Brighton & Hove Albion are a Premier League club, it’s been a year and it still hasn’t sunk in! Last season was a huge success. After being one of the favourites for the drop, we secured Premier League survival without being involved in a proper relegation scrap, finishing 15th. This season, the main goal yet again will be survival, hopefully avoiding the infamous ‘second season syndrome’. We have been extremely active in the summer transfer window, making 8 first team signings and adding quality depth to our squad whilst maintaining the organised core that was so crucial last season. Because there are many new faces, I am going to provide an overview of the current squad, including a couple of notes which could create even more headaches for your fantasy football team!
Maty Ryan (4.5m) is a certainty to start between the sticks after an impressive first season at the club. After a slightly shaky start, he has improved and grown into his position, becoming a fans favourite at the Amex. After accumulating 124 saves last season, the Australian finished with a very respectable 146 fantasy points and he will be popular amongst those who favour the rotating goalkeeper strategy in FPL. David Button (4.0m) and Jason Steele (4.0m) were both signed as backups, with one eye on the homegrown quota which Premier League clubs must follow. However, this situation will get particularly interesting in January when Ryan joins his country for the Asian Cup. Australia are the current champions and should progress far which could see Maty miss around a month of the season, so one of the backups, most likely Button, will have to step in. This means there will be a £4.0m starting goalkeeper in FPL, although our fixtures for that month are tough, including Liverpool and Manchester United.
Let’s begin with the Brighton-born centre back who played every single minute last season and carried us to 10 clean sheets, Lewis Dunk (4.5m). When selecting FPL teams, some people may avoid him because he somehow managed to put 4 goals into his own net last season, but I believe he will score more in the right end this time out, he’s due some good luck! Dunk has a higher goal threat than people realise, in fact, he was our top goalscorer in the 2014/15 season, scoring 7 in all competitions! In addition, the underlying stats are encouraging for Dunk as his expected goals per game (xG90) was greater than centre backs such as Harry Maguire and Virgil van Dijk last season. The 26-year old’s partnership with Shane Duffy (4.5m) has been vital, with the pair making an eye-catching number of blocks and clearances. However, Shane’s place in the team is under more pressure than ever after the arrival of Nigerian international Leon Balogun (4.5m), who was impressive at the World Cup. Balogun provides serious competition for the second centre back spot, and he will be straight in if Duffy isn’t performing to the levels that are expected. Duffy has also struggled with a groin injury which reappeared in a preseason friendly, but I expect him and Dunk to start in the first game of the season, providing Duffy makes a full recovery.
There are still question marks over the full back areas. The signing of Bernardo (4.5m) adds quality to the defence and he will take the place of Gaetan Bong (4.5m) at left back. His versatility means he would be comfortable playing at right back and defensive midfield, but has only played on the left in preseason, which Hughton obviously sees as his best position. The Brazilian managed 1 goal and 1 assist in his 15 starts for German side RB Leipzig last season and has experience of playing at the highest level. Markus Suttner (4.0m) is the forgotten man, we probably won’t see him feature much this season even though I think he’s decent! Right back is an obvious weak point. Ezequiel Schelotto (4.0m) and Bruno (4.5m) are the only options and I’m very surprised we haven’t dipped into the transfer market here as it is clear we need an upgrade. Schelotto isn’t bad going forward but was often exposed defensively and he is scarily unpredictable. If we don’t sign a new right back, he might be a good FPL option as a £4.0m defender as he will get game time and could even get attacking returns. 37-year-old Bruno is full of flair, which was typified with an outrageous rabona assist in a preseason friendly against Crawley but, despite his excellent natural fitness, he will not be able to play every week. In the first 7 games, we face last season’s top four, so I would avoid the defensive options. In complete contrast, the 9 games that follow are very favourable and I would certainly suggest buying a Brighton defender, or Maty Ryan. This also gives us two months to get a clear understanding of our strongest back four, as that is currently up for debate.
