After the shortest pre-season break in modern times, Premier League football returned to Brighton and the Amex Stadium to get the 2020/21 season underway.
The Seagulls went down 3-1 to Chelsea in their opening game of the new campaign, but there was enough there to offer encouragement to Brighton fans going forward into the season. That confidence seemed to be well placed when Brighton then travelled all the way up to Newcastle and came away with a decent 3-0 victory.
Indeed, there is plenty of reason for Seagulls fans to be excited as the club goes into its fourth consecutive year in the Premier League. On the other hand, we can cite some areas of concern. Below we give a progress report on Brighton’s transfer business and start to the new season, asking whether it bodes well for Graham Potter and his team.
The opening game
It’s always disheartening to lose the first game of the season, and losing can become habitual. However, was anyone truly surprised? Chelsea, who have splashed out £230 million this summer, were naturally backed to get the win in previews of the Premier League’s opening games.
However, Brighton were unlucky not to come away with something, and battled back well after going a goal down. Chelsea’s quality did tell in the end, but Brighton will come up against teams of lesser stature than the Blues more often than not this season.
That big win at Newcastle
The scalp of the Magpies should not be underestimated in its significance. Newcastle started the season well and were full of confidence, but Potter’s men, notably Neal Maupay, were having none of it. The Frenchman scored the opener and assisted another as Brighton made Newcastle suffer. Seagulls fans will take that 3-0 win gladly, and hopefully the team can build upon it.
The headline arrival is, of course, Adam Lallana. The former Liverpool man becomes the highest earner in Brighton’s history after a free transfer from the Premier League champions. The hope is that he adds the bit of quality needed for Brighton to build around, but, as we will discuss later, Lallana might not be the knight in shining armour Brighton fans expect. Indeed, perhaps the most important bit of transfer business done this season is keeping captain Lewis Dunk at the club. The defender has been heavily linked with a £40 million move to Chelsea, coincidentally. So, Brighton fans will be counting the days until the transfer window closes early next month.
There is a good atmosphere around the club, and the squad has a nice mix of youth and experience. That will help young players like Tariq Lamptey progress. The 19-year-old was the standout performer for the Seagulls against Chelsea (his former club) and Newcastle (along with Maupay), and he offers an exciting mix of defensive tenacity and exciting forward play from the right-wing back position. Don’t be surprised to see England boss Gareth Southgate having a look at young Lamptey at various points throughout the season. Elsewhere, keep an eye on Joel Veltman. The versatile Dutch international defender came on a cut-price deal from Ajax, and he already looks the sort who could be a leader for the club.
Graham Potter now has over a year in charge at Brighton after replacing Chris Hughton, and the majority of fans have been happy with the boss over that time. He looks pretty secure in the job, too, and it would take a disastrous run of form to see the board look to get rid of him.
We mentioned Lallana above, and the problem that will worry Brighton fans is the player’s injury record. The ex-Liverpool man is a fine player with 34 England caps, but his record of injuries is poor, and, true to form, he limped off during his debut against Chelsea. He hasn’t played over 15 league games in a season since 2016/17, and Brighton will want twice that number out of a player who is expected to earn around £90,000 per week.
What constitutes a good season for Brighton? Let’s be realistic about it: Any season that does not end up in relegation is a good one for a club of Brighton’s stature – that’s the harsh reality of the Premier League.
The good news is that Brighton are odds-on at 1/5 (price from MansionBet) to stay up. But Potter, the board, and the fans will want more than simply avoiding relegation. Brighton’s last three finishing positions in the Premier League have been 15th, 17th and 15th. Anything above that and fans will see it as a success. For Potter and the board, it will provide a platform for their main goal – to establish Brighton as a stalwart Premier League club.