Last season was certainly a strange one. Brighton ended up in 16th, but that doesn’t quite tell the full story, as Albion were statistically the biggest underachievers in European football. It was frustrating enough having to watch the games from my sofa, but this only got worse as the season went on; week-after-week we would totally dominate teams, without the results to match. Failing to score any of our twenty-six shots against Aston Villa, Palace scoring with their only two touches inside our box, missing two penalties before losing 0-1 at the Hawthorns – and that was all in the same month! We survived, but this team is capable of so much more.
Injury problems and extended breaks resulted in a pre-season campaign that was more challenging than it should have been, and perhaps raised more questions than it answered. There are no easy games in this league, but relatively favourable fixtures to open the season means FPL managers have turned to Brighton for value. This in-depth squad report highlights every Brighton player, and hopefully solves any last-minute problems, to help point FPL managers in the right direction before the gameweek 1 deadline on Friday.
One year ago, Robert Sanchez returned to the Albion as fourth-choice goalkeeper following a valuable season-long loan at Rochdale. Since then, his rise through the ranks has been astonishing; establishing himself as the number one at Brighton and earning a call-up to the Spanish national team in the process! Robert Sanchez (4.5) has attracted plenty of attention from FPL managers and has emerged as one of the best value options this season. The impact of Ben White’s exit remains to be seen, but a generous price, coupled with kind fixtures, means Sanchez will be the highest owned Brighton player for GW1. A quick look at the stats justifies the decision of almost 25% of FPL managers. Brighton recorded the 3rd best xGA last season, behind only Chelsea and Manchester City, with Sanchez earning 10 clean sheets in his 27 appearances. Save points might be a concern due to the limited shots that Brighton concede, but in balance, Sanchez could be more likely to collect BPS for his technical skills, as he completed more passes per game than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League last season.
New signing Kjell Scherpen (4.5) provides much-needed competition following the departure of Maty Ryan. He will be given time to develop and won’t immediately challenge Sanchez for the number one shirt but, standing at 6ft 7in, he does take Dan Burn’s crown as the tallest player! Potter has repeatedly mentioned that the character and experience of Jason Steele (4.0) makes him the ideal backup goalkeeper. Even when Ryan was available for selection last season, Steele was chosen ahead of him to warm the bench. Scherpen’s minor injury means that Steele will be second choice, at least for the first month, which makes the double-up of Sanchez and Steele more attractive.
At the back…
Lively Tariq Lamptey (4.5) was the standout defensive option before another injury setback. He suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in GW13 and has struggled with recovery, which is a real shame as he has shown tremendous potential. He won’t be fit for the start of the season, and I can’t imagine him getting consistent minutes anytime soon. Even when he does overcome this nagging injury, his gametime will be cautiously managed, especially because his role within the team relies on excellent stamina and explosive acceleration.
Therefore, attention turns to the Albion’s alternative defensive assets. Joël Veltman (4.5) seems to be the most popular, possibly with the hope that the Dutchman is Lamptey’s direct replacement in the team. However, there is a Ben White-sized hole in the back three and I believe Veltman is more likely to fill in at right centre back, especially after Potter stated that he was happy to look for a solution from within the squad. This obviously could have a negative impact on his attacking output but, either way, injuries and transfers mean Veltman is much more nailed to start compared with last year. Adam Webster (4.5) only features in 0.6% of teams and is often overlooked. An underrated component of our backline, Webster is statistically one of the best defenders in the league in terms of progressions, take-ons and forward passes. This is such a crucial element of our system, and one of the reasons we can keep the ball and remain press resistant. In terms of FPL, he’s 100% nailed when fit and will keep the points ticking over. Arguably, he does have a low ceiling, as we had to wait until GW37 last season to see his first goal. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat from set pieces. Amongst defenders last season, Webster finished 9th for shots, ahead of the likes of Konsa, Mee and Cresswell. Maybe not the most exciting selection, but he will do a solid job.
If attacking potential is what you look for, then Lewis Dunk (5.0) is your man. He has been the key player in defence for many years and has always been a huge threat from set pieces, he even finished as the club’s top goalscorer in 2014/15! Out of all defenders last season, Dunk had the most shots on target and finished with 5 goals (+ a free kick against West Brom which should have counted!), while collecting more bonus points than any other Brighton player. Toe surgery at the end of last season has limited his involvement in pre-season, but hopefully he will be fit for GW1, after completing 80 minutes against Getafe. If that is the case and you have the luxury of some disposable cash, then Dunk could be an interesting option; nailed in a solid defence with significant individual goal threat, regardless of the opposition.
