Words by Esteban Ramirez
Saturday the 14th of August marked the start of the 2021/22 Premier League Season for Brighton and Hove Albion FC. After a disappointing campaign in 2020/21, in which the Albion finished 16th with 41 points, supporters were hopeful that their team would kick on to avoid another relegation scrap. The summer transfer window, however, did little to cement these hopes. With star player Ben White being sold to Arsenal for a club record fee of £52.65m, the club’s defensive anchor had been lifted. To add to the heartbreak of many, long-standing players such as Mat Ryan, Jose Izquierdo and Davy Propper also parted ways with the club in search of greener pastures. After failing to replenish the fragmented squad by the start of the upcoming season, it was forgivable to expect another heart-wrenching relegation battle for the Seagulls.
The season’s schedule began with a trip to Turf Moor to face the only team that finished below Brighton the previous year and avoided relegation: Sean Dyche’s hard-hitting Burnley FC. After a disappointing first-half start marked by a goal conceded after just two minutes and a late, off-the-post scare from Johann Gudmundsson, Brighton manager Graham Potter had some serious tactical thinking to do – and that he did. As the game reached the 70th minute, and with his team still a goal down, Potter brought two attacking midfielders in Jakub Moder and Alexis Mac Allister. Just minutes after their introduction, the pair scored and assisted to swing the game back in their team’s favour. It was later highlighted on BBC Sport that Potter’s tactical awareness displayed in that match gave the team hope for the season, along with a strong performance and goal from marquee forward Neal Maupay.
With a feeling of optimism stemming from the previous week’s heroic victory, the Sussex faithful turned up ready to rock the AMEX Stadium for the first time this season – and their team did not disappoint. With a dominant first-half display against newly promoted Watford, Duffy and Maupay’s goals led their team to a 2-0 victory over the Hornets. For the first time ever in the Premier League, Brighton had won their first two opening games making this their best-ever start. With 6 points they sat second in the table, with only two less goals than the 2019 Premier League and Champions League winners Liverpool. Midweek brought another win, this time over promotion-hopefuls Cardiff in the EFL Cup. With 11 changes to the starting line-up against Watford, this victory showed a glimpse of the squad-depth the club now possesses.
Although recently losing 2-0 to a star-studded Everton team, it is fair to say there are many positives to be taken from this opening period. Centre-forward ace Neal Maupay’s 100% scoring record shows no signs of slowing down, with the Frenchman netting a goal every 112 minutes so far this season. If Graham Potter’s super subs can continue to make an impact similar to that in the win against Burnley, and 3 days still remaining in the transfer window for the club to utilise the £50m received for Ben White, the depth and quality in the squad remains promising. Keeping hold of midfielder Yves Bissouma, who is rumoured to have received strong interest from Liverpool, could prove critical to the Seagull’s campaign. Fans will hope he follows in the footsteps of local lad Solly March, who recently signed a 3-year contract extension. With a favourable September fixture list, including rivals Crystal Palace and newly promoted Brentford, Potter’s players will look to continue their strong start to this season’s Premier League campaign.