The Albion have shown they are getting to grips with new boss Sami Hyypiä’s style of play.
Brighton and Hove Albion have shown supporters they are gradually getting to grips with new boss Sami Hyypiä’s style of play with recent draws against high-flying opponents.
The Seagulls currently sit a disappointing 19th in the Championship table, but have an international break in which to continue working on how best to implement their manager’s attacking ideals.
And, while Albion fans would have surely hoped for a better points return from the opening 11 games of the season, recent results have improved - with both Nottingham Forest and Watford held to a draw.
That does not disguise the fact that the Seagulls have struggled to turn encouraging performances into welcome wins but the Amex faithful will have been reassured by the side’s recent unbeaten run.
A number of players appear to be thriving under Hyypiä - not least a trio of players who could conceivably prove key parts of the team for the foreseeable future.
Lewis Dunk has arguably been the Albion’s stand-out performer so far. The young defender found his first team opportunities limited last season with player of the year Matthew Upson and club captain Gordon Greer the first choice pairing. Upson’s summer departure, though, has proved to be something of a blessing in disguise, allowing Dunk to forge an encouraging partnership with Greer.
The defender, who has a pass completion rate of 87% at an average of 52 passes a game, looks increasingly comfortable in possession and is no doubt benefiting from the experience his new manager is able to pass on.
Another player who seems to be enjoying life under Hyypiä is Kazenga Lua Lua. The explosive attacking talent has previously, and rather unfairly, been tagged as an impact player best-used from the bench. This season, however, he has started five games and featured in all 11 league outings.
In that period he has a goal and a team-high two assists and has made an impressive 15 key passes. Hyypiä’s approach, which involves the full backs providing the width, means Lua Lua has been deployed in a more central position, allowing him to receive the ball more often and in more dangerous areas. It is also harder for defenders to force him out wide. In a team without an abundance of genuine pace, Lua Lua has become a key attacking component whose speed in possession carries a greater threat than when restricted to a single flank.
Last of the flourishing three is Jake Forster-Caskey. The midfielder played for England under-21s this evening in the national team's play-off win over Croatia and has already started nine of the Albion’s 11 league games.
While not making headlines, Forster-Caskey has developed a solid partnership with Danny Holla at the base of the Seagulls midfield and is establishing himself as one of Hyypiä’s most- trusted players. In fact, Forster- Caskey averages more passes per game than Holla and has clocked up 427 completed passes compared to the Dutchman’s 381 – including 16 key passes to Holla’s 11. Both have played nine games, although one of Holla’s game off the bench.
That is not to say Holla has not been a good addition to the team. Together with Dunk, Holla has been Brighton's most consistent performer this season and looks an excellent signing. The statistical comparison is more a way of shining a light on the often unnoticed work done by Forster-Caskey.
In fact, Holla's ability is one of the key reasons why Forster-Caskey has raised his game. In a similar fashion to Greer and Dunk, the pairing of Holla and Forster-Caskey couples experience with youth and the duo's natural games appear to dovetail well.
One player not having such a great time of things at the moment is Andrew Crofts. The experienced Welsh international will miss the rest of the season after suffering a partial tear of his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in last weekend’s draw at Watford.