In the middle, Dale Stephens (4.5m) and Davy Pröpper (5.0m) formed a great partnership last season, but not in FPL terms as neither managed to find the back of the net. Their importance to the team cannot be underestimated and their consistency is what keeps the team ticking. They started 33 games alongside each other which particularly highlights how fortunate Brighton were with injuries, or lack thereof. With only Beram Kayal (4.5m) as backup last season, the signing of Yves Bissouma (5.0m) bolstered the midfield options and creates strong competition for places. The exciting 21-year-old signed from Lille for a fee thought to be around £15 million, and from what I’ve seen so far, he’s a well-rounded, skilful youngster who will add extra drive to the midfield. 1.7 shots per game is higher than Stephens and Pröpper’s totals combined, albeit in Ligue 1. Bissouma will be eased into the team, much like our other signings, but it certainly gives Hughton more scope to change the line-up for certain situations. Playing just behind the striker is a man who doesn’t need much of an introduction, Pascal Groβ (7.0m). 7 goals and 8 assists in a fantastic debut season, most likely featuring in your FPL team at some point! He’s the ideal player for the role; a hard-worker who seems to be involved in every attack, contributing to 44% of our total goals last season. Pascal’s set pieces are key, he completed the most corners in the league and is probably going to be on penalty duty instead of Murray this season. One issue is how ineffective he can be when playing away from home as Hughton favours a much more defensive approach, but we had the worst away record in the league so hopefully we reconsider our tactics! You could argue that he’s slightly overpriced in FPL and, as much as I love him, I will be looking elsewhere in the opening stages of the season. Although as mentioned before, from gameweek 8-16 the fixtures are about as kind as they get and Groβ will certainly be in my team if he shows signs of replicating last season’s form.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh (7.0m) is the latest summer signing, causing excitement levels to reach new highs among the Albion fanbase! After failing to sign the Iranian international back in 2015, we tried everything we could to ensure he was a Brighton player, holding off interest from Leicester to secure his signature for a club record £17 million transfer. Last season in the Eredivisie, Jahanbakhsh bagged 21 goals and 12 assists in 33 games which is impressive in any league, especially for a winger. I’ve only heard good things about him, he’s certainly one to keep an eye on as he has the potential to be a star in this team. Alireza can play out wide and centrally and is most likely going to take the place of Anthony Knockaert (5.5m) in the starting 11, who was slightly underwhelming last year, but will still be a key asset in the team. The 2016/17 Championship player of the season was in fine form towards the end of the last campaign and will start against Watford, especially because Jahanbakhsh has openly admitted he’s currently behind in terms of match fitness due to a limited preseason. Determined to prove the doubters wrong, Knockaert won’t be giving up his place easily and has looked superb in recent preseason games. Jose Izquierdo (6.0m) has already shown what he can do, his pace and power made him a huge attacking threat cutting inside from the left flank. The Colombian featured in the World Cup so had an extended holiday, making him unlikely to start in the first game. But when he returns, he could be an ultra-differential in FPL as he’s only owned by 0.6%. When he hits form, he can be unstoppable and is a cheaper alternative to Groβ, allowing you to spread the funds across other positions in your team. Solly March (5.0m) is very much fourth choice but still has a part to play, he will most likely start on the left wing against Watford as Izquierdo and Jahanbakhsh aren’t quite up to speed yet. It’s also worth noting that, much like Maty Ryan, Jahanbakhsh will be off to the Asian Cup in the new year so we will have to cope without him for a month, this is when the added squad depth will be very important.
Glenn Murray (6.5m) performed above all expectations last season, netting 12 league goals including match winners against Arsenal and Swansea. The 34-year-old has been excellent but some of the weight needs to be taken off his shoulders this time around, as we relied on him too much last season. A minor back injury has meant his preseason minutes have been fewer than planned, but Hughton is confident he will be fit for the opening weekend. Cut-price summer signing Florin Andone (5.0m) has only just returned from injury himself and he will need some time to settle in, but he could eventually take Murray’s place. He scored 7 goals in 16 starts in La Liga last season for a relegated side and using the expected goals (xG) stat, it shows he “should’ve” scored around 11, more than a goal every other game. If he has his shooting boots on and cements a place in the team, he has the potential to become a true FPL bargain! Jurgen Locadia (5.5m) will have a chance to prove himself after a slow start to his Brighton career, and he adds to the growing competition for the striker role, giving Hughton a real headache. I’ve seen glimpses of quality, but it seems like he lacks confidence so a run in the team would do him the world of good. It looked like Tomer Hemed (5.0m) wouldn’t get much game time but he has had a fantastic preseason, and injuries to his striking counterparts means he should play a role in the opening fixture, whether that’s a start or a place on the bench.
Predicted Starting XI v Watford (GW1):
Ryan; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bernardo; Knockaert, Stephens, Pröpper, March; Groβ; Murray.