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At the start of this Premier League season many tipped newly promoted Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion to go down and in fact they were most bookies favourites to finish at the very bottom of the pile.
Now seven games into the season there will be many who tipped Chris Hughton’s side for relegation beginning to change their minds.
After the opening seven fixtures of the 2017/18 season the two Manchester clubs are clearly the two stand out performers and are already five points clear of the chasing pack. Equally, towards the bottom of the table, Brighton have also been putting in strong performances and currently sit fourteenth.
Defying the odds
Considering they are expected to finish bottom come May most Brighton fans will be in delirium at this early stage of the season.
Admittedly they are only two points clear of the relegation zone but most would have expected to see them in a position similar to that of Crystal Palace who have lost every single game so far this season and scored zero goals.
Perhaps most impressively of all for Brighton is their ability to hold their own against the divisions very best teams. They are still yet to be completely embarrassed despite having faced high flying Manchester City at home and also Arsenal at the Emirates, only being beaten two-nil on both occasions.
The AMEX fortress
One key element to all newly promoted side’s chances of promotion is home form and it is something that Burnley have embodied more than anyone in recent seasons as they rely almost entirely on points won at home for their survival.
Brighton so far are doing an equally good job of making the AMEX a fortress picking up six points from a possible nine and only losing against City on the opening day. Away from home though Brighton have struggled having only picked up one point from a possible twelve and scoring only the one goal.
Equally important to newly promoted sides are for them to pick up points against their nearest rivals. Again, this is something that Brighton have been effective at so far. They’ve already picked up a point away at Watford whilst also beating another recently promoted side in the form of Newcastle.
Arguably their most impressive performance of the season so far came at home to West Brom where they ran out emphatic three-one winners having completely outplayed the usually defensively resolute Tony Pulis side. It also showcased Brighton’s ability to score goals when they get it absolutely right tactically and the performance is of the very highest quality.
Hard work and commitment
Key to Brighton’s success so far has been their hard work and commitment defensively meaning that they rarely concede a soft goal. This is something that is vital to any side in the Premier League whether they be aiming to avoid relegation or gunning for top spot.
Their centre back duo of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk have been outstanding thus far with both players willing to put their bodies on the line for the good of the team. These characteristics are certain to save the side goals as the season progresses.
Their potential undoing
One problem that could prove Brighton’s undoing is their ability to score goals, something that is equally important as a team’s ability to defend. In seven games so far, Brighton have only managed five goals and failed to score in four of those.
It still remains to be seen whether Brighton can score goals on a regular enough basis to maintain their Premier League status and this is likely to be the area in which they could come unstuck.
Tomer Hemed is also banned for the side’s next two Premier League matches having been found guilty of a stamp on DeAndre Yedlin in Brighton’s one-nil win over Newcastle. This suspension forced Hughton to employ Isaiah Brown as a false nine in the game against Arsenal and although he worked hard it was clear that Brighton were really missing an out and out striker.
As one of Brighton’s strongest attackers Hemed will likely be sorely missed for the next couple of games and Brighton fans will be hoping the likes of Isaiah Brown, Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert can fill the void for at least the next two games.
A long road ahead
Although Brighton have made a surprisingly strong start to the season, there is still a long way to go and they will need to maintain this consistency throughout if they are to still be in the Premier League come next season.
They will need to keep their defence strong whilst also scoring more going forward and although it will be a tough task, it is one that this hardworking Brighton side is certainly capable of.
Written by James Bairstow
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