Scott McCarthy: Improve away and Brighton will finish higher than last season's 15th place
The new Premier League season is nearly upon us and that means it's time to stick a head above the parapet and try to predict where Brighton and Hove Albion will finish in their second season in the top flight.
Plenty of people have had a go so far and the wide range of opinions says everything about how open the Premier League is outside of the top six.
You’ve got some predicting relegation, others going for a similar lower mid-table finish to last time, a few cautiously optimistic about the top ten and there has even been one bloke saying the Albion will crack the top six. Hopefully, he was captured and returned to his padded cell very quickly.
On paper, it looks a much harder division this time around. Wolves have come up and can seemingly sign anybody who has played for Portugal over the last ten years, making them arguably the strongest team to have come into the division from the Championship, possibly ever.
Fulham also look stronger than the three teams who went down and there is little chance that Southampton will be such a mess again. That leaves only Cardiff and Huddersfield as teams you can say with certainty the Albion will finish above.
So, how do Brighton go about surviving or improving on last season? The key is going to be away form. Two wins and ten goals on the road last season was a pretty pitiful record and one that has to be improved if the Albion are to kick on. There were so many occasions we went away last season and didn’t pick up the points we should’ve done.
Southampton away was one example. Glenn Murray’s early penalty put the Albion in the lead, after which they manned the barricades and tried to defend for the remaining 80 minutes. The Saints spent the rest of the game on top and duly claimed a point despite the fact they looked there for the taking.
Losing 2-0 away at a West Brom side who hadn’t won for five months and 20 games is something you can still wake up in a cold sweat about. Away at Bournemouth the Albion were deeper than a frilled shark and at Newcastle it was only the brilliance of Maty Ryan that earned a point.
Chris Hughton is by nature a conservative manager. He’s managed in the Premier League for three-and-a-half seasons, and in that time won only nine away games out of a possible 63. However brilliant a manager Hughton has been, that is an obvious area for improvement this season.
The big question is, will he show more willingness to go on the attack away from home this season? The signings of Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Florin Andone and Yves Bissouma should increase the Albion’s goal scoring options, but it will also take a change of approach from Hughton in order to unleash that potential.
Last season, Brighton were four points short of the top ten. They were nine short of finishing as high as eighth. If they can maintain their home form but improve away from home, there is no reason why they can’t finish far higher than last year.
That is a pretty big if though, and Hughton’s history suggests it won’t happen. The Amex will keep Brighton in the Premier League, but just imagine how good we could be if we went on the attack away from home?
Better than the 15th place I’m currently predicting…
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