Opposition view: Gambling on Potter starting to pay off for Brighton
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Seagulls supporter Scott McCarthy, from WeAreBrighton.com, is the man in the hot seat ahead of Norwich City’s game on the south coast this afternoon.
The Brighton board made a brave move, replacing Chris Hughton with Graham Potter, it seems to be going well so far?
Very much so. From the outside looking in, sacking Hughton must have seemed to most of the football world like a mad decision; after all, he was the bloke who'd saved us from relegation to League One, took us to the Premier League, kept us up for two seasons and threw in a run to the FA Cup semi-finals as a Brucie bonus. But our form in the second half of last season was dire. We won just twice from December 29th until the end of the season and had Hughton stayed in charge, that probably would have carried on into this year and we'd have gone down. That's ultimately what led to Tony Bloom rolling the dice and gambling on a new man taking us to the next level. Bloom made his millions as a professional gambler and although still early days, it looks like he's got this one right too.
Has the change in style of play been as drastic as some expected?
It's been astonishing. Under Hughton, it was a case of try and keep a clean sheet and see what happens from there. Under Potter, we started the season playing a 3-4-3 formation with three out-and-out strikers whether at the Amex or away from home. That's since evolved into a 4-2-2-2 in the past three games, which has baffled Tottenham, Aston Villa and Everton so far. Potter wants to win every game too and we won't shut up shop even when we're on for a good point. That's seen us concede last minute goals to draw at home to Burnley and lose at Villa when we were pushing forward, but most fans are accepting of that given that it's light years away from Hughton's policy of parking the bus after five minutes.
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Wins over Tottenham and Everton in the last two home games, those results must be hugely encouraging?
In a division as tight as the Premier League, home form is obviously crucial. We were tough to beat at home for our first 18 months in the top flight under Hughton before things fell apart, but under Potter we're much more than a side that is difficult to break down. Spurs found that out as we took the game to them to win 3-0 and while Everton were worthy of at least a point last weekend before a ridiculous VAR decision for our penalty and a last minute own goal from Lucas Digne intervened, it's an encouraging sign that even when we haven't played well we're getting wins against quality opposition like that.
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Four goals for Neal Maupay so far, is he proving £16million well spent?
He's the perfect player for Potter's style of football really. The way we approach games means that we need a quick forward to link play as well as one who can be a fox in the box. So far, Maupay has looked the part. It's especially pleasing given that last year, we spent £14m on Jurgen Locadia who managed three goals in 18 months and £17m on Alireza Jahanbakhsh who managed zero goals and zero assists in a year. As a result, there was a lot of pressure on our recruitment team to get it right this summer. In Maupay, it looks like they have.
Which players have been most impressive?
Leandro Trossard could become one of the bargains of the season. He tore both West Ham United and Southampton apart at the Amex before injury ruled him out for the best part of six weeks. It was his introduction against Everton that sparked our comeback win and he even managed to have Manchester City's galacticos looking a little worried when we lost at the Etihad. If he can get a run of games under his belt between now and Christmas, he could pull up some serious trees.
And which areas of the team still need to approve?
We don't like great out wide. 3-4-3 leaves our two wing-backs - normally Martin Montoya on the right and Solly March on the left - having to effectively do the jobs of two players. They're good individuals on their day, but whether they are consistent enough to deliver on both the attacking and defensive side of the game required in such a demanding role is up for debate. Things aren't much better when it's 4-2-2-2 either. Montoya is still in there at right back and we've got Dan Burn, a six-foot-seven centre half playing out-of-position on the left. With no width in midfield, they can be left pretty exposed which is something that Everton exploited to dominate last week at the Amex.
Norwich have had a tough start, with injuries having a big impact, do you see Brighton as strong favourites?
Outside of Liverpool and City, I don't think there are any strong favourites in the Premier League this season. We're in good form and obviously being at home is an advantage, but in probably six out of our 10 games this season we've put in good performances which haven't perhaps got the points they deserve, so I wouldn't be counting any chickens until 5pm on Saturday.
Any advice you can offer for survival, based on the last two seasons?
The way we've done it is to build from the back really. Hughton kept us up with a side based around a strong defence that was hard to beat. Now we're a little more established in the Premier League, Potter has got a decent base to try and kick us onto the next level. As somebody wise probably once said, you don't build a house by starting with the roof. Get the foundations right and the rest can follow.
And finally, what is your score prediction?
Ever the pessimist, a 1-1 draw.