Premier League restart preview No 4: Brighton | Football


What was the situation when the Premier League was suspended on 13 March? Yet to win this year, the season was beginning to slip away from Graham Potter and his squad. They remain in a precarious position two points and three places above the relegation zone but the enforced break has at least earned some respite. Few clubs, if any, have been as transparent as Brighton during the lockdown period but there is no hiding from the task facing a team who have forgotten how to break down opponents. Too many players have flitted in and out of games but, when called on, Glenn Murray remains a trusty option and Neal Maupay is edging towards double figures in his first season in the top flight. The onus rests on Potter, given a six-year contract in November following an encouraging start, to turn things round. “All the games in this league are quite brutal,” he said after their last game three months ago, a stalemate at Wolves. “That’s the beauty of the challenge. We know we can play football and we have to do the nasty things well.”

What about now? Aside from José Izquierdo, Brighton will resume at full strength. The 19-year-old Tariq Lamptey, a £3m January signing from Chelsea, is likely to make his debut as the games come thick and fast and in the Argentina-born Alexis Mac Allister, who provided a spark on debut off the bench at Molineux in March, they possess a useful wildcard. Things may get worse before they get better – they face Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester United in their next three matches – but Brighton rarely roll over, losing by a three-goal margin only once this season, at Manchester City in August. Brighton made it clear they opposed neutral venues and playing behind closed doors at the Amex Stadium at least means Potter will have no problem making his voice heard.

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What needs to be done to have a successful end to the season? Brighton have hardly been free-scoring but they equally need to stop the ball going in at the other end to give themselves a chance. They have conceded the opening goal in eight of their past 10 matches – six draws and four defeats since the turn of the year – and have kept only two clean sheets in their past 19. When they drew at Sheffield United in February, Potter acknowledged the opposition were more cohesive because of the understanding they have built over time, confirmation his side remain a work in progress. They have controlled plenty of games but Potter has often bemoaned fine margins; going forward they are profligate and, at the back, too soft. A well-run club, Brighton have designs of establishing themselves as a top-10 team but they may have to temper their style to ensure their long-term future remains in the top division.

Have the players and staff behaved during lockdown? Impeccably. No one has even got a slap on the wrist.

Any unsung/community heroes? Brighton arguably led the way in terms of charity efforts while the league was halted. Players and directors raised more than £300,000 for the Albion As One fund, a campaign that has helped charities across Sussex, including Rise, a refuge that provides support to people affected by domestic abuse and violence. The club also delivered food parcels and reached out to more than 2,000 elderly supporters and the Amex was converted into a drive-in Covid-19 testing centre. In between all that, the club pledged to donate 1,000 tickets to NHS workers (Bournemouth agreed to match their gesture) and they released a special-edition home shirt adorned with the words “Thank You NHS”, with all profits going to NHS charities. The winger Steven Alzate donated to a foundation supporting homeless and vulnerable people in Villavicencio, the Colombian city where his father, Hector, was born.

Key player in the run-in? Aaron Connolly. The 20-year-old Republic of Ireland striker may not have scored since the double on his full league debut against Tottenham in October but, fit-again following ankle surgery, he will provide welcome zest and a nifty alternative to Maupay and the evergreen Murray.

Aaron Connolly

Aaron Connolly has not scored since October but his pace and zest could be vital. Photograph: Phil Westlake/News Images/Shutterstock

End-of-season prediction Potter faces a challenge to find a winning formula with such a testing schedule but experienced heads could help Brighton keep their nerve: 18th.

Remaining games (all times BST): Sat 20 June Arsenal (h) 3pm, BT Sport Tue 23 June Leicester (a) 6pm, Sky Sports Tue 30 June Manchester United (h) 8.15pm, Sky Sports TBC Norwich (a), Liverpool (h), Manchester City (h), Southampton (a), Newcastle (h), Burnley (a).


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