Pre-Match Review | Brighton & Hove Albion (A)
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Sheffield United - 21/12/2019
English Premier League
Graham Potter’s Swansea City side beat Sheffield United twice last season and could go within 2 points of the Blades with a win on Saturday.
Last Time Out
Sheffield United 3 (Jagielka 53, Ifill 64, Tonge 75) vs 1 (Kazim-Richards 83) - 21/01/2006
Coca-Cola Football League Championship
3 second-half goals for Neil Warnock’s side ensured that the Blades’ 12 point cushion on Leeds United in 3rd place remained intact as they coasted towards the Premier League.
Having drawn with Ipswich Town in their previous fixture and being knocked out by Colchester United in the FA Cup 3rd Round before that, the Blades were looking to find the form which saw them win 3 games in a row, beating Southampton, Stoke City and Hull City after losing 3-1 to Norwich City on Boxing Day.
The Seagulls were second best throughout but scored with their only shot on target through Colin Kazim-Richards, who would join Sheffield United in the summer of that year.
Phil Jagielka was paired with Michael Tonge in the middle of the park that afternoon, meaning defensive duties were left with Derek Geary, Lee Bromby, Craig Short and David Unsworth and full back Chris Armstrong were deployed as a left winger, with Paul Ifil covering the other flank.
A goalless first half brought very little to write about aside from Steve Kabba getting a foot on an Unsworth free-kick but it went wide and Paul Ifil also had a decent chance, but Sheffield United supporters wouldn’t have to wait long after the interval for the opening goal with Jagielka opening the scoring 8 minutes into the second half with a thunderous left-footed volley from an Armstrong cross. Ifil then added a second in the 64th minute before Tonge completed the scoring for the home side on the 75th minute.
Club hero Brian Deane would make his third debut for the club in the 81st minute, replacing Neil Shipperly and almost scored if it wasn’t for a great save from goalkeeper Michel Kuipers.
Deane and Jagielka weren’t the only players who featured in this game who would go down in Sheffield United folklore, Dean Hammond played for Brighton that afternoon.
Summer at Brighton & Hove Albion
Notable Ins: Adam Webster (£20m, Bristol City), Neil Maupay (£16m, Brentford), Leandro Trossard (£15m, Genk), Matt Clarke (£5m, Portsmouth), Taylor Richards (£2.5m, Manchester City), Romaric Yapi (Undisclosed, Paris-Saint Germain), Lewis Freestone (Free, Peterborough United), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town, Loan)
Notable Outs: Markus Suttner (£2m, Fortuna Dusseldorf), Ales Mateju (Undisclosed, Brescia), Richie Towell (Free, Salford City), Tomer Hemed (Free, Charlton Athletic), Anthony Knockaert (Loan, Fulham), Alexis MacAllister (Loan, Boca Juniors), Jan Mlakar (Loan, Queens Park Rangers), Percy Tau (Loan, Club Brugge), Matt Clarke (Loan, Derby County), Beram Kayal (Loan, Charlton Athletic), Jürgen Locadia (Loan, TSG Hoffenheim), Florin Andone (Loan, Galatasaray)
The most notable incoming at Brighton & Hove Albion isn’t on the list above and that is their head coach Graham Potter, who joined Brighton from Swansea City this summer.
Dan Ashworth, the former director of elite development at the FA joined the club in Spring 2019 and has been given the task of taking Brighton to the next level.
This left the club with a fairly difficult decision and decided to part company with Chris Hughton, whose style of play left a lot to be desired and struggled to integrate the technically better players that the club had signed.
Potter had just taken Swansea to a 10th place finish in the Championship, after trimming the wage bill significantly, introducing a number of young players to the first team and playing an exciting brand of football, something which we’ve associated with Swansea over recent years and something we hadn’t seen from them for a while following a series of dodgy appointments and signings which ultimately led to their relegation from the Premier League.
Whilst it was recognised that Potter could be a shrewd appointment for the Seagulls. Many also saw it as a case of ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’. Hughton had a track record of keeping clubs in England’s top-flight (as well as a relegation with Norwich City),was generally well-received for being a ‘good bloke’, which seems to go a long way amongst the footballing fraternity and many had decided that 17th is the best a club of Brighton’s stature could have hoped for.
