After 23 games in the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, Brighton and Hove Albion find themselves in 15th, 10 points above the relegation zone. They’ve won 5, drawn 10, lost 8, and have a goal difference of -5.
Expected goals (xG) is a football metric that has really taken off this season, growing in popularity with every game week. It measures the quality of a shot based on a number of different variables.
Brighton have massively underperformed their xG this season, the most out of all 20 teams. This means that they have the greatest numerical difference between xG and actual goals scored, or that they have been expected to score far more than they have.
Across the campaign so far, Brighton have accumulated a total of 30.7 xG. To compare, they have found the back of the net 25 times, giving them a xG difference of 5.7. Against them, they have conceded a total of 30 goals, with their opposition amassing an xG of 25.6 – a difference of 4.4.
This would suggest that Brighton have lacked the quality from their attackers to find the back of the net, whilst their opponents have been clinical and decisive. They are creating the chances, but just lack the conversion.
In fact, alongside their 25 goals, they have missed another 24 big chances. On the other hand, in the 30 goals they have let in, their opponents have totalled 19 big chances missed. Despite creating more clear cut opportunities, they are struggling to make anything of it.
As a result, they potentially find themselves in a relegation battle of sorts. Despite being 10 points from the drop, the unpredictability of the Premier League is always something to be wary of, and Brighton will need to polish their shooting boots if they want to have the best possible chance at securing top flight football for another season.
In October, Brighton acquired Danny Welbeck on a free from Watford in the hopes that he would add some valuable experience and goal-threat to their attack, but his injury-riddled history made the move a risky one, and sadly he has missed a lot of game time once again this season. When he has played, he’s been nothing more than average for the Seagulls. In 10 appearances, 3 of those coming in cameos from the bench, he has amassed a measly 2 goals, with a scoring frequency of 325 minutes.
Neal Maupay has been more of a present figure for Brighton, but he still hasn’t shown the quality nor the reliability that they need to take their football to the next level. He has scored 7 goals so far, which is actually beaten by the 8 big chances that he has missed; he also has one assist and 3 big chances created to his name.
Another player for them in the final third is Leonardo Trossard, who impressed in Brighton’s 1-0 win against Spurs, scoring the winning goal for his side. His only other goal of the campaign came in September as part of their 3-1 loss to the hands of Chelsea. Like Maupay, he has also missed more big chances than he has converted: 3. Trossard has a scoring frequency of 736 minutes.
Aaron Connolly has 3 goal contributions in 14 appearances, and Jahanbakhsh just 1 assist in 11. Between them, a total of 5 big chances missed. It is not as simple as saying that the players aren’t good enough; Brighton have a very solid Premier League squad that they can, and should, build off of going forward. For me, it is more a case of luck. They are not scoring the chances that their players typically would.
Graham Potter is a manager who should be respected by rivals and neutrals alike. For a team in 15th position, they play attractive football whilst remaining defensively tight and solid. Their midfield is difficult to break down; throughout all of their 23 matches so far, Brighton have completed 402 tackles. When you compare this to their 371 blocks, it suggests that the midfield do their job in breaking up the play, rather than leaking through to a last-ditch defensive effort.
On the creative side of things, as aforementioned, it is very important for Brighton to maintain their extremely impressive output. 15 of their 19 goals have included rewarded assists, versus an xA (expected assists) total of 19.9; Graham Potter has them playing how he wants them to, and it must be frustrating as a manager to not see all of the hard work rewarded with the goals it deserves.
Furthermore, they have totalled 211 key passes, which is even more remarkable when you consider the amount that their opposition have managed in the same games: 154. They have far more passes into both the final third and the penalty area in their games, too. The creative outlets are playing their part, and are a clear demonstration of where Graham Potter can take this Brighton side.
The attacking players previously mentioned have a big responsibility for the second half of the campaign. If they can begin firing, the Seagulls will be flying up the table and away from the dreaded bottom 3 (presuming the service remains prolific). It sounds obvious to say, but goals win you games. This side deserves far more than what they have presented, and it all comes down to the forwards taking their chances.
A key part of Brighton’s future is the safety of their star players. Three players specifically could soon be looking to move on if the results don’t start coming, as I feel they could be regular starters at higher-placed teams. The likes of Yves Bissouma, Lewis Dunk and Tariq Lamptey will be sought-after by top-half club, and if they one day are to move on, it would be absolutely crucial for the club to regurgitate the money wisely so that they don’t fall off from their current quality.
The signs are there for Brighton to cement themselves as a mid-table Premier League side, as opposed to relegation candidates. They have a good balance, are good progressively on the ball and work together as a unit. With a bit more luck in the final third, Graham potter’s side would gain a lot more respect in the top flight of English football.