The league table doesn’t lie, as they say in football. And so, as the 2020/21 Premier League season reaches its climax, Brighton and Hove Albion fans will wince when they see the league table and the Seagulls’ position.
Brighton are 16th, two places above the relegation zone. It’s been tough at times for Graham Potter’s men this season.
But while the league table suggests struggles, pundits and – you would argue – fans, have been pretty happy with Brighton of late. The team has put in some stirring performances, including a dominant 3-0 win over Newcastle last weekend that calmed some of those relegation nerves.
The problem has been goals. With some better finishing, Brighton would be much further up the table.
On the face of it, Brighton are in a relegation battle. Fulham, the team in 18th, are playing some lovely football too, and many pundits believe that Scott Parker’s men can haul themselves out of trouble, meaning someone will drop in.
Within the space of a couple of games, the gap of six points between Brighton and Fulham could be reduced to nothing. Moreover, Brighton’s next three games are against Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea.
Brighton backed to stay up
However, bookmakers believe that Brighton are unlikely to go down. The odds of relegation 25/1 quoted by the sports betting online firm 888sport suggest it’s a longshot. Those odds are long for a combination of reasons, including the poor form of other teams. But above all is the perception that Brighton are better than the position they occupy. Yes, the league table doesn’t lie, but nor does the evidence in front of one’s eyes when a team plays with confidence and slickness.
As mentioned, the problem is goals. Only Neal Maupay (8) has scored more than five in the league. The Frenchman has been an excellent servant for Brighton, but he is not what you would call prolific. Players like Danny Welbeck and Aaron Connolly have pitched in with a few goals, but it is clear that Brighton need a dependable striker. 21-year-old Connolly might become that figure one day, but the Premier League exists ‘in the now’ and Brighton need goals.
However, there is a lot of positivity to take from this. Adding goals to the team is the final piece of the puzzle for Graham Potter’s plans at the Amex Stadium. That may seem like a fundamental problem, but it’s clear that Brighton have a platform to build on. You could see an accomplished striker, like Brentford’s Ivan Toney, slotting into Potter’s system with little trouble.
Brighton may need to break transfer record
Of course, needing a striker and getting the right one are two different things. Players like Toney would command a huge transfer fee – breaking Brighton’s record outlay of £20 million paid for Maupay and Adam Webster. But if the board can identify their man and persuade him to come to the club, then you could see the Seagulls rocket up the table next season.
Potter deserves a lot of credit. He had contended that his side would have an upturn in form – and results – after a tough period across December and mid-January. The manager resisted calls for a change of style and tactics, but Potter believes in his system, as do his players. If the bookmakers are to be believed, Brighton will once again be in the Premier League next season. But if Potter’s plans are realised, then the fans can look forward to something more than another relegation battle.