Even the most knowledgeable of fans and experts have absolutely no idea what to expect as Brighton prepare for their third campaign in the Premier League.
Albion avoided the drop by the narrowest of margins last season as Chris Hughton’s team averaged less than a goal a game and pumped forward the third highest amount of long balls. It was a pretty grim watch at times and chairman Tony Bloom acted ruthlessly and decisively.
Graham Potter was appointed as the new manager in May and his task is to establish the club in the Premier but to do so in a manner that’s pleasing on the eye.
Potter has certainly taken an unusual path to the Premier League, having forged his reputation in the fourth tier of Swedish football with Östersund. The 44-year-old from Solihull, who studied social sciences at university and has a masters degree in leadership and emotional intelligence, went on to win three promotions, the Swedish Cup and reached the last 32 of the Europa League. His success and his unconventional methods caught the eye as his Östersund players were sent for lessons in reindeer husbandry and performed a ballet production of Swan Lake.
Asked if he’d implement these ideas at Brighton, Potter said, “It is not so easy at any level to walk into a club and say, ‘guys we are going to start singing and dancing. I would not advise anybody not to do that.
“In football and life you can’t just pick up something that has worked in one environment and copy it into another.
“The short answer is, no I have not done any of that at Brighton...Not yet! When we did it in Östersund, as soon as you lose, the media and the supporters will always question why you are doing that and why aren’t you spending more time playing football. If that happens there, then it would happen here but maybe in a bigger way.”
At Swansea, Potter’s team played excellent attacking football in the Championship and he also transformed Daniel James from a loan player, who couldn’t force his way into Shrewsbury Town’s starting XI, to Manchester United’s first summer signing.
Brighton also have their share of attacking talent seeking new direction and guidance. More than £50m has been spent in the last couple of years on José Izquierdo, Jürgen Locadia, Florin Andone and Alireza Jahanbakhsh. All were prolific at their previous clubs and all have underwhelmed so far at the Amex. Brighton’s over-reliance on Glenn Murray, who will be 36 in September, is also something Potter addressed.
Leandro Trossard, a £15m summer signing from Genk, looks a fine addition. Trossard captained Genk to their first Belgian league title in eight years last season and Brighton clearly feel he’s an upgrade to Anthony Knockaert, who was allowed to join Fulham on a season long loan that’s expected to end in a permanent £10m switch.
The £20m arrival of Neal Maupay from Brentford boosts attacking options. Plenty of clubs were willing to part with serious money to land Maupay but the French striker opted for Brighton purely because of Potter’s attacking philosophy.
“I like possession-based football,” said Maupay. “So when I met him this summer, he told me that he wanted me to bring that type of football to Brighton. Straight away, I thought he would be great for me. I am excited to get to work.”
The 18-year-old Taylor Richards has joined from Manchester City with a view of forcing his way into the first team. The club were also successful in their pursuit of Bristol City’s £20m defender Adam Webster and it appears it will not be at the expense of captain Lewis Dunk, who has persistently been linked with a £40m move away from his boyhood club. Midfielder Aaron Mooy also joined from Huddersfield on transfer deadline day.
This is a leap into the unknown for Brighton and Potter’s attacking instincts, coupled with some exciting signings, could well make it one of the more entertaining campaigns in recent history.
Add in a ballet production or two and perhaps some reindeer herding, and it really could be quite something at the Amex this season.
Manager: Graham Potter: Brought in to deliver attacking football and his chances of success increased somewhat with the additions of Neal Maupay, Leandro Trossard and Adam Webster. Highly-regarded by his previous employers Östersund and Swansea and now has his opportunity to make an impression at the highest level.
Player to watch: Leandro Trossard: Last year captained Genk to their first league title in eight seasons. The 24-year-old Belgian winger is full of skill and energy with an eye for goal. He has impressed greatly in pre-season and is expected to feature against Watford.
Rising star: Neal Maupay: The £20m signing from Brentford scored 41 goals from 95 games in the Championship. He was voted EFL Player of the Year last season and the 22-year-old Frenchman is confident he can replicate that form in the Premier League.
Transfers In: Neal Maupay (Brentford), Adam Webster (Bristol City) Matt Clarke (Porstmouth - loaned to Derby), Leandro Trossard (Genk), Taylor Richards (Manchester City). Out: Anthony Knockaert (Fulham), Markus Suttner (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
Last season finish: 17th