Like spinning tires on a Ferrari running through the gears, Graham Potter hit the Premier League at full throttle. An example was made of Watford who stood at its path, crushed 3-0 at Vicarage Road. Still early days, though, other sides must be wary of this ambitious Englishman.
It took some balls for Brighton chairman Tony Bloom to get rid of Chris Hughton in May. The ex-Ireland manager was something of a demigod in the South Coast. He took over the reins halfway through the 2014/15 season, saved the club from relegation and narrowly missed out on promotion the following campaign.
There was no such heartache last year, however. Hughton presided over Brighton’s automatic promotion-winning season. He became the first manager to reach the top division of English football since 1983. Hughton maintained that momentum before the year’s turn.
Brighton picked up an underwhelming 11 points from a possible 54 in 2019, which ultimately left the club teetering on the brink of relegation, before Hughton managed to haul them to safety. To avoid reoccurrence or even relegation, Bloom threw history to the winds, replacing Hughton with Potter.
An Englishman, albeit the young tactician, was relatively unknown in his homeland. He made his name in Scandinavia. Potter lifted Ostersunds FK from Sweden’s fourth-tier to the pinnacle. After two successive promotions, the club made it to the Superettan (the Swedish second division), before ultimately reaching the top-flight in 2016.
By winning the Svenska Cupen one year later, Potter qualified for the Europa League, beating Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates in the round-of-32, though they would ultimately lose the tiebreaker 4-2 on aggregate. This fostered a move to Swansea City in 2018, where he guided the club to a respectable mid-table finish.
Still, there was the belief the Premier League would be a tough ask. The 44-year-old temporarily cleared those doubts with a fascinating showing against Watford in the season’s curtain-raiser.
The Seagulls produced exactly the kind of proactive, innovative performance the club had sought on recruiting him from Swansea. They cruised home through an own goal from Abdoulaye Doucouré and clinical finishes from the substitutes Florin Andone and Neal Maupay. More could follow.
Known for his innovation, methodical approach and man-management skills, Potter is a coach who emphasises the need for camaraderie amongst his players and togetherness in his squad – creating a tight-knit group is essential to his teaching methods. This simple yet fundamental principle is the secret ingredient.
Potter spent £60m over the summer but fielded a starting lineup that comprised of players present at the club last season. The same men who looked stiff and repressed towards the end of Hughton’s reign showed courage on Saturday. They were composed and methodical, exuding comfort in a 3-4-2-1 system and responding to Potter’s calls for greater aggression.
West Ham and Southampton are next at the Amex. Be warned.
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