‘Phenomenal’ was the word used by Danny Murphy and Micah Richards in their analysis of Brighton & Hove Albion’s 1-0 win over Liverpool on February 3 – the Seagulls’ first victory over the Reds since January 30 1984.
Brighton & Hove Albion Revival: Seagulls Are Seeing the Rewards From Their Performances
A Remarkable Turnaround in Fortunes for Brighton & Hove Albion as Revival Continues
All football lovers are guilty of hyperbole, but it is hard to dispute the analysis from Murphy and Richards; Brighton delivered an impeccable performance to move 10 points clear of Fulham in the bottom three and secure a third victory in their last four games.
Steven Alzate’s first-ever Premier League goal was enough to claim a memorable win – arguably the club’s best victory since winning promotion back into the top flight in 2017.
It sums up a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the Seagulls, who appeared to be floundering in their attempts to move away from the Premier League relegation zone not so long ago.
Prior to the turn of the year, there was a continued sense of frustration among the Albion faithful with the side’s inability to turn positive performances into results.
This weighed heavily on Potter’s squad during the first half of the season, as the media continuously rolled out the statistics highlighting Albion’s poor home form and lack of victories in the Premier League.
Brighton ended 2020 in a precarious position. A 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal left the club two points clear of Fulham having played one game more than the west Londoners.
It meant that Potter’s men had recorded just one win in 17 home Premier League games. The BBC highlighted this was the lowest total of victories on home soil in a calendar year in the history of the competition (excluding promoted and relegated teams, who did not complete a calendar year in the top flight).
There were growing voices of discontent around Potter’s team selections that prompted plenty of head-scratching, especially after that Arsenal game when the Seagulls started the match without a recognised centre forward.
That result meant Albion had won just one of their previous 14 league matches and knew they had to turn their fortunes around quickly.
Brighton & Hove Albion Revival in the New Year
The New Year sparked signs of a revival, as Lewis Dunk’s header completed a comeback from 3-1 down to secure a 3-3 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers. The team then produced an encouraging display in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Manchester City on January 13.
Neal Maupay was the hero three days later after slotting home with a close-range finish at the end of a sumptuous move to secure a 1-0 win away at Leeds United – ending a run of nine league games without a victory.
Old problems resurfaced for the visit of fellow strugglers Fulham – 16 shots, five on target and no goals, as the game finished 0-0.
Changing Goalkeepers Midway Through the Season
The Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool results will give Potter vindication that his faith in building from the back and playing a free-flowing style of football can be successful in the long term.
Even in the bleaker periods of the season, Albion didn’t change their style of play or abandon Potter’s philosophy that has served him so well during his managerial career to date.
The former Swansea City and Ostersunds boss is also not afraid to make the big calls, especially the ones that may not seem obvious at the time.
Mathew Ryan was on the unfortunate receiving end of such a call when he was frozen out of the first-team picture, after being a regular between the sticks in Albion’s three previous Premier League seasons.
The Australia international made 123 appearances and kept 27 clean sheets for the Seagulls, but that did not stop Potter making the brave call to bring Robert Sanchez into the side.
The talented Spaniard has slotted into the team like a duck to water and has kept five clean sheets in 11 Premier League appearances to date. When you add Christian Walton to the mix, Albion have two of the brightest young goalkeeping prospects in the division.
Academy Prospects Starting to Shine
Potter can also be applauded for placing his faith in youth. Experienced campaigners and two of the club’s longest-serving players, Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy, were both ushered out of the club and allowed the likes of Ben White and Alzate more chances to impress.
The campaign has been a bit of a slow burner for Alzate, with the Colombia international now coming to the fore again after a breakthrough season in 2019/20.
White has shown his undoubted potential, proving his versatility having played on the right side of midfield, in a holding position and as a centre-back.
There is still plenty more to come from Aaron Connolly, and his willingness to run between the lines brilliantly complements Albion’s attacking play.
One certainly wouldn’t bet against the Irishman adding to his two strikes against Newcastle United and Wolves this campaign.
Immense Defensively in Brighton & Hove Albion Revival
The hallmark of Brighton’s teams in the Premier League has been their stubbornness at the back – epitomised by the resoluteness shown by Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster at Anfield.
Dunk has been immense for Albion for a number of years in the Championship and in all four of the club’s seasons in the Premier League.
Webster is also showing the form that justifies the £20 million fee that was paid to Bristol City for his services back in August 2019.
Tariq Lamptey has been a revelation at full-back and Joel Veltman has been a more than a capable replacement in his absence – also proving his versatility in playing across a number of different positions.
It all equates to the Seagulls having the best defensive record in the bottom half of the table – a clear positive to build on heading into the remaining 17 games of the season.
Here’s hoping the feel-good factor continues on the south coast.