were promoted to the Premier League in the 2016/17 season. Despite playing further forward than he was at the start of Roberto De Zerbi’s reign, before the start of this season the winger only had four top-division goals to his name.
This isn’t to say he didn’t do his part in keeping Brighton afloat every season, widely praised for his work ethic and determination – as is the case with many lower mid-table wide men, March’s defensive duties took priority on a weekly basis.
This season, March has exploded under first Graham Potter and then much more so under Roberto De Zerbi. Particularly since Boxing Day, the stats read brilliantly for the English winger:
- Only Marcus Rashford and Erling Haaland have more goals since the return of the Premier League from the World Cup (7)
- Joint-third most dribbles completed in the Premier League (59%)
- 7 goals and 5 assists means he has more goal contributions than the likes of Kaoru Mitoma, Alexis Mac Allister and Danny Welbeck.
So why no England call-up? March certainly wants one, openly stating to the BBC that “Every English player wants to work towards playing for their national team. It would be an honour”.
But Gareth Southgate hasn’t been convinced just yet, perhaps understandably stating that he doesn’t see March as a better option than Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford or Bukayo Saka at this time. Despite this, March’s time with the U21s will likely play to his benefit at a later date, with Southgate acknowledging he’s a player that the England set-up are familiar with and are keeping an eye on.
De Zerbi Ball
Roberto De Zerbi arrived at Brighton and waited a little while to implement his unique interpretation of the 4-2-3-1 formation, played with relentless fluidity and style. Two of De Zerbi’s highly prized attributes in his players are versatility and adaptability, both of which March has in abundance. He starts on the right of the three behind the striker, pressing hard and high when out of possession and always trying to run inside of the defender onto his left foot when Brighton are in possession.
Take his goal against Everton for example, instead of stretching the Toffees’ defence by pulling out wider, he steps inside towards Evan Ferguson, receives the ball from a simple 10-yard pass and then cuts further inside, composes himself – sending James Tarkowski in the process and coolly slots past Jordan Pickford.
Some avid De Zerbi followers have been quick to point out the similarities between March and Domenico Berardi under the Italian manager. Berardi, also a left-footed winger playing on the right, hadn’t scored more than 10 league goals in a single campaign before De Zerbi’s arrival. In the following three seasons, he popped up with 14, 17 and then 15 goals with plenty of assists along the way and ultimately played himself into the Italy squad.
It’s a big ask for Solly March to continue goalscoring at his current rate, but it’s a testament to the tactical structure put in place at Brighton that he is playing so well. The Englishman is clearly benefiting from the quality around him and a newfound confidence in front of goal, at just 28 there’s still plenty of time for that England call-up.
By: Wilf MacDonnell / @WilfMacdonnell
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Sebastian Frej / MB Media / Getty Images