Potter is part of a breed of managers who (Wilder included) have shown that there is more than just ‘trying to stay up’. They have ideas of how the game is played and stand by those ideas. So does Chris Hughton I suppose, but the fact that the likes of Potter and Wilder are bringing newer and fresher ideas to the game whilst the likes of Hughton, Pardew and Allardyce (the latter will tell you it is because of his nationality rather than his now-dated ideas) aren’t even being considered by clubs at the lower end of the Premier League anymore shows what a modern football club wants and what they can achieve with something different.
They also signed Neil Maupay, who I would have loved United to have signed this Summer.
Brighton & Hove Albion’s Recent Form
The Seagulls are currently unbeaten in 3 games following a win over Arsenal at The Emirates and draws over Wolverhampton Wanderers and bitter rivals Crystal Palace.
Prior to those fixtures they had lost 3 consecutive games to Manchester United, Liverpool and Leicester City, there isn’t much shame in losing to any of those teams and they could have got something at Anfield following Allison’s red card.
The Seagulls were in 8th position before the trip to Old Trafford in November having won 2 games on the trot for the first time since March, defeating Everton and Norwich respectively.
"Aaron Connolly should be ready for the weekend, he's trained this week. We have no other problems from Monday and of course Dale Stephens back too. It's just Solly March and Jose Izquierdo out." - On Injuries
"They're well-organised and have good quality, I'm not surprised with how well they've done after I saw them last year. I had a lot of respect for Chris Wilder anyway having seen his work in the Championship. It's nice for Football and the competition that the team can come up and do so well."- On Chris Wilder & Sheffield United
“I haven’t really taken notice of that to be honest. Every side has a video analysis team so I don’t think they are. There is lazy journalism about us but you have to accept that you’re going to have these opinions on you in the Premier League." - On the 'basic' label
“They know more than anyone that they’ve got to keep performing, players have to keep improving - we’re happy with the group but we’re always looking to improve." - On Improvement
Opposition Style of Play
Potter has been described as a progressive coach with unconventional ideas, dating back to his time at Swedish side Östersund, where players would take part in Music and Theatre productions in a bid to build team spirit, togetherness and to take players out of their usual comfort zones. Obviously this is easier to do at a club like Östersund and one can’t imagine that that particular act would go down well with multi-millionaire Premier League footballers, but you can imagine that a coach of Potter’s resources has found a way to build a strong dressing room at Brighton.
He has described his own sides as being tactically flexible, attacking and possession-based.
The legendary Swedish striker Henrik Larsson, who will have come up against Potter has spoken of how his Östersund side would change their formation a number of times during a game, whilst every player was fully aware of the roles they had to carry out.
So far this season we have seen his team play a vast array of formations and systems, on the opening day against Watford they played a 3-4-1-2 and in their last game against Crystal Palace they played a 4-2-3-1 and we’ve also seen them line up in a 4-4-2 and variations of that.
Regardless of the formation, the principles stay the same, Potter has cited Pep Guardiola’s philosophy of Juego de Posición (which translates as ‘positional play’, a philosophy based on what players need to do in certain areas in certain phases of the game).
Dan Burn played as a left sided centre half in the first game and is now playing as a left-back. Given the roles and responsibilities of the modern-day full-back, this is something you wouldn’t think a 6ft 7 player would be able to do, but this is a testament to Potter’s methods and the way the players appear to have bought into them almost instantly.
For a further understanding of how Potter wants his teams to play, I encourage you to watch his coaches voice video, where he talks through how his Östersund team beat Galatasaray in the Europa League.
There are comparisons to be made with Wilder in how they both value unity, how every player is aware of their role and how it works in the system overall and how they utilise the space that is created from movement.
I think I need to stay optimistic about our run away from home, rather than fretting about how it is going to end and just enjoying it while it lasts. 1-0 to the Blades.
David McGoldrick to score first at 8/1 (SkyBet); Muhamed Besic to be carded at 17/10 (SkyBet)
I would play the same team that beat Villa, with Besic coming in for the suspended Fleck.
Potter appears to favour a back 4 at the moment but it wouldn't come as a surprise if they played a 3.