Johnny Cantor: Strength in depth is going to be key for Albion in the Premier League

Markus Suttner is one of three Albion pre-season signings so far. Picture by Paul Hazlewood/BHAFC
Markus Suttner is one of three Albion pre-season signings so far. Picture by Paul Hazlewood/BHAFC

Excited? Why wouldn’t you be as an Albion fan. It is under a month before the Seagulls make their Premier League bow.

There is of course so much to look forward to. Now I don’t want to be the harbinger of doom but I wanted to broach this week one issue that could have a huge bearing on the season.

I wasn’t there myself but the news that Championship player of the season Anthony Knockaert had been injured in the first pre-season match was a concern.

At the time of writing, we are still unaware of the extent of the injury but it’s not this one injury that is a worry. Striker Sam Baldock has also suffered a setback as a calf problem hinders his progress but it is a possible mounting list that can unsettle a campaign in the Premier League.

There are a few sides to the story. The Premier League has less games so should be less gruelling than the Championship. Some sides like AFC Bournemouth last season made wholesale changes for FA Cup ties to ease the burden on the first 11.

In theory the squads are more robust after investment. On the other hand, the top-flight is a step up, we know that. The added intensity in matches can increase the likelihood of a player suffering a problem.

There is also the issue of loan signings. I’ve mentioned changes to the system before in this column but the lack of flexibility – in a market with the prices of permanent signings – can certainly derail a campaign.

Any club will want and will need their best players to be fit and healthy for as much of the season as possible but in a way the recruitment of possible replacements and the strength of the squad members who aren’t regulars in the starting line-up is just as important for a club in the position of Brighton and Hove Albion.

As Middlesbrough spend £17m on a striker in the Championship, we are reminded of the prices being paid by some clubs. The Seagulls have been relatively quiet so far compared to teams like Huddersfield but the owner and management team are continually looking for value for money.

The crazy transfer window will continue a few weeks into the new season but some of the less high profile arrivals in the coming weeks may well play a crucial role in the Albion’s survival hopes. Some may struggle but some I’m sure will make the step up.

Earlier I mentioned AFC Bournemouth. I think it is fair to say some of the Cherries big signings in the first few years in the Premier League didn’t quite make the grade. However, they also had several who consistently performed at an exceptional level on the big stage.

It has served them well as they establish themselves at the top table. If Albion can do the same they will have a good chance of being in the same position next August. Injuries will happen but precautions can be made.

There may yet be more record signings posing for photos at Lancing before the end of August but judgement should be made on the sum of the signings, rather than the individual deals.

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