Ikväll är det dags för mästarna att fortsätta jakten på poängrekordet, för motståndet står Brighton & Hove Albion. Graham Potters lag har skaffat sig en trygg plats ovanför nedflyttningsstriden och kan av allt att döma se fram emot ytterligare en säsong i Premier League. Jeremy Smith(@jeremysmith98) är fotbollsskribent och följer laget noga, han berättar här om hur säsongen varit.
- Premier League just restarted after the corona break, how has it been to watch these first games?
In general? I’m a little on the fence. I understand all the business/financial imperatives for football being rushed back. And I’ve actually found the fake crowd noise quite a good idea. But the bottom line for me is that football without the supporters isn’t proper football and I’m not sure that it should have returned until there is at least some element of crowd involvement. I can understand Liverpool fans feeling differently though!
- How has Brighton played in the first games after the break?
You can probably argue that we’ve benefitted more than any other PL club from lockdown. Our form pre-Covid was not great – still hard to beat but without a win in 2020. Since coming back, 2 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat is great form – we’ve pretty much won as many points as all those below us put together and almost certainly secured PL safety before our next two matches vs you and City. Arguably the five subs rule, while totally unfair on the smaller clubs, has benefitted us more than those around us too, as Potter likes to tinker and make tactical switches during the match and also because we have a large squad with a reasonably consistent level all the way through it, so our subs don’t necessarily weaken the team.
- Graham Potter has been at your club for almost a year now, how do you rate his time at your club so far?
Generally really positive. We went from the extremely predictable tactics and line-ups of Chris Hughton to Potterball, where you have no idea who will play where from one match to the next – and occasionally he has gone too far. But generally he has encouraged a more attractive style of play and he has improved things in most areas – we have the same number of points already as last season, we have fewer defeats, more goals scored, fewer goals conceded, more possession. If we had been more clinical in front of goal we could have been a lot higher up the table. So while we would never put down what Hughton did for us, I think Potter is well on the way to hopefully taking us to the next level.
- You are nine points above the relegation zone, with five games left to play, are you satisfied with what the team has achieved this season?
Mostly I am satisfied. I think that considering we have totally changed our style of play it has been positive and bodes well for the future. There have been some very frustrating matches where we haven’t necessarily got the result that we deserved, but there have been signs that, if our strikers become more deadly and as players get increasingly used to our possession-based game, we can look to push up the table.
- What do you think Brighton need to take another step next season?
For me the main thing is putting away our chances. We have dropped lots of points by not being clinical enough. Reliable and affordable strikers are hard to come by but I think Maupay and Connolly will only get better. We need more goals coming from midfield too. But that aside, I think most players just need to keep climbing the learning curve and we are on the right track.
- Who has been your player of the season?
For me it has to be Lewis Dunk. Ryan has been consistently great in goal, Burn a revelation at LB, midfielders such as Mooy and Bissouma have had great moments and Maupay’s nine goals and great workrate in his first PL season have been excellent. But Dunk has been superb – as strong and reliable as ever in defence, excellent leadership in his first season as club captain, allowed to show under Potter that he is a great footballer too (just look at his assists vs Watford and Spurs for example), goals vs you, Man Utd and Arsenal. All bias aside, I genuinely think that there are very few CBs in the PL who are better than him and he has been immense again this season.
- What kind of game do you expect against Liverpool?
A lot depends on our line-up – the recent one vs Man Utd was bizarre and it wasn’t a surprise that we were comfortably beaten. But then we had a bigger game against Norwich coming up, and Utd particularly needed the win. Although you and we still officially have something to play for (your PL record; we’re not officially safe) I think both teams will struggle to play with full intensity. Which means that it could be a boring low-key match or an entertaining one with the pressure off. We’ve been a little more defensive-minded since the restart but I think that Potter may treat the match as a free-hit, tell the players to open up and go for the win – and then I just hope that you’re still a little off your best and don’t pick us off as we try to attack!