Team Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

General overview:

  • Expected formation: 4-4-2
  • Expected line-up: Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner; Knockaert (Solly March whilst he is injured), Gross, Sidwell, Skalák; Hemed, Murray
  • Penalties: Murray, Knockaert
  • Direct free kicks: Knockaert, Gross
  • Corners: Gross, Knockaert
  • Indirect free kicks: Gross, Suttner, Skalak
  • Opening Fixtures: MCI (H), Lei (a), Wat (a), WBA (H), Bou (a), NEW (H), Ars (A), EVE (H), Whu (A), SOU (H)

Newly promoted Brighton have a fairly decent set of opening fixtures, barring GW1 where they host Peps Manchester City. This promotes some of their assets as worthy of consideration from the get-go.

Let’s take a closer look at those Seagulls players that might be worth a place in our gameweek 1 teams.

Keepers

Earlier in the summer, Brighton shelled out their record transfer fee on Australian Mathew Ryan (£4.5m) from Valencia. As football manager players will know (myself included), this lad has a lot of potential and is already playing at a high level. A young, international goalkeeper for around £6 million looks like it could be great business in the long run however, the Seagulls will surely have to stay up this season to keep hold of him.

In terms of FPL, Ryan could have a lot of potential. He will be facing a lot of shots and I see him racking up the save points however, I would advise managers to see how Brighton fair in their opening home games before drafting the Aussie into your teams. If they set out defensively, we could get a few clean sheets out of Ryan, but we would need to have a strong rotation partner with him to cover the many difficult games they will face this season, Asmir Begovic (£4.5m) for example, works well with his fellow south-coaster.

The Defence

Promoted teams rely on their home form to keep them up, and in particular, their defence. So when picking fantasy assets from the promoted teams, it is the home games where we are expecting the bulk of their fantasy returns to come from. Winning a whopping 74% of home games last season, where they conceded just 14 goals, the Amex will be where we will see Brighton’s defenders (hopefully) shine.

Brighton Stadium - Getty
Brighton are going to have to make this place a fortress again this season to stand any chance of surviving

The Centre back paring

Shane Duffy (£4.5m) and Lewis Dunk (£4.5m) are the first choice centre back paring for the Seagulls, and with Chris Houghton not looking to buy in this department, I expect these two will be at the heart of defence all season long. Why would Houghton disrupt a defensive partnership that was part of the best defence in the championship (joint with Newcastle conceding just 40 goals)?

Set-pieces will play a big part in Brighton’s quest for goals, and in Pascal Gross, they have a very accomplished dead ball specialist. With both Dunk and Duffy standing at roughly 6 foot 3 apiece, they will carry a significant threat from set pieces, having both scored 2 goals last season.

If I had to pick between the two of them though, I would go for Lewis Dunk. Having watched him a few times personally, he is an excellent reader of the game – imperative for a centre half – and a beast in the air. I can see him scoring a few more this season and with new signing Gross (we’ll get to him later) whipping the balls in, I think he could get a couple more.

Full backs

Brighton have brought in the experienced Austrian, Markus Suttner (£4.5), over the summer. The left back comes in after an impressive season with Ingolstadt in the Bundesliga where he achieved some promising attacking returns. The stats, achieved in just 31 games, show that Suttner is an attacking left back/wing back with great potential. He will give Brighton an option going forward, although I see Brighton playing more conservatively, rather than an open, expansive brand of football – this reduces the appeal of both full backs somewhat.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 17.13.54
Suttner’s stats 16/17 (WhoScored.com)

At just £4.0m, Connor Goldson, who scored in the friendly at Crawley, could potentially force his way into the starting line-up, but with more experienced pros ahead of him, I see him more as a bench player at this moment in time. One to keep an eye on though as he can fill in across the back 4, so any injuries could pave the way for this lad to get some games.

Midfield

With star man Antony Knockaert (£6.0m) still out with an ankle injury and having had no pre-season, I suggest looking elsewhere during the opening GWKs. Here are some alternative suggestions in the same price bracket to consider:

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 17.32.59
Player comparison matrix for midfielders priced £6.0/6.5m

If you are keen on investing in the Brighton midfielder however, I would suggest turning your attention to Pascal Gross (£5.5m). He will be the main threat from the Brighton midfield. The 26 year old, also brought in from German outfit Ingolstadt for a fee of around £2.5 million, amassed 40 assists over his 5 years with his former club – that’s an average of 8 per season. You can certainly see why the Seagulls have shelled out a few million quid for his services. Coming in £0.5 million cheaper than Knockaert, and with his fair share of set-piece duties, I can see Gross having a decent start to the season, possibly grabbing a goal, but certainly creating chances for his new teammates.

Elsewhere in the Seagulls midfield, we have the experienced Steve Sidwell (£4.5m), who won’t be lighting up the FPL scoring charts this season. The Czech left winger Jiri Skalák (£5.0), who played 31 games last season, but I can see him playing less this season and could well be replaced, even from within the Brighton squad in the form of the versatile Solly March (£5.0m), who can play on either side of the midfield.

On the right, will be Knockaert when he is fully fit, which could be sooner than first anticipated, if we take what Chris Houghton had to say recently on the player’s current status (Daily Star):


“He has got a ligament injury but it’s slight, which is good”

“The good thing is he has got a good bit under his belt, the first tough two-and-a-half weeks of training, so at this moment we are probably looking at about a three week period”


Forwards

As discussed in my bargain hunting article, Tomer Hemed (£5.0m) could be a real budget saving striker this season. If he is to partner Glenn Murray (£6.0m) up top, or even in behind him in a 4-4-1-1 / 4-2-3-1, his instinctive finishing and knack of finding space, should see him bang a few goals in this season.

Murray will be the main man up-front this season however and will be on penalty duties for Brighton. During the second half of the 14/15 season with Palace, he scored 7 goals and made 5 assists for his teammates in just 17 appearances. Now I’m not saying we should expect these brilliant returns again (he would have got 156 points had he kept that form up for a season) however, he has pedigree in the premier league and is a natural, instinctive finisher. Should the likes of Knockaert and Gross get quality service into the box, Murray could certainly get double figures (in terms of goals) this season.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 17.21.40
Glenn Murray’s FPL history

Will we see a repeat of Glenn Murray’s 14/15 form?

My Advice

In defence, I would recommend going with Lewis Dunk as a part of a two or three-way rotation. A potential three-way with other £4.5m defenders from Bournemouth and Newcastle for example (Francis and Lascelles perhaps?) looks good to me. This could give us a very decent first 10 games out of 1 playing defender, where I would play our Brighton man in 4 of the games, obviously dependant on injuries and suspensions etc.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 17.29.32

Further up the pitch, I would recommend taking a wait and see stance. Scouting the players mentioned above, in particular Pascal Gross, who I really like the look of and who I believe will add a lot to this side. If the Seagulls hit some goalscoring form, Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed could become excellent budget options.

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