Brighton & Hove Albion were relegated before the season started, weren’t they? Most fans were quick to write the Seagulls off back in August and they are certainly eating humble pie as we enter the halfway stage of the 2017/18 Premier League campaign. The newly-promoted side are well-placed in the middle of the table and it would take a brave man to back against them in the race to stay in the Premier League this season. The facts are simple; Brighton don’t look like relegation candidates on current form.
Home form has been a key reason for Brighton’s good start to the season. Since losing to Manchester City on the opening weekend, the Amex Stadium has been a fortress for the Seagulls. Brighton are unbeaten in six home games, winning two of those whilst drawing four and crucially, scoring in five of those six games at the Amex Stadium. Clean sheets have been few and far between but as long as the Seagulls are scoring goals, they will give themselves a real chance of victory.
For the most part of the season, Brighton have been written off – one example of this can be found in the Oddschecker preview ahead of their clash with Stoke City in November. But time and time again, the Seagulls defy the odds. That 2-2 draw with the Potters saw Chris Hughton’s side move to five Premier League games unbeaten and although that run is now over, losing 1-0 away at Manchester United was by no means a disappointing result.
December is always a difficult month for promoted clubs; the games come thick and fast and the pressure of the upcoming transfer window can be an unwelcome distraction for managers and players alike. Fortunately for Brighton, four of their next six Premier League games are at home and Hughton will be quietly confident of racking up as many points on the board as possible. Of the two away fixtures, one of those is a winnable game against Huddersfield Town. Brighton need to start turning some of these draws into victories – avoiding defeat is important but too many draws can hinder momentum.
A trip to high-flying Chelsea on Boxing Day followed by an epic journey up to Newcastle on December 30th is hardly ideal but Brighton cannot have too many complaints with their festive schedule. Some clubs are playing two matches in the space of three days and it may work out better for Brighton than most of their top-flight rivals. Despite Brighton’s sublime start, you’d have to rank them as relegation contenders still – staying in the top flight is the primary objective for the Seagulls this campaign.
In order for Brighton to remain competitive for the entire season, the Seagulls are going to have to back Hughton with sufficient funds for the transfer window. Buying midway through the season is a risk but needs must and Brighton need a couple of players to help freshen things up. Signing big names isn’t a necessity but adding depth to key areas of the pitch is vital. For example, Glenn Murray has been in great form in 2017/18 but if he was to suffer a long-term injury, who would step up and score the goals?
And that might explain why Brighton have been heavily linked with Espanyol striker Leo Baptistao this month. According to numerous reports, Southampton are also interested in signing the 25-year-old in the January transfer window and a move to England’s top flight is preferred to any another European league. With three goals so far this campaign, he isn’t the most prolific striker in Spanish football but he is capable of doing a job as a competent backup and support in attack is required. The Brazilian is going to be a man in demand when the transfer window officially opens next month.
Look at some of the teams involved in the Premier League relegation scrap. Everton should start to climb the table with Sam Allardyce now at the helm, whilst Alan Pardew is certainly capable of leading West Bromwich Albion to safety. In addition, David Moyes could be the right man for West Ham United after their torrid run of fixtures is over and all three clubs will be quietly confident of avoiding the drop. Brighton aren’t safe by any means – it would be foolish for Hughton and co to relax just yet.
Football is a funny old game. Brighton were outstanding against Manchester United at Old Trafford but laboured to an uninspiring and goalless draw against Crystal Palace in front of an expectant Amex Stadium just a few days later. Hughton knows that winning those home fixtures against the likes of Palace, Stoke City and Newcastle United could be pivotal to Brighton’s survival hopes. The financial incentive of staying in England’s top flight should be enough to convince Tony Bloom and the Seagulls board to invest in January.
Staying in the Premier League is estimated to be worth around £170 million to any club – not a figure to be sniffed at by any stretch. Brighton have laid the foundations for a successful season and Hughton will be demanding that his players maintain their current intensity for the rest of the campaign. Letting themselves down in the second half would be a huge disappointment to everyone; the Seagulls have been very entertaining to watch so far this campaign and an influx of talent in the transfer window should help.
Brighton will want to be safe before mid-April when they will be greeted by an incredibly difficult run in. After hosting Tottenham Hotspur, the Seagulls will travel to high flying Burnley for what may turn out to be a decisive fixture in the relegation battle. In May, Hughton’s men will play just two Premier League games – the season is finishing slightly earlier than usual due to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. One of those matches is a home tie with Manchester United and the other, on the final day of the campaign, is a trip to Anfield. With both clubs competing near the top of the table, that could be a difficult way to end the season.
Picking three clubs to drop into the Championship at this stage of the campaign is difficult – it would be foolish to condemn any side just yet. Brighton cannot afford to take anybody for granted; every game in England’s top flight is a tough game. The mindset for Hughton’s men this year has to be spot on. If Brighton allow complacency to sneak in, they will quickly start to fall down the Premier League ladder. You only need to look at the league standing of talent-laden squads at Everton and West Ham to see how unforgiving this division is.
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 30, 2017
The Seagulls are doing everything right at the present moment and a positive run of results over the festive period could give Hughton’s men a major lift. Stamina shouldn’t be an issue as Brighton were used to playing 46 games a season in England’s second tier and their run of fixtures could be tougher. With that in mind, Hughton’s side could end the year in a strong position ahead of what could be a memorable second half of the 2017/18 Premier League campaign.
Brighton have the tools needed to stay in the Premier League this season and if they carry on in the same vein, they will almost certainly avoid the drop. Chris Hughton has done a good job of keeping his players grounded but the second half of the season will be more important than the first. Getting off to a good start will help but as we’ve seen many times in the past, finishing is the key. On current form, you’d be hard-pressed to claim that the Seagulls will drop down at the first time of asking. Brighton are better than at least six or seven Premier League rivals.LIKE/FOLLOW