After a 15th place finish last season, Premier League survival will again be the aim for Brighton & Hove Albion this campaign.
And whilst last season they defended admirably, it is goals that lacked in Graham Potter’s side, and the Seagulls will be hoping for an improvement in the final third.
In his first year in the Premier League, Potter gained many admirers for a style of play which suited the Seagulls, with Albion very easy on the eye all season but with ten games to go they sat just one point above the bottom three. However, some eye-catching performances late on moved them clear of danger.
But with just two recognised strikers ahead of the new season, the Seagulls will be looking at goals from other areas of the pitch to support Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly this term having only scored 39 goals in 38 games last season.
Enter Adam Lallana. Albion beat several fellow Premier League clubs to the signature of the former England international after he left Liverpool this summer, and his creativity could help solve that issue provided he steers clear of injury.
Brighton fans will also be hoping for a big season from Leandro Trossard. The Belgian showed glimpses of his ability during his debut campaign, but will need to produce finishes such as his strikes against Liverpool and Norwich more consistently.
Apart from out-and-out frontmen, the 25-year old leads the candidates to be offering more goals and assists this season and Seagulls followers will be hoping that be the case.
Another talking point will be the defence, with Potter having the services of Ben White this season following his successful loan spell at Leeds United last term. The Seagulls boss will need to keep a settled backline, with the likes of Adam Webster, Dan Burn and Dutch international Joel Veltman all able to line up in the centre of defence alongside club captain Lewis Dunk. Even after the departure of Shane Duffy to Celtic, there remains a plethora of options and Potter must avoid the temptation to chop and change.
The Seagulls have prepared for the new season with three friendlies, two of them coming against fellow Premier League opposition, both culminating in draws.
They kicked off pre-season with a 3-0 win against Portsmouth at their Lancing training base, with Connolly scoring a brace before Pascal Gross completed the scoring in Sussex.
Chelsea were then the visitors to the AMEX Stadium, despite playing them in their opening Premier League fixture, and a late Gross penalty saw them draw 1-1 with Frank Lampard’s side. Timo Werner had given the Blues an early lead in a game which saw White get his first start since returning from Leeds as the Seagulls opted for a back three, something which we could see a lot more of this term.
And Albion rounded off their pre-season schedule with a goalless draw with West Brom last weekend. Despite the absence of several players on international duty, the game provided a good test for the Seagulls and they will be looking to continue to improve going into their opening game on Monday night.
The Seagulls stated their intent when they fought off several Premier League clubs for the signing of Adam Lallana in the summer, but they’ve also strengthened in defence through Dutch international Joel Veltman.
Lallana has been plagued by injuries in his career thus far, and the opportunity of regular first team football at the south coast is there for him should he stay clear of injury.
Away from those two, its been the outgoings that have had people talking, with Anthony Knockaert making his move to Fulham permanent after last season’s loan, whilst Aaron Mooy, Martin Montoya and second choice keeper David Button all left the south coast permanently, with Shane Duffy, Glenn Murray and Jurgen Locadia was sent out on loan by Potter.
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Lewis Dunk has been a stand-out figure in the Seagulls defence in the Premier League, and the Albion skipper will again prove crucial to his side’s success this season.
The England international had been linked with top six sides such as Chelsea and Tottenham over the summer, before putting pen to paper on a new five-year deal at the end of August.
The 28-year old won Albion’s Player of the Year accolade last term, and having come through the club’s Academy has played close to 300 games for the Seagulls across three division.
With clubs no doubt keeping a track on the defender’s progress this season, the Seagulls will hope he can repeat if not better his performances of recent years and help the club continue its recent progress.
A breakthrough talent
Tariq Lamptey raised eyebrows when he left Chelsea for the south coast in January, but the 19-year old has certainly impressed in his short time at the Seagulls.
And the right-back was rewarded for his consistent displays by winning his first cap for England U21’s as they beat Austria 2-1 in a Euro qualifier last week.
Potter has already shown trust in the youngster, who was given the nod for one of Brighton’s most crucial matches of the season against Norwich last term ahead of experienced alternatives and hasn’t looked back since.
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Brighton have often been described in the media as ‘too good to go down’ and this season looks likely to be the same.
Potter’s side lack goals, with hopes pinned on Neal Maupay improving on his debut season tally of 10. Otherwise they are reliant on goals coming from midfield.
The Seagulls will also be looking to turn more draws into wins after sharing the points in 14 games last term – no other team drew more games – whilst maintaining their good defensive record.