Now that the Premier League fixtures have been officially announced, Brighton know that in just three weeks’ time they will be facing an incredible task in their first match as title contenders Chelsea visit the AMEX on Monday 14th September. With the season so close, fans are all tentatively dreaming of greater successes to follow in this fourth consecutive top-flight season thinking about where the club could possibly finish with one question on their minds: Will it be a season to remember or one they would much rather forget? Written by Matthew Meehan
Well, if the past three years are any indicator to the hopes of the city then relegation will clearly be at the back of everyone’s minds considering the fact that they have finished 15th, 17th and now 15th again with the just concluded campaign seeing them caught on the edge of the relegation battle until the final few weeks when they survived by only 7 points and the joint 3rd lowest number of goals scored by any team across the entire competition.
This is also even more notable when considering the fact that the 2020/21 season will arguably be more difficult than the last as while all three of Norwich, Bournemouth and Watford were competitive, the now promoted teams in Leeds, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion all boast Premier League quality players with the financial backing and managerial acumen to really strengthen their squads and make it very difficult for them not to survive relegation and remain in the league next year.
However, Brighton have a great platform to build on for the upcoming campaign with Graham Potter now in his second season where he has time to develop and experiment so that there is now a much better idea of the tactical approach as well as the players he needs, the players he can move on and how to build a squad that can really make an impression.
This will be impacted by the current speculation surrounding the futures of key players like Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy whose immediate future is unclear, while Ben White is still considered to be a 50/50 decision in the mind of the manager as to whether this season is the right one for his inclusion and the front line is in desperate need of improvement with names like Jurgen Locadia failing to deliver and the team preferring to utilise inexperienced youth players such as Aaron Connolly in order to lead the strike force alongside £15 million pound signing Neal Maupay.
Despite this, Potter has shown so far to have a clear understanding of both the needs and unfolding scenarios around his key stars with a relative lack of concern over the situation as he constantly displays confidence suggesting he has planned for this and that no matter what he will have a strong, attack minded team for the new season.
Based upon this evidence and the league around it, Brighton will most likely end up with a 13th place finish at the end of the 2020/21 premier league season.
West Ham, Southampton, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace to name just a few have all lost or are expected to lose key talisman players over the summer window with some such as Jack Grealish and Wilfried Zaha being considered the driving force behind these teams who on current merit seem unlikely to replace them with equal or better talent especially considering the spark they provided for the club will also no longer exist. The Seagulls have recruited some talented and ever-growing young talent, gained experience in the shape of Liverpool’s Adam Lallana and look to be a stronger squad this year as long as they can retain or strengthen the defensive talent and provide the attacking threat they lacked, as statistically had they scored the few goals they lacked the team could have been looking at a much higher placement with an eye on the top 10 this year.
Despite the previously mentioned inexperience, a key component to this kind of improvement and establishment of the club being attainable will be the utilisation of youth sensation Aaron Connolly. His breakthrough last season into the first team from what has become a productive academy at just 20 years old was a great success with him showing he has all the tools needed to be a big name in English football with such confident performances as his two goals in the win over Tottenham that showed he was ready to make an instant impact just like his opponent that day Harry Kane, and more recently Mason Greenwood of Manchester United.
He made 27 total appearances last season and while scored just 3 goals, with a revitalised support system and the belief of the staff the sky could truly be the limit for Connolly with 10 to 15 goals this season in all competitions being a realistic possibility and his development being the crucial factor in establishing Brighton as a real threat especially as this ethos of growth is substantiated through key players such as Tariq Lamptey and Alexis MacAllister who themselves are only 19 and 21 themselves.
With this season being the possibly the most unpredictable to date, this is a solid mid table finish that is the most realistic and attainable achievement for this young and rapidly developing team who will shock some big names while also making some mistakes along the way.
Currently, this is not a team who are realistically going to be able to challenge the likes of Everton and Wolves for the top half places, yet when comparing this team to the squads coming up and those currently around them there is real obvious quality that leaves no doubt that this is where they belong, especially when considering that they would have finished here above Newcastle this season had they won only 4 more points.
I see 50 points being what they will need in order to take 13th, and with all the evidence it is where they should finish this season.
Photo credit – vbetnews