Ryan’s move to north London raised more than a few eyebrows when the news was confirmed on Friday and comes at the end of a sudden drop down the goalkeeping pecking order at the Amex Stadium.
Brighton & Hove Albion Goalkeeper Gamble Could be a Risk Worth Taking as Mat Ryan Departs
Mat Ryan Joins Arsenal Despite Falling Down the Pecking Order at Brighton
Robert Sanchez appears to have nailed down the number one spot in recent weeks after Potter indicated that he would like to give the young Spanish shot-stopper an extended run in the team.
The 23-year-old was a surprise inclusion in the squad that was narrowly beaten 2-1 by Tottenham Hotspur, producing a solid display on his first-team debut despite the result.
Mat Ryan came back into the Brighton squad for the next five games, before Sanchez returned for the goalless draw away at fellow strugglers Fulham last month – keeping his first clean sheet in the process.
The Australia international appeared to have been frozen out of the first-team picture at the Amex, relegated to fourth in the pecking order behind Sanchez, Jason Steele and Christian Walton.
Mat Ryan Departure Seen as Ruthless Move by the Brighton & Hove Albion Boss
It is being seen by many as a ruthless move from Potter, ousting a man who was a mainstay in the Seagulls’ first three seasons in the Premier League, making a total of 121 appearances and keeping 28 clean sheets in the process.
But the focus at the club now appears to be shifting towards developing their own talent, and Albion’s academy staff, in particular, will be delighted to see a clear pathway developing for Sanchez and indeed, Walton. Both look more than capable of repaying their head coach’s faith.
Sanchez possesses different attributes to Ryan, and at 6’5″, he stands five inches taller than the Socceroos keeper.
In just eight appearances, he already sits 20th in the Premier League list of saves so far this campaign – five more than Mat Ryan who has made 11 league appearances for Brighton.
Despite his inexperience at the highest level, the Spaniard has yet to put a foot wrong and showed his undoubted shot-stopping ability in the 0-0 draw with Fulham and made arguably his most eye-catching save to date to thwart Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.
He is also known for having a commanding presence when coming out to claim crosses, something which many fans thought was lacking with Ryan between the sticks.
Learning From Experience
Many would argue that Sanchez is coming into the side at the perfect stage in his development. Since arriving at the club in June 2015, he has since had a regular run of games in the club’s U23 side before moving out on loan to Forest Green Rovers and Rochdale respectively.
It was at the latter where he got a glimpse of playing at the highest level, suffering the narrowest of defeats in a Carabao Cup third-round tie against Manchester United, as Rochdale lost 6-5 on penalties with the score levels at 1-1 at full-time.
After making more than 50 appearances in both loan spells, the Spaniard now looks more than ready to stake a claim for the number one spot for many years to come.
Don’t Write Off Walton for Brighton & Hove Albion
Aside from Sanchez’s rise to prominence, it would be foolish to write of Walton’s chances of taking the number one jersey at the club in the long term.
The 25-year-old former England U21 international has considerably more experience than Sanchez, after making his first-team debut for the Seagulls back in October 2014 – a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in an EFL Cup fourth-round tie.
But a series of loan moves away from the Amex stadium means the Cornwall-born shot-stopper has made just four senior appearances for the club – the most recent of those was a 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2014/15 Championship season.
He has subsequently moved out on loan to eight different clubs, most recently making a temporary switch to Blackburn Rovers for the entirety of the 2019/20 campaign.
Now or Never to Stake a Claim in the Team
Walton donned an Albion shirt for a 1-1 pre-season friendly draw with Chelsea in August last year but was stretchered off the pitch with an ankle injury.
He has recovered now and with fellow keeper Jason Steele ruled out with an illness, Walton will be hoping Albion can make an extended run in the FA Cup and get some much-needed game time in a bid to put the pressure on Sanchez.
After seeing the likes of Niki Maenpaa, Tim Krul, and David Button all arrive and leave the south coast after failing to claim the number one spot, it may be a case of now or never for Walton to fulfil his potential with the Seagulls.
Exciting Times in Battle for Brighton & Hove Albion Number One Spot
Whatever happens, Ryan’s exit has left the door open for two young shot-stoppers – both with the prime of their careers still firmly ahead of them – to challenge for the number one spot. Their potential is yet to be realised and exciting times could lie ahead for the duo.