Efter ett veckoslut med FA-cupspel är det återigen dags för Liverpool att spela ligamatch. Vi kommer till matchen med en ganska sargad backlinje, något vi gjorde även senast vi begav oss till Brighton för att jaga poäng. Då hade vi Gini Wijnaldum som en del i en trebackslinje, hur backlinjen kommer att se ut den här gången är osäkert, men en sak som är säker är att vi kommer få slita för poängen. Brighton har gjort en stark säsong hittills och befinner sig på säker mark i mitten av tabellen. Jeremy Smith(@jeremysmith98) från bl.a @frenchftweekly följer laget och berättar här om säsongen hittills:
1.We are halfway through the season, are you happy with where you are in the table?
Absolutely! We’re looking more and more like we belong in the Premier League all the time. There’s still some growing pains and occasional signs of an inferiority complex, but we have a stronger, deeper squad and we’re higher placed, with a higher points total and much further away from the relegation zone, than this time last season. All you can really ask for is progress from last season and we’re definitely showing that. The FA Cup win at Bournemouth last week was another good sign – we never beat them and generally lose at their place.
2.What have been the most positive things around Brighton so far? Negatives?
Last year we had a small squad and got lucky with no injuries. The fact that this year we’ve maintained high standards in the face of injuries shows that we have more strength in depth, but have maintained a great team spirit despite increased competition. Also, with Florin Andone and Jurgen Locadia both in the goals, it takes the weight and pressure off Glenn Murray, who isn’t getting any younger. And our home form at the Amex remains excellent. Negatives – we’re still a little too defensive away from home and it sometimes frustrates that Hughton doesn’t release the shackles a little more, or that we don’t show more belief away from the Amex. But there have been signs recently that we’re starting to do both, so this bodes well too.
3.Which players have been the standout performers? Are there any disappointments among the players?
Hard to cut it down. Dunk and Duffy remain the stand-out performers in the back – absolute rocks. Bernardo has come in and made the left back position his own alongside them. Murray has maintained his excellent goalscoring record. Solly March now looks more than comfortable at this level after struggling a little last season. And I still love Davy Propper, who gives the team so much control in the midfield and oozes class. On the disappointment side, I’d suggest maybe last year’s record signing Jose Izquierdo, who hasn’t yet come close to hitting the heights that he reached in the second half of last season; and this year’s record signing Ali Jahanbakhsh, who hadn’t yet settled before getting injured – hopefully he’ll replicate what Izquierdo did last year and finish the season well.
4.What do you think is the most important part for you to develop to reach the top half and maybe a place in Europe?
We’re not getting carried away talking about Europe, but we know we have a very solid team, that our defence is a match for anyone on its day and that we have matchwinners up front. So the plan has to be to keep doing what we’re doing, strengthen and continue to become accustomed to this level and just show the confidence to believe in ourselves a little more away from home. As for Europe, last year we got to the FA Cup quarter finals. Who knows? With a good draw maybe we can go a little further this year…
5.The transfer window just opened, do you expect any activity from Brighton?
There were strong rumours about Solanke before Bournemouth stepped in, which suggests that we may be open to a deal. But generally I’d expect very little activity as we have good cover in most positions.
6.Brighton signed Viktor Gyökeres from Sweden a year ago, how is he rated by the club?
Very highly. Our U23 team is doing excellently – third in PL2 Division 1 after gaining promotion last year – and Gyokeres (6 goals in 12) and Aaron Connolly (11 goals in 12) are the star attacking players – but it’s actually Gyokeres who has appeared on the bench a couple of times in the Premier League (no appearances yet) and made a fleeting substitute appearance in the FA Cup last weekend, so it feels like he’s close to a breakthrough.
7.Brighton lost at Anfield earlier this season, how do you remember that game?
How do you expect the team to play on saturday? It was off the back of a horrific away performance at Watford (albeit followed by a great home win against United) – and Chris Hughton has a terrible managerial record against Liverpool – so we feared the worst. So in the end a 1-0 defeat at Anfield (even if you weren’t at your best) was pretty credible and not too much of a blow – there was even some frustration at not stealing a draw, with Gross close to scoring late on. It was another indication that we’re feeling more at home and improving from last year. With that in mind, although we need to be cautious, we will hopefully show more attacking intent and Hughton may well stick with his recent 4-3-3, after almost always playing with a 4-4-2, to give your stand-in defence a bit more to think about. To be honest, with the form you’re in I’d still be happy with a point – but I’d certainly be shocked if you managed to repeat anything like last year’s 5-1!