For all the furore of the tempestuous and capricious relegation battle, one team has quietly kept doing the business.
Undefeated in five with three wins and two draws, Brighton and Hove Albion are negotiating the perilous nature of the bottom half of the table with composure.
Brighton’s last two home matches make for pleasant reading; a 4-1 dismantling of Swansea – albeit because Carlos Carvalhal threw caution to the win in the finals tages – and a 3-1 thumping of West Ham.
In fact, the Seagulls are very impressive at the Amex, and stand 9th in the Premier League home table. They’ve lost just three times, which is the same as Premier League champions Chelsea.
The Premier League newboys have gone about their task with modest steel and dexterity; disciplined when defending and effectual when attacking – they’ve scored more than 7th placed Burnley and conceded the fewest of all the teams below them.
Sitting 12th in the table, Brighton are only just four points ahead of the bottom three, and nine points of the fabled 40 points. That’s just three wins.
Hughton’s name has not been one documented in back-page praise. He is rarely in the limelight, despite being one of the best British managers in the game, eclipsed by Sean Dyche and perhaps, Eddie Howe or Sam Allardyce.
Central to Brighton’s relative success this season has been Hughton’s calm outlook and patient management. Hughton is someone the players can confide in, but also one who is not afraid to let his views made; the ability to negotiate the emotional side of players yet also assume a disciplinarian figure when necessary is a hallmark of any good manager.
Hughton has built up a firm foundation at Brighton, and is in his third year at the club – a long time, by modern day standards. If the big clubs don’t come poaching, one can envisage Hughton establishing himself at the club in the way Dyche has at Burnley. Hughton and Dyche are tonics to the merciless nature of the top-flights.
The Seagulls have picked up vital points in vital games, easing the pressure of their run-in. They won’t be complacent, though – Hughton would not allow it.
The importance of Brighton’s steady form is emphasised by their final games, which is considered the hardest in the league; the average position of the teams they face is 8th.
Arsenal visit on Sunday and you wouldn’t bet against Brighton picking up points against a dishevelled and lost Gunners; they then travel to Everton, Manchester United (in the cup) and then cross the divide to champions-elect Manchester City.
Yet games against Leicester City, Huddersfield Town and Crystal Palace look winnable – results in these games may well secure safety and any points collected in the next three games should be treated as a bonus.
Brighton should be okay. Hughton should be okay. He’s done a remarkable job at the Amex and it is about time he receives the attention his work warrants.
Written by Michael Jones
Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97
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