No matter what anyone outside of the two clubs may think, our Derby Day is drawing ever closer, so ahead of the visit of our foes from the South Coast, TEB had a chat with popular fan site We Are Brighton about the season so far and thoughts on the match.
Q. How has the season been for Brighton so far?
Well, it’s all gone a little pear shaped since Christmas! When we beat you guys at the Amex, we were twelve points clear of the relegation zone and there were genuine hopes that we could push for a top ten finish. Chris Hughton certainly felt emboldened by our position as he abandoned the 4-4-1-1 that had given us such success since promotion in favour of a more attacking 4-3-3. The thinking behind it was pretty reasonable – we looked comfortable in the Premier League now, so why not try and attack teams a little more rather than defend our way to victories? While the change has certainly made us more attacking, it’s also thrown the defensive solidity that underpinned last season’s survival out the window. As a result, we’ve been conceding far more goals than we have and before Saturday’s victory against Huddersfield, we hadn’t won in the league in 2019. That win was greeted with sheer relief but there are still plenty of questions over the suitability of 4-3-3 going forward against sides better than the Terriers – so basically, every other team in the division.
Q. What did you make of the game at the Amex earlier in the season?
It was probably the best night we’ve ever had at the Amex. Recent games between us are either mind numbingly dull or breathless, non stop encounters and that was certainly in the latter category. At the end of the day, we seemed to want it more to the point where not even losing our best defender to a red card and our goal scorer to injury effected the team. It will be a completely different kettle of fish this time around though as I can’t believe that Palace will be that atrocious again, especially in front of your own fans.
Q. Is there a concern among Albion fans that recent form has seen the club drop into trouble?
Had we have lost on Saturday, I think nerves would have been more than a little frayed. The work we did in the first half of the season should be enough to keep us up though, especially with Huddersfield all but gone and Fulham likely to join them. We’ve also still got games at the Amex to come with Cardiff City, Southampton and Newcastle United and if we can’t beat three of the worst teams in the division at home, then we deserve to go down.
Q. Considering our rivalry is not the most conventional and not many people get it, how do you describe it to those that ask?
It seems to be a question that crops up a lot more these days, usually with the moniker “the M23 Derby” which nobody should ever call it. Ever. For a Brighton fan of my generation, the dislike of Palace stems from the fact that you always seem to get the better of us. Even in the two seasons we’ve finished above you, you’ve still had the last laugh by being the first team to win a league game at the Amex and then beating us in the play offs.
Q. Who has been the stand out Brighton player this season?
Shane Duffy when he isn’t busy headbutting Palace players. Lewis Dunk gets all the plaudits, largely because of the fact that we very rarely bring youth team products through but for me, Duffy has been the better of the two this season. With Dunk out the side through injury and suspension, we’ve still managed to beat Manchester United, lose by a single goal at Liverpool and draw with Arsenal. Without Duffy, we lost at Burnley and Bournemouth. He’s crucial.
Q. Did Brighton do the business they needed to in the transfer window? Which position needs desparate attention in the summer?
We didn’t sign a senior player in January; it was almost as though the club thought we were already safe from relegation and could keep our powder dry for the summer. A striker is a must for us this summer as Glenn Murray is unfortunately reaching the end of the line now and we could also do with a quality defensive midfielders presuming Hughton sticks with 4-3-3. Dale Stephens is playing in there at the minute but he doesn’t really have the skill set you need to do that job in this formation. It’s very much a round peg in a square hole situation.
Q. If you could pick one Palace player for Brighton to sign in the summer, who would it be and why?
Luka Milivojevic would address our defensive midfield issues and he can also take a penalty. That’s another department in which we’re lacking with Murray and Pascal Gross missing nearly as many spot kicks as they score. Only Brighton could sign the only German in the world who struggles with penalties.
Q. Name a player from each side that you believe will be a threat in this game?
I suppose everyone picks Wilfried Zaha when you ask this! I’m hoping that Martin Montoya and Bernardo both have him sussed given that his only notable contribution at the Amex was to have a pie thrown at him in a fantastic piece of middle class hooliganism. His record against the Albion commands respect though and his performance last season at Selhurst pretty much ended Ezequiel Schelotto’s Brighton career with post traumatic stress disorder. As for us, I’m going to cheat and name two – whoever leads the line out of Murray and Andone. The formee loves a goal against a former team and the latter is the sort of insane Eastern European footballer who writes themselves into a club’s folklore with his derby antics. He’s already made a start at that with that brilliant goal at the Amex.
Q. Perhaps you could share your opinions on Palace this season?
It’s been a typical Palace season really where you started badly but have picked up as things have gone on – just without the normal routine of sacking the manager. I really like Roy Hodgson so to see him doing well at an age where most people are entering nursing homes is great, even if I’d prefer it not to be with Palace!
Q. Your prediction?
This game has a lot to live up to given the craziness of the last two. As I’ve already said, I don’t see how Palace can be as bad as they were at the Amex and the Albion surely can’t put on a display that would make a clown blush like at Selhurst last time. 1-1.