Graham Potter’s Brighton side are one of those fascinating stories that draw in sport’s fans time and time again. A smart transfer policy, one of the brightest tactical minds in the country at the helm, and countless suitors expressing an interest in their top assets.
A question of immense possibility and ‘what if’s?’ This is a team seemingly on the cusp of glory, and yet something is missing. It almost seems a race against time for the Seagulls to establish a legacy in England’s top-flight before their modest foundations catch up with them.
Brighton have been a favourite of football hipsters and Twitter analysts over the past couple of years. Constantly thwarted by the woodwork, VAR and expected goals, it always seems that Brighton are a slice of good fortune away from following in the footsteps of West Ham and Leicester City in challenging for European qualification. So what are they missing?
It’s easy to point out the fact that their 2-0 win over Brentford was just their first in 12 games, but dig a bit deeper and many people would assert that said win was only a matter of time.
Prior to Sunday’s result, Potter’s men had in fact only lost three of the aforementioned 12 games since they beat Swansea in the Carabao Cup in September. Whilst late goals in draws against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton showcased a steely resilience not commonly associated with teams on a winless run.
The root of their problems, therefore, comes in failing to capitalise on games where they have the upper hand. Goalless draws against Leeds and Norwich are symptomatic of a team who whilst perhaps not lacking in belief, lack the clinical edge necessary to turn one point into three. This is not a new problem either, as Brighton recorded 14 draws last season (the most in the league).
This is a trend that Potter will be keen to eradicate, for a team that tends to draw the majority of their games is one that for all their guile and finesse end up looking over their shoulders at the end of the season. Just ask Fulham fans last season.
Neal Maupay perfectly represents the catch 22 situation that Brighton find themselves in at the moment. A player noted for his desire to wind up opposition players and fans alike his late goals have provided many a memorable moment for Brighton’s fans this season.
However, in lacking the clinical edge of a player like Jamie Vardy, Maupay struggles to find the same balance as the Leicester frontman has between his antics on and off the field. Brighton miss an out and out striker to compliment the Frenchman and Leandro Trossard’s use as a makeshift foil for Maupay is a temporary solution that only inhibits the midfielder’s ability to progress the ball from deep.
Brighton remain a defensively strong team, and in Trossard and Tariq Lamptey they possess players capable of singlehandedly taking control of a game. But ultimately they will likely have to look to the transfer market in order to bring a cutting edge to their forward line.
Striking a balance between hard-to-beat and a ruthless winning machine is easier said than done, but with Potter at the helm, Brighton are in a good position to finally capitalise on their immense potential.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Peter Powell – PA Images