Davy Propper to PSV Eindhoven: How Brighton star went from Graham Potter's main man to outcast
One of the more surprising aspects of last season was the rapid reversal of fortunes for Albion midfielder Davy Propper.
The Dutch international made just two Premier League starts – the 1-0 home loss against Arsenal in December and then away at Man City last January – and on both occasions he was substituted on 68 minutes.
He made two appearances in FA Cup matches, two in the Carabao and then just five appearances from the bench in the closing stages of Premier League matches against Wolves, Leeds Fulham, Southampton and finally Newcastle. That 89th minute run out at the end of the 3-0 win against Newcastle last March now looks set to be his last.
It’s expected Propper will depart this summer and return to Holland with PSV Eindhoven, the club he left when he joined Albion in 2017, his mostly likely destination. It has been a strange and unexpected turnaround in fortunes for the 29-year-old who has also lost his place Frank de Boer’s Netherlands team.
The season before, Propper had been one of Graham Potter’s trusted performers with39 appearances. Potter praised Propper’s influence as the manager tried to implement a more progressive style.
Propper and Potter looked the perfect fit – calm in possession and the ability to pick passes from deep as Albion played from the back. The Dutchman was rewarded with a contract extension to 2023 and many expected the man from Arnhem, who scored twice in 107 appearances for Albion, to lead the midfield for Potter once again last season.
A few niggling injuries didn’t help but even when fit, he could not convince Potter he warranted a start ahead of Yves Bissouma, Pascal Gross, Adam Lallana or Steven Alzate.
The tried and tested midfield combination was now gone. Dale Stephens had departed to Burnley, Propper could not get a game and Potter was moving in a new direction.
Potter’s decision was made easier by the sublime form of Bissouma. The Mali international finally proved he had the tactical awareness to match his dynamism. He could now do what Propper did the previous season but added energy and drive that gave a new dynamic to the midfield.
Bissouma’s emergence was also helped by the experience of Lewis Dunk behind him and Adam Lallana operating just ahead of him.
Brighton’s team was progressing and Propper was quickly left behind. He went from being a Dutch international and the main man in the Albion’s midfield, to a fringe player within the space of a few months.
Propper is an ultra-laid back character but even for him, last season must be a huge source of frustration – especially now watching Holland in Euro 2020 action without him.
At his best Propper is a classy operator at the highest level but at the age of 29, Albion have decided on a fresh direction and this summer is perhaps their final chance to receive a decent transfer fee for the man they brought for £10m four years ago.
Propper has certainly played a huge part in helping establish Albion in the top flight. His 107 Premier League appearances is the fifth highest of any Brighton player – only Dunk (143), Gross (123) Maty Ryan (121) and Solly March (111) have more.
With Lallana and Gross, Albion will retain midfield experience and they also have emerging young talents in Jakub Moder and Moises Caicedo. Propper will aim to kick-start his career at a PSV team who finished second in the Eredivisie last campaign and will also compete in the Champions League this coming season.