Potter's ruthless decision to fix his weakest link has paid dividends for Brighton - it's what every club should do

"He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Sunday, 7th February 2021, 3:42 pm

Zurab Khizanishvili was a Premier League and Championship journeyman back in the late noughties and early 2010s.

The Georgian defender played a huge role in making sure his Reading side did not get promoted to the Premier League via the play-off finals, where his team lost 4-2 to Brendan Rodgers' Swansea in 2011.

Khizanishvili was booked early on, gave away a penalty and failed to stop a cross which led to a goal, this allowed Swansea to go 3-0 up inside 45 minutes - a half from hell.

Potter decided to play Sanchez over Ryan in December time

The book The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally, which is backed up by data, highlights the way a team's worst player, or the player who makes the most mistakes, is the most detrimental to the side.

The book reads: "Football is a team game, but it is one prone to being decided by sheer, staggering individual ineptitude. Every team has had one, a player whose very presence chills a fan's blood, whether it is William Prunier at Manchester United, Liverpool's Djimi Traore, Jean-Alain Boumsong at Newcastle."

I'd add Titus Bramble into the mix there, too.

The book continues: "These are players who, with one misplaced pass, one lapse in concentration, can undo all the good work their managers and teammates have done over the course of a game, a week, or in Khizanishvili's case, an entire season."

It sounds obvious, but if you start looking out for it in games you'll notice a team's worst players costing their team points: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Kepa, Tim Reem, Dejan Lovren, Simon Mignolet to name a few more.

"It's the manager's job to minimize the potential impact of his worst player, both on the pitch on any given day and over the course of a season. Recognising that football is a game disproportionately influenced by its weakest links is the first step: it should play a signigficant role in setting the manager's agenda.

"Remember that improving the weakest link is the most effective way to win more matches and climb the table," the authors write.

Essentially, you are only as good as your worst player.

So using this as a foundation and applying it to Brighton, who has been our weakest link? This season, it was Maty Ryan in the first team.

This is not a sleight on Ryan, as I do think he is a good keeper but he was in very bad form. Since the Australian has been switched out and replaced by a very strong performing Robert Sanchez, Brighton's results have improved.

Sanchez has five clean sheets so far in the last two to three months and his underlying numbers are also impressive, which can be viewed here.

This switch has not raised Brighton's ceiling, but it has raised the floor. The base level of performance of the team has gone up, everyone is now doing the basics correctly.

This was a big call by Potter, as Ryan was arguably the best performer for Brighton last season, making multiple saves to keep them in games. But if they are going to progress then these decisions are what will help Albion climb the table.

It's ruthless but that's what's needed to improve.

This team is still evolving, but the results are now starting to reflect that evolution and Potter and the club's vision is starting to be realised.

Other notable sales of weak links and subsequent upgrades include Bernardo (sold and replaced), Dale Stephens (sold and upgraded), Shane Duffy (sold and upgraded), Glenn Murray (sold and replaced), Gaetan Bong (sold and upgraded).

I'd also recommend reading the book for the full argument of the detriments of a weakest link on a team.