Well, it’s job done for Brighton & Hove Albion. We’ve just about got across the finish line to Premier League safety, albeit stumbling there like a bloke who has had ten too many vodka shots. It’s been a strange old season.
At the start of the campaign, most Seagulls supporters would have bitten not just your hand but your entire right arm and a significant amount of shoulder off for survival, six points from Crystal Palace and a run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Yet the season still feels like something of a disappointment. That’s what happens when you go from being 12 points clear of the relegation zone in December to having to cheer Palace onto victory against Cardiff as we relied on that lot from up the A23 to secure our place in the top flight.
If Brighton begin 2019-20 as they have ended the final four months of 2018-19, then you should stick your mortgage on them being relegated next season. That makes this summer a massive one for the club. Here are five things that Chris Hughton needs to do.
Pick a formation and stick with it
The Albion’s season fell apart pretty much from the moment that Hughton switched from his tried-and-tested 4-4-1-1 formation to 4-3-3. There are many reasons why the change didn’t work, but the overriding one was that we simply didn’t have the individuals to play it. That was especially problematic given that it blunted the effectiveness of Glenn Murray and Pascal Gross, our two most consistent sources of goals last season.
This summer, Hughton needs to pick the formation he wants to use, stick with it and sign the players to make it work. If that happens to be 4-3-3 – and my opinion is he’d be mad to give up on 4-4-1-1 again - then he needs to recruit for it. That would include a proper holding midfielder, a new right back who can deal with frequently being overrun, a more mobile striker than Murray and a couple of wide players who are adept at playing as part of a front three.
Teach Yves Bissouma to defend
Speaking of that Arsenal game, how good was Yves Bissouma? He looked like he had the potential to be a £50m player who would fit seamlessly into any of the big six’s midfields. Regular Bissouma watchers will know however that there is one glaring hole in his game, and that is defensively.
Over the course of the Southampton and Bournemouth home games, he made three sloppy mistakes which cost us three goals. If Hughton can work on Bissouma’s decision making and his defending this summer, then they sky’s the limit.
Don’t recruit from the Netherlands
The Eredivise is a notoriously difficult league to recruit from, which begs the question why do we keep throwing money at it? Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Jurgen Locadia, Elvis Manu, Danny Holla – the list of players we’ve signed from the Netherlands who haven’t cut it is pretty big.
We should stop wasting money looking at the land of clogs and Edam. Instead of Jahanbakhsh, we could have signed David Brooks from Sheffield United last summer and had £6m left over. There’s much better value found in plenty of places far away from the Netherlands.
When Hughton first arrived at the Amex, he was ruthless. Popular stalwarts such as Inigo Calderon and Gordon Greer were cast aside in the name of progress. That side of the Albion boss seems to have gone, and he needs to get it back.
Too many times this season under-performing players have been rewarded by keeping their places in the team.
Away from selection, he needs to be cut throat in his transfer dealings. The likes of Jahanbakhsh and Locadia have failed to fire, so move them on if suitors can be found. We all love Bruno, but is a 38-year-old at right back in the top flight going to kick us onto the next level?
Tough decisions need to be made and for that, Hughton needs to be ruthless once again.
With the pressure off at the Emirates, Hughton finally released the handbrake and let the Albion go on the attack in an away game.
The result was a first point at one of the big six and in truth, it could have been all three.
That should show Hughton what we can achieve if we go out to win a game rather than boring our way to a draw.
If we can take the game to Arsenal, we can definitely do it at Southampton, Burnley and Bournemouth. What happened on Sunday should provide the blueprint for away tactics in 2019-20.
If it does, we’ll be in for a much more enjoyable season.
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