Opposition view: Brighton revitalised since Project Restart
- Credit: PA
Our opposition fan in the chair ahead of Saturday’s game at Carrow Road is Scott McCarthy from WeAreBrighton.com
Question: Plenty of draws but just one win in 2020, how confident are you of avoiding relegation?
Answer: Before the break, we looked in a spot of bother. Two wins in 19 and a final nine games including Arsenal, Leicester, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City could have plunged us into the relegation fight. Three months off seems to have done the players a world of good though and four points from those Arsenal and Leicester games should help see us over the line - especially with all of the bottom five in such wretched form since the restart.
Question: Prior to the defeat to United on Tuesday it seemed Brighton had emerged from lockdown in good shape?
Answer: Very much so. Not losing games for 15 weeks helped rebuild confidence and the players have had the bonus of another mini pre-season under Graham Potter. The sort of significant shift that Potter is trying to make in playing style and tactics does not happen overnight. The club knew that, and I think most fans appreciated it would take time too, so the extra hours on the training ground for him to impart his ideas on a side which had spent nearly five years under Chris Hughton has undoubtedly helped.
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Question: Has Graham Potter noticeably evolved the playing style from Chris Hughton’s time in charge?
Answer: It’s chalk and cheese, really. Norwich fans probably don’t need telling that Hughton was all about keeping a clean sheet and then attempting to nick a goal to win it. Under Potter, we try and dominate possession and force the issue far more. There have been occasions this season when Potter’s been a bit naive and he has also made plenty of bizarre decisions - going to Manchester United and playing a high line and aggressive press against Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial was certainly an interesting approach. Decisions like that mean that the jury is still out on Potter, but I don’t think many Albion fans would argue that Hughton had to go at the end of last season as we had gone incredibly stale.
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Question: Which players have been the standout performers so far?
Answer: Lewis Dunk has been excellent again and it is an absolute mystery how he has not made an England squad this season, nor why a bigger club have not come in with a serious offer. Neal Maupay’s scored goals and has endeared himself to Albion fans with his ability to wind up virtually every opposition we come up against. He’s one of those players that you would hate to play against, but when he is turning out for you, you can’t help but love him.
Question: And which areas of the team do you feel need improvement?
Answer: We need more goals. Maupay’s notched nine, but our second top scorer is own goals, which tells you everything. Potter’s style of play creates so many chances that if we were a little more clinical, we could be pushing for the top 10. All of which makes Potter’s refusal to give Glenn Murray any sort of opportunity very strange. Murray was the second most clinical striker in the Premier League last season, scoring more of his opportunities than Mo Salah, Sergio Aguero and a host of other big-name strikers. If you give him an opportunity in front of goal, he will take it. Something which Potter doesn’t seem to appreciate.
Question: You beat Norwich reasonably comfortably in November, are you worried about them as a potential banana skin?
Answer: Absolutely. We don’t have a great record in games such as these. This season, we have lost at Aston Villa and Bournemouth. Last season we lost away at Cardiff and Fulham. The season before we were beaten by West Bromwich Albion and Huddersfield. We have also failed to win at Southampton, Stoke and Southampton when they all finished below us in the table. I’ve only ever seen us win once away at Norwich, on Boxing Day 2002, when a teenage Steve Sidwell scored the only goal, so we don’t have a great record at Carrow Road either. Perhaps having an excuse not to make the trip to Norfolk is a good thing!
Question: And finally, what is your score prediction?
Answer: I don’t think we will lose, but I don’t think we will win either. I’d take a 1-1 draw, especially if it means we don’t have a goalkeeper scoring two own goals at Carrow Road again.