Dan Burn (4.5) will be a decent rotation option this season but will be unavailable for the first month due to injury. Shane Duffy (4.0) was expected to find a move away, but he has been part of our pre-season campaign due to the unavailability of Dunk and Webster. If he does remain at the club, he will be a backup at best. Suddenly, the squad feels a little light in defence, so injuries and suspensions would probably force Potter into switching to a back four.
In the middle…
Yves Bissouma (4.5) has entered a different gear under Potter and is improving every season, becoming one of the first names on the team sheet. Keeping him at the club would be the best news of the summer. Bissouma will start every week which makes him a feasible option for your FPL bench, but his high ownership means he could be more vulnerable to an early price drop. He loves a long-range shot but don’t expect assists, his final pass is his only weakness and he has only managed to create 2 big chances during his 86 Premier League appearances.
Leandro Trossard (6.5) was Brighton’s highest point scorer last season; he was involved in over a quarter of goals and will be important yet again this year. There is plenty of competition in his price bracket, resulting in an ownership of only 1.5%. The only question mark, like most of our attackers, is that he lacks consistency. But with a nice early run of fixtures, he could be a big differential, whether he plays centrally or out wide.
Pascal Groß (6.0) is one of my favourite Brighton players from our Premier League era. Technically gifted, versatile, and never stops working for the team. The most creative player in the squad racked up another 8 assists last season, mainly from set pieces. As well as taking corners and free kicks, he is probably first choice penalty taker, ahead of Maupay. The German is one of the candidates to cover at wing back in Lamptey’s absence, although he is most effective playmaking next to Bissouma. Unfortunately, Pascal will be rotated due to the depth in midfield, including Adam Lallana (5.5) who is a classy, almost like-for-like alternative. Alexis Mac Allister (5.5) has shown glimpses of quality and will be looking to push for a starting spot this season, after joining the squad late due to his progression at the Olympic Games. Steven Alzate (5.0) and Moises Caicedo are also good squad options, highlighting the depth in midfield.
Perhaps the most intriguing midfielder is Enock Mwepu (6.0), who is our only significant summer signing. Nicknamed ‘The Computer’ because of his intelligence on the pitch, Mwepu is an exciting addition, especially if he is here to partner Bissouma, rather than replace him. He has been optimistically compared to Yaya Toure due to his usefulness at both ends of the pitch. Mwepu scored in preseason and isn’t afraid to get forward, so hopefully he can chip in with a few goals to help ease the burden on Maupay and Trossard. His energy and willingness to press, as well as his versatility, suggests he could be a great fit for Potter’s system. As an FPL option, his price seems too high so I would certainly avoid for now. But from a fan’s perspective, I am excited to see what Mwepu can bring to the team, because he has all the attributes to be a success.
Solly March (5.5) was excellent and proved a lot of doubters wrong in his new position at left wing back, before an injury ended his season early. He has featured in every pre-season game and looks raring to go for GW1, which is great news as he adds important balance to the side. If he was listed as a defender, which he should have been considering he mirrored Lamptey’s role in the team, then March would have been an interesting option. But as a 5.5 midfielder, I am not too keen. One of the players who covered at wing back in March’s absence was Jakub Moder (4.5). Another versatile midfielder who is a quality backup to have around the squad, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him break into the starting eleven over the course of the season as Lallana and Gross are not getting any younger.
It is not long now until the new season starts, and we still haven’t signed a striker. As good as we have looked going forward, we weren’t exactly free-scoring last season – even Newcastle and Palace scored more! We massively underachieved but there is no reason for that to suddenly change, considering that we are heading into this season with the same strike force. We will be relying on Neal Maupay (6.5) to find his shooting boots. A great player to have in the team but hasn’t proven to be a reliable goalscorer. A bit of confidence and he could easily smash past double figures, however, I can’t see many people choosing Maupay over Toney to begin with. Danny Welbeck (6.0) would have been a starter, but we all know how unreliable his hamstrings are. He’s managed to pick up a knock before we have even played a game! Aaron Connolly (5.5) has never really kicked on after that breakthrough brace against Spurs. He could get some minutes early on after a decent pre-season, and it feels like it is make or break for him. Florin Andone (5.0), Andi Zeqiri and Percy Tau make up the rest of the first team squad. In general, not many standout options in attack. If Maupay hits the ground running, he could emerge as an interesting pick, but the reality is that, right now, I can’t really recommend bringing in any Brighton attackers. We need to sign a goalscorer otherwise it could be more of the same. If only Glenn Murray was ten years younger…
Heading into our fifth season of top flight football, I’m hopeful of more progress. Some are predicting Brighton to go down, and some are tipping us to have a strong season. I would be happy with a steady midtable finish, with less mention of expected goals, and more actual goals. Whatever happens, the stands will be full again, and I cannot wait!