MATCH CENTRE

Brighton and Hove Albion Closeup: Tactics, Stats, and Chris Hughton

It’s my hometown club against the Reds this week – although I won’t be wishing them well against Liverpool – so this is a special piece for me to deliver to you all!

WHERE ARE BRIGHTON NOW?

It’s far to say that Brighton have come a long way since their brush with liquidation in 1997. Successive promotions four years later in 2001 and 2002 brought the club back to the second tier, before a successful 2016/17 season granted them a return to the English league’s top division for the first time since 1983.

The man responsible for Brighton’s latest resurgence – Chris Hughton.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea FC - Premier League : News Photo

Replacing former Liverpool centre-back, Sami Hyypiä, as manager – four months into the 2014/15 season – Hughton began to slowly transform the side.

The following term, he took the Seagulls on a impressive 22-game unbeaten run, which lasted from the opening day up to a 3-0 home loss to Middlesbrough in December. A draw against the same opponent in their last game of the season denied Brighton automatic promotion to the Premier League.

However, another unbeaten run in 2016/17 (19 games), a season in which Brighton fell just short of top spot, saw the Blues secure their long-awaited promotion.

Fans enjoyed a mixed first season back in the Premier League, with the club enduring a poor run of 1 win in 12 games, albeit securing impressive wins against league giants Arsenal and Manchester United to avoid the drop.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

As the table currently stands, Brighton find themselves sitting comfortably in 13th, four points above rivals Crystal Palace, with only three points separating 13th and 8th.

Although the Seagulls occupy a spot lower in the table than they had the previous term, the club is actually enjoying a better season, with 21 games played, having won two more games to grant them four more points than at the same stage last season.

Hughton’s win rate of 33.33% this season is the best the former Norwich head coach has managed since the 2010/11 Premier League season at the helm of Newcastle United (38.09% win rate in 21 games).

Chris Hughton – The Underrated One

He may not be quite as rock and roll as Jürgen Klopp or as polished a manager as Pep Guardiola but Chris Hughton has worked wonders with smaller clubs since retiring from a successful playing career.

Newcastle United v Ipswich Town : News Photo

With controversial owner Mike Ashley putting Newcastle United up for sale in 2009, football’s ‘Mr. Nice’ stepped in as caretaker manager. It seemed a fine match for the club, with the Magpies securing the Championship title in Hughton’s first season in charge, only losing 4 of their 46 games.

Hughton was widely praised for stabilising the club with his calm approach to management.

“The manager sets the tone for the culture of a football club. As a person he is just a very consistent guy. He is very honest and humble. When you have those qualities they automatically transfer to your work. He doesn’t treat everybody the same but he treats everyone with the same amount of respect – whether that is tactical, off the field things with our lives, how we conduct ourselves… When you are playing for someone like that you don’t want to let them down. The way he motivates is not to shout or single players out for mistakes or having a bad game. He has the foresight to know he can lose a player. He is always looking at it from an improvement point of view. He never gets too upset if we lose a game or too happy if we win. There is a real calmness throughout the squad and that is down to him.”

Liam Rosenior (former Brighton player, turned U23s coach)

Despite leading the club to an impressive start to life back in the Premier League, however, including a 6-0 demolishing of Aston Villa and a 1-0 a victory against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, Hughton was dismissed following a 3-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion in December, prompting outrage from fans and players alike.

The Championship title with Newcastle may be Hughton’s only trophy in managament to date but we cannot forget the Brighton manager’s  successful spells elsewhere with Birmingham and Norwich City. He guided the West Midlands club to the group stages of the Europa League, the club’s first European campaign in 50 years, and the Championship playoffs, the latter being kept up in the Premier League in the 2012/13 season.

Brighton however, has arguably been Hughton’s most successful stint in management, taking the Seagulls back to the top-flight in his second full-season in charge.

Brighton and Hove Albion Tactics

A traditional 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 has formed the basis of Chris Hughton’s tactical style, allowing Brighton to keep a compact structure with little space between the midifeld and forward players.

Hughton understands, as well as most mangers leading mid-table sides, that it is a pointless venture attempting to out-pass the better sides and tends to thus favour more zonal pressing than risk the ball being worked around his players with man-orientated pressing.

With impressive signings in Martin Montoya and Bernardo, formerly of Barcelona and Red Bull Leipzig respectively, bolstering the full-back positions, the club utilises overlapping full-backs as part of its counter-attacking strategy even more effectively.

There is certainly evidence to suggest that Brighton have tweaked their style this season, favouring a more combative approach – Seagulls striker, Glenn Murray, came third last term for fouls committed, with 60 – he currently sits at the top of the pile with 53. The club has already committed 145 fouls this season, compared to a total of 215 in 2017/18.

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This appears to have contributed to a positive season for Brighton, with goals per match having risen from 0.89 to 1.14 and a small decrease in goals conceded per match, 1.42 to 1.38.

With these improvements, it is little wonder why Brighton are only two wins away from matching the same number victories achieved in the Premier League last season, and 14 points from matching their points total of 40.

Achieving a win and a draw at home to United and Arsenal respectively should serve as a simple reminder for Liverpool fans – don’t underestimate the Seagulls.

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