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Pascal Gross
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Player Analysis

Is Chris Hughton Holding Brighton Back?

by Chuck Booth
Updated On: April 19, 2019, 6:19 pm ET

Looking at the end of last year, it looked like the Seagulls were flying high. Coming off of a 3-1 derby win over Crystal Palace on December 4th, Brighton reached their highest Premier League standing of the season, clocking in 10th place. Then, the wheels fell off. Since that point, Brighton has only won three games and drawn three more for a total of 12 points. For added perspective, only Fulham (11 points) and Huddersfield (four points have been worse) and both of those teams are in the relegation zone. The other team in the relegation zone, Cardiff City, has collected 17 points in the same period to now draw within two points of 17th place Brighton. 

The fact that manager Chris Hughton isn’t publicly on the hot seat at this point is odd even though he has done a lot for the club. Part of the issues with Brighton is down to injuries, especially the one to their talisman Pascal Gross, but stubbornness in lineup construction, improper tactical management and more have put Brighton into a relegation race that they shouldn’t be in. Even worse, looking at the remaining games for Brighton and Cardiff, it may get worse…

Matchweek Brighton Cardiff
35 @ WOL LIV
35 @ TOT N/A
37 @ ARS CRY

For one of the worst away teams in the league, trips to Wolverhampton, Tottenham, and Arsenal aren’t going to be pretty. Also, comparing things to a Cardiff squad that has two winnable games in a trip to Fulham and a home tie versus Crystal Palace, Brighton should be worried if they can’t collect points versus Wolves and Newcastle. Brighton blowing the head to head match with Cardiff City handed the Bluebirds a lifeline but how did it get this bad?

Brighton has forgotten how to score. In the calendar year, Brighton has scored only ten goals in 11 matches being shut out four times. Considering that they aren’t keeping clean sheets either, how is Brighton supposed to pick up points. If you guessed, playing their best attacking players, you would be right but in a match where Anthony Knockaert was out with a suspension, Alireza Jahanbakhsh got the start over a finally healthy José Izquierdo.

This led to Brighton having a front three that Cardiff could cope with in route to getting shut out. And it is one of the many moments when Chris Hughton’s stubbornness has gotten in the way of him playing his best team week in and week out. Things like this have always been a gripe with Hughton tactically, but it has been papered over by the success of Gross. To get the best out of the team, it would make sense for Brighton to move on from Houghton but this late in the season, there aren’t many coaches who would take that challenge.

One who would (credit to left or right foot on Twitter for bringing this up) is David Wagner. After parting ways with Huddersfield mutually, Wagner has yet to latch onto a club and his style and tactical knowledge would likely be enough to keep Brighton in the Premier League and Brighton is a club that spends enough in the transfer market to get the caliber of players that Wagner would want. While it is a bit of a pipe dream, a move like this could see Hughton move into a recruitment role with the team. Desperate times call for desperate measures as Premier League survival should be the only goal.

If Brighton doesn’t move on then they’ll run the risk of relegation and needing to sell off their key players. Considering the risk in getting promoted again, why not swing for the fences while you still can?