Brighton and Hove Albion will play in the top tier of English football for the first time in 34-years next season, having secured promotion from the Championship.
Chris Hughton’s side eventually finished the 2016-17 season in second place behind Newcastle United, after slipping up in their final fixture against Aston Villa.
Nevertheless, how will the Seagulls fare in what is arguably the most competitive domestic league in Europe? We assess their strengths and weaknesses to see if they stand a chance of survival in the 2017-18 season.
Chris Hughton was appointed in 2014, a time where Brighton were quite frankly in disarray. They had been in and out of a relegation battle under Sami Hyypia, but Hughton’s arrival at the club revolutionised the Seagulls’s status within the division.
He took his side to the brink of automatic promotion in 2015-16, but missed out after a draw on the final day. Further heartbreak was to come in that season, after Hughton and his team failed to recover from that draw, and lost in the play-off semi-finals, for the third time in four seasons.
Hughton’s biggest strength is his determination and character. Brighton were in a two-horse race with Newcastle for almost the entirety of the 2016-17 campaign, which is a testament to Hughton’s managerial ability. The 58-year old has managed in the Premier League before, first with Newcastle, and more recently with Norwich. He was dismissed from both of those clubs, although both of those sackings were very harsh.
The Seagulls would be silly to dismiss their manager if they struggle at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, and Hughton has proven in his time at Brighton that he has the quality to lead his side in England’s top tier.
Fans and Facilities
Brighton’s nearest rivals in the Premier League are Crystal Palace, which is still quite a way away for them. The Seagulls are another south-coast club, and are likely to benefit financially like Bournemouth and Southampton since playing in the top-tier. Brighton is a one-club town, which should make for a great atmosphere within their new stadium, and from away fans.
The club’s rise in recent years has brought fans back to the Amex, and now they have been promoted their new stadium is ready to be showcased on the big stage next season. Brighton’s facilities are exceptional, and it is a great co-incidence that the opening of their new stadium coincides with their arrival in the Premier League.
Brighton have been in and around the top of the Championship for the last three years, which has helped them build up a better squad, both in terms of depth and quality. The Championship season is known to be an exhausting one, given the amount of fixtures each team has over the course of the campaign, but Brighton’s star-men made the difference for them in 2016-17.
Frenchman Anthony Knockaert has been far and away the best player in the league, and will be given a better opportunity to showcase his talent on the big stage than when he was promoted with Leicester City, while defender Lewis Dunk will be hoping to take his form from last season into the Premier League alongside Shane Duffy in the centre of defence.
Promoted sides have shown in recent years that they aren’t easy to score past, with Middlesbrough being a prime example of that in 2016-17, after Ben Gibson registered a total of 11 clean-sheets for the campaign.
The core of their squad is impressive, and players like Dale Stephens have been chased by Burnley for several years now. He remains on the Seagulls’s books, and should prove to be a quality midfielder in the Premier League. Goalkeeper David Stockdale is in the form of his life, and has come on leaps and bounds since his Fulham days, as he secured 20 clean-sheets from 45 domestic matches last season.
Brighton regularly put out the oldest average starting-11 in the Championship throughout 2016-17, and the majority of their attacking options really are getting on. Glenn Murray is nearly 34, while Sam Baldock and Tomer Hemed are 28 and 29, an age similar to many at the football club.
Chris Hughton needs to make some shrewd business in this summer’s transfer window, and should look to hold on to his key players. Spanish full-back Bruno is 36, and has been a mainstay in the side for several years, but it is unlikely that he will be able to keep up with the demands of the Premier League on a weekly basis.
Younger players need to be brought in, and matters have been made worse for Hughton after it seems all but set that Newcastle have won the race to sign Tammy Abraham, who was one of his prime targets.
It has always been hard to survive in the Premier League, but recent years have shown that it’s becoming increasingly harder to beat the drop due to the competitive nature of the division. Brighton will become the 48th team to join since its inception in 1992, and of the last five teams to be promoted for the first time, three went straight back down at the first time of asking.
Swansea and Bournemouth are the two that have managed to survive, with the latter achieving their highest placed finish (9th) in 2016-17. The Swans on the other hand had a turbulent season to say the least, with their new manager Paul Clement ultimately achieving the great escape with the side in claiming the final survival spot ahead of Hull City.
TV deals, commercial money and sponsorship’s with Premier League clubs are bigger now than they ever have been, and that is why several clubs have been able to up their spending in recent years. Bournemouth have spent over £50m, and it is highly unlikely that Brighton will spend anywhere near that amount this summer.
Instead, it is likely that the Seagulls will follow a similar model to that of Sean Dyche’s Burnley side. The Clarets are well known for their more ‘basic’ style of football, in keeping things simple and not playing fancy football. Dyche has played with a 442 for several years now, and has preferred to develop players both young and old over a number of seasons during his time at the club. It took him and the club time to establish themselves within the division, and that could be where Brighton struggle in their first season.
Premier League Inexperience
Brighton have an ageing squad, and yet they surprisingly have very few players who have past Premier League experience. Only Liam Rosenior and Steve Sidwell have major experience of playing in the division, and both are hardly likely to be regular starters in 2017-18. Murray has made a handful of appearances with Crystal Palace, and his struggles with the Eagles ultimately resulted in his sale to Brighton, while Stockdale struggled to earn a starting spot at Fulham.
Do you think Brighton will beat the drop next season? Let us know in the comments below.