Every year there is a new Football Hipster’s Favourite Team. With Brentford missing out on promotion, the Premier League choice looked certain to be Leeds United. The correct choice however, is Brighton.
The Seagulls, as well as Bournemouth and Norwich have fallen in and out of this category in recent years. While the presence of a innovator in Southampton’s dugout makes the Saints an outside shout.
However, with Villa flying high it seems that they could be this years alternative choice for neutrals. Everyone’s second team, as it were.
I’m here to tell you that the true choice remains on of Leeds United or Brighton & Hove Albion. In fact I’m nailing my flag to Brighton’s post. Brighton are the best team with little to no prospects this season, and here’s why.
Marcelo Bielsa is an honest to god maverick. He is a genuine innovator in the game. The Leeds manager has repeatedly been dubbed the best coach in the world by Pep Guardiola .
Bielsa is a football purest, favouring a style of play that entertains and guarantees goals at both ends of the pitch. The Argentine is also the manager who spied on Frank Lampard’s Derby County team last season. His reason? Essentially why not?
However, the south coast team have the own managerial gem in Graham Potter. Potter’s brand of football is a purest’s dream. His sides play on the front font, mixing slick accomplished football with a physicality and steal revered by British fans.
While he does not carry the exotic name of his Northern counterpart, he is not without a certain continental flair. Like many others, first introduction to Potter was when his Östersunds FK side defeated Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates.
His experience managing on the continent is a comparatively unique experience for an British manager of his age. Most highly touted British managers opting to stay in the UK and build their reputation at home e.g Brendan Rodgers, Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche.
Following on from Östersunds FK Potter managed Swansea City. A team known for a progressive style of play, Swansea has acted as proving ground for similar managers in the shape of Brendan Rogers and Roberto Martinez. His tenure would last for just shy of a year before replacing Chris Hughton at Brighton & Hove.
Already the artisan managerial narrative is forming.
Between their formation in 1901 until their promotion to the First Division in 1979, Brighton had never been much to write home about. The most significant event in their history until then being a tumultuous under Brian Clough in 1973.
The 80s and 90s were filled with promotion and relegation between the then Third and Second Divisions. Their league status even coming under threat, saved by a Robbie Reinelt equaliser against Hereford meaning Brighton stayed up on Goals Scored.
The sale of their ground in 1997 resulted in the team playing in home games in Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium and Withdean Athletics Stadium. It wouldn’t be until a change of Chairman in 2011 and a substantial amount of funding that Brighton would find a permanent home.
Their final season at Withdean would also signal the start of an 8 year period in the Championship. During this time Brighton’s progressive ethos was clear with Gus Poyet, Oscar Garcia and Sami Hyypia all managing the side in their forties.
Following Hyypia’s short reign, the club would progressively build on the positive changes made since the acquisition of Falmer Park (The Amex), gaining promotion in 2017 under Chris Hughton.
Despite helping the team to a 15th place finish in their first Premier League season, a drop to 17th was enough to draw a line under Hughton’s time at the Seagulls.
Which brings us today.
Potter’s Seagulls currently sit in 16th with 9 points. However, this does not tell the whole story. According to Understat, Brighton are under performing by almost 5 points. (4.64). Were the table adjusted or if luck fell their way, they would be in 6th.
This would be level with Everton and four places above Leeds. With another 29 games to play it’s reasonable to believe results will shift. They can’t all go the way of their match against Man United.
Beyond this, the team is full of both exciting prospects and veterans looking to go out on a high. The signings of Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck bring dependable Premier League experience to the side. An invaluable currency for a side who will inevitably face relegation flirtations.
Youngsters Ben White and Tariq Lamptey are showing the promise of future stars. The former’s form particularly exciting having remained at the club despite interest from Leeds following an impressive loan spell at the Peacocks.
White is currently putting up 2.3 tackles and 1.9 interceptions a game. (WhoScored) Outperforming Aston Villa’s defensive talisman Tyrone Mings in almost every metric. On top of this the Brigton defender is four years his junior.
The latter’s form has been exceptionally satisfying however. Having signed from Chelsea for just £2.97m in January of 2020, the 20 year old’s value now sits at £16.20m according to Transfermarkt.
With the dependable Matt Ryan in goal and the rangy Yves Bissouma taking almost two shots per game as well as 2/1 tackles and interceptions per game, the spine of the side is solid.
A sprinkling of creativity, pace, guile and clinical finishing from Lallana, Connolly, Trossard and Maupay, and you are left with a team that can dominate against the bottom half of the table while also taking it to the top half.
At the end of the day we are football fans, we all have our allegiances and the idea of “second teams” is kind of ridiculous. But every year there is a team that garners respect from the rest of the league. A team that plays football the right way and has progressed through hard work and talent.
Brighton are one of those teams, and it’s only a matter of time before the scoreboard shows it.