Potter More Popular At Brighton Now Than He Was Two Months Ago

It is the big one up next so we had a chat with the guys at WE ARE BRIGHTON to get their view on the season so far, thoughts on the game and much more.

Q. What did you make of the game between the two sides at Selhurst Park earlier in the season?

It epitomised the first third of our season really. Good football, totally dominant but wasted far too many chances. Thankfully, Alexis Mac Allister chose a timely moment to score his first Premier League goal to ensure we got a point. Even by Brighton’s high standards of ridiculousness, managing to lose to Palace’s one shot on target coming from such a farcical penalty decision would have been impressive.

Q. How has this campaign been for Brighton so far?

Weird is probably the best word to describe it. We were playing good football at the start of the season but not getting the results it merited. At that point, things could go one of two ways – either it clicked and we started picking up points, or performances dropped off and we would find ourselves regretting those missed opportunities.

Unfortunately, it went the second way. Graham Potter began making some very curious decisions and between the start of November and the start of January, we were pretty ghastly. Things reached a nadir when we came in at half time 3-1 down against Wolves and facing a club-record 13th home game without a win.

Whatever Potter said during that team talk clearly worked, we came back to draw 3-3 and that has sparked a remarkable turnaround. We’ve only lost once since and that was a close-fought 1-0 loss at Manchester City, so eyes are firmly up the table now.

Q. It was interesting to see that fans looked to be losing confidence in Graham Potter before your recent run but has he won them back permanently?

He’s certainly more popular now than he was two months ago! Winning one home game in the whole of 2020 and only two from the first 18 games of the season will put any manager under pressure.

Some of Potter’s decision making was clearly contributing to those struggles. He was chopping and changing the team every week and the number of players being used out of position was crazy.

Hobbit-sized Leandro Trossard led the line as a lone striker at Spurs, Mac Allister and Alireza Jahanbakhsh were paired as a front two at home to Arsenal when neither are strikers. We played three out-and-out centre forwards against Liverpool at the Amex a month after naming a starting XI with five centre backs at home to West Brom.

It’s no coincidence since all that nonsense stopped that results have improved massively. Potter is now picking his strongest team every week and he’s instigated a slight change in style so we are less possession obsessed but doing more with it. Not many managers are willing to abandon their principles or philosophy. Potter deserves a lot of credit for becoming more pragmatic and we look miles better for it.

Q. Is the reported loss by the club of £67million during the 2019/20 season concerning for fans or is just the situation football finds itself in right now?

It is a concern but at the same time I think we are in a better position than a lot of Premier League clubs will be to ride out the impact of the pandemic. Brighton are very lucky to have a very, very rich owner who is a lifelong fan and who is willing to underwrite those massive losses.

The most interesting thing about the Albion’s 2019-20 accounts was that Tony Bloom’s total investment is now bordering on £400 million. He paid to build the Amex and our state-of-the-art training ground out of his own pocket and built squads that have taken us from the League One relegation zone to the top flight.

It’s clubs with foreign owners who view the Premier League as a money-making vehicle that you have to fear for. When the broadcast money is less because of the pandemic and matchday income has completely disappeared, are those investors going to be willing to underwrite such massive losses compared to a supporter like Bloom? You look at the Burnley takeover where their new owners have leveraged a load of debt on the football club to buy it and think how is that going to end? We are very lucky to have Bloom at the helm.

Q. How was your business in the January transfer window and do you have needs that have not been addressed?

Everything Brighton have done in the past two transfer windows can be seen through the prism of that £67 million loss. We are now concentrating evermore on signing young players with potential who will improve the first team in a year or so and who might return a massive profit.

19-year-old Ecuador international Moises Caicedo was our only new arrival in January for £5 million after Manchester United pulled out of a deal to sign him because they found negotiating a contract with a myriad of third party ownership too complicated.

We also recalled Jakub Moder and Michal Karbownik from their loans having paid £14 million to Lech Poznan and Legia Warsaw respectively in the summer. They are both Polish internationals and two of the most highly rated young players on the continent.

None of them will make an immediate impression on the Premier League, but given time to adapt – as Mac Allister and Yves Bissouma have – and they all have the potential to be very good players. It’s a bit of a risky way of doing business but the club are obviously not in a position to spend £30 million on a new striker any more.

Q. Who has been the stand out player for Brighton so far this season?

Bissouma has been an excellent and I would be absolutely shocked if one of the big boys doesn’t cough up a massive fee for him this summer.

He’s always had the talent but in the past 18 months he has matured into a superb holding midfielder. He frequently regains possession and has the uncanny ability of knowing exactly when to play the pass and who his best option is.

The only thing missing from his game is goals. Every time he has scored for the Albion it has been from outside the box. If he can start popping up in the area and contributing five to eight goals a season, then he’s going to go to the very top.

Q. What do you make of Palace this season?

You have been classic Palace really. Not bad enough to go down but not good enough to do much more than tread water. I think you are at a real crossroads whereby a decision has to be made about how you progress as a club, especially given Roy Hodgson’s age and the pressure he seems to be coming under.

Do you go for a younger, attack-minded coach who can take you to the next level or stick with Hodgson or someone like him for guaranteed Premier League safety? It’s not easy changing style as you guys know from the failed De Boer experiment.

Replacing Chris Hughton with Potter now looks like it’s working for us, but it has taken time and patience.

Q. It has been a tough time for everyone but football fans and clubs have certainly played their part during the pandemic and pulled together which has been particularly pleasing, right?

It’s important every now and again that the Premier League and the highly paid executives who run our clubs get a reminder that fans still hold a lot of power.

The whole PPV thing was brilliant for that. Nobody paid it, all the money instead went to food banks and there was an embarrassing climb down within a month.

Q. Name one player from each team that you believe will be a threat to the opposition in this match.

If he’s fit, then Wilfried Zaha is the obvious man to pick. He gets what the game is all about and raises his own performance to match it, which is often the reason Brighton do not win!

To that end, Joel Veltman will be vital for the Albion. Most clubs would be in a world of issues when a player like Tariq Lamptey is ruled out for months but Veltman has seamlessly taken over.

He marked Jack Grealish out of the game in our 0-0 draw with Villa at the weekend at the same time as managing to get forward and have two shots kept out by outrageous saves by Emiliano Martinez. If Zaha plays and Veltman is that good again, it will give Brighton a serious chance of winning.

Q. …and finallly, your all important prediction?

Brighton are unbeaten in six, we have kept five clean sheets in those matches and beaten Spurs and Liverpool. Palace have just lost 3-0 at home to Burnley. It would be peak Brighton to somehow lose this one. I’m going with the heart though and a 2-0 Albion win.

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