A lot of eyebrows were raised when Brighton and Hove Albion decided to relieve Chris Hughton of his duties at the end of last season, despite keeping the club in the Premier League for another year. Less eyebrows were raised on the South Coast, however, as we had actually been watching the football week in, week out, for the last six months. The results were bad, but the football was even worse.
Chairman Tony Bloom decided something had to be done, and Graham Potter was brought in. Known for his expansive style of football for Swedish minnows Östersunds FK and Swansea City, it was a slightly left field option but a decision that, in the opinion of Brighton fans, is already a roaring success. Despite only having the same amount of points as this stage last season under Hughton, Graham Potter has built something that has enveloped the community and fanbase entirely and, still only a work in progress, one that fans have accepted wholeheartedly. For the first time in at least a year, Brighton are a team that are fun to watch.
Tactically, he’s completely changed the dynamic of the team. Moving nominally between variations of a 4-4-2, fluidity is at the heart of everything we do when attacking with menace. With only really captain Lewis Dunk holding his ground in the heart of defence, new signing Adam Webster has already made a name for himself with his marauding runs out of defence, while ‘Big’ Dan Burn, predominantly a centre-half, buccaneers up and down the left hand side like a diminutive pacey winger.
Likewise, in the midfield, positions are thrown out of the window except for underrated Dale Stephens providing a solid base of which to attack from. Pascal Gross, used so effectively in Hughton’s rigid 4-4-1-1 as a chance-making number ten, has played across all four spots in Brighton’s midfield and continued his role as Brighton’s resident assist king, while Davy Propper and Aaron Mooy have relished the creative freedom given to them by Potter, particularly the latter who put in an all-time performance in the Seagulls’ first ever win away to Arsenal. “Mooy, Mooy, Mooy, how do you like it? How do you like it?” were the brilliant screams coming out of the away end on that history-making night.
Potter’s complete overhaul of the squad and confidence in youth, too, is something to be admired. Ever since he started ripping up the Under 23’s league last year, the fans have been crying out to see Aaron Connolly given a run in the team and he’s not disappointed with a goal on his debut in the Carabao Cup and a brace in his first start on Premier League duty against Spurs at the Amex. This was at the expense of the experienced Florin Andone, who scored some important goals last season to keep us up, who Potter deemed too petulant. He’s also done the same by bringing in the extremely talented Steven Alzate from Brighton’s youngsters, and sending the disappointing Jurgen Locadia out on loan to Hoffenheim. Not afraid to make big decisions so early on in his Brighton career – and getting most of them right – there aren’t too many decisions thus far that you could even call questionable.
Potter is brave, understated, and extremely confident in his beliefs of bringing good – and successful – football to a relative small fry in the biggest league in the world. The squad, and project, is certainly a work in progress and we should certainly have more points on the board with the way we’ve played so far this season, and some of the goals we’ve conceded have been poor. But ever since the first home game of the season against West Ham (in which we dropped two points) I knew Potter was the right man for the job.
The football is good to watch, we’re beating ‘Top 6’ teams home and away, we’ve got some exceptionally talented players and *touch wood* we’re almost certainly too good to go down. Graham Potter’s magic, and he’s made me even prouder of my club than I was before.