Brighton injury news: Tariq Lamptey update forces Graham Potter's into tactical rethink
Brighton full-back Tariq Lamptey missed the latter half of last campaign with recurring hamstring injuries, and it seems his time on the sidelines may extend into next season.
On Saturday, the youngster was left out of Albion’s opening friendly against Rangers for precautionary measures.
After the game, Potter admitted Lamptey’s involvement in preseason would be minimal, stating: “He’s making progress but not as fast as we and he would like.”
Without a preseason under his belt, it seems unlikely Potter would risk Lamptey from the get-go, especially considering the awkward nature of hamstring injuries – even more so for someone with Lamptey’s explosive pace.
The obvious replacement at right-back is Joel Veltman who often deputised in Lamptey’s absence last season, but the Dutchman’s skillset is very different to that of the former Chelsea full-back.
Albion fans have come to expect stout defending, composure in possession and experienced positioning from Veltman, but he undoubtedly lacks the pace and direct running offered by Lamptey.
The success of Potter’s back five comes from the progressive running of both Lamptey and Solly March, who act as outlets to push Albion up the field.
In essence, when Veltman operates on the right of the back five, Brighton struggle to create the same quality of opportunities in attacking areas.
To solve this conundrum, and permit an extra attacker in the starting eleven, Potter may be tempted to set up with a back four at the start of this season.
Following Ben White’s expected £50m move to Arsenal, Potter may trust the partnership of Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster at centre-half, with March or Dan Burn at left-back and Veltman at right-back until Lamptey’s return.
Last season, with only Yves Bissouma protecting the defence from the base of midfield, a back four would have perhaps seemed risky, as Bissouma would have needed to cover both flanks when the full-backs pushed forwards.
However, thanks to the arrival of Enock Mwepu, who is likely to partner Bissouma in a double pivot next season, Brighton now have two engines to shield the defence.
Both Mwepu and Bissouma possess the physical profiles and tactical awareness to cover ground in defensive midfield and should provide the team with more security in defence.
When Mwepu initially signed, many Seagulls fans would have feared him to be the replacement for Bissouma. For now at least, it seems Albion’s Malian superstar will begin the season at the Amex and help Brighton in their pursuit of a top half finish.
Whether in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-2-2-2, Potter would therefore be able to deploy an extra midfielder or striker to attack the winnable early fixtures. With Burnley, Watford, Everton and Brentford in their opening four games, an extra body in attack could improve the high-press and help win the ball higher up the field.
Neal Maupay’s production in the side seemed to improve after combining with Danny Welbeck, perhaps making the 4-2-2-2 formation more likely from the outset. Potter could seemingly rotate the quartet of Adam Lallana, Leandro Trossard, Pascal Gross and Alexis Mac Allister in attacking midfield, leaving Welbeck and Maupay to act as the focal points in and around the box.
Unfortunately, Danny Welbeck was another omission from the squad on Saturday, with his fitness a question ahead of the new season. Unless Potter is satisfied trusting Maupay as Albion’s lone striker, recruiting a forward as quickly as possible is the ultimate priority during the remainder of preseason, especially if the club wishes to continue with a two-pronged strike force.
Some supporters may vouch that the safest option without Lamptey is to continue playing with a back five formation, in an attempt to control games with a solid foundation and take fewer risks in attacking areas.
However, with a number of winnable games in the opening stages of the season, Potter may see this as the perfect opportunity to develop a new system and present a higher pressing, more creative Brighton to the Amex faithful.