Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Brighton FPL Preview - Soaring Seagulls or Hexed Hove Albion?

Brighton sealed their promotion to the Premier League on April 17th, 2017 from the Championship. Over the last 8 years, their chairman plugged £250 million into the club to make them a promotion ready side, including funding the construction of the 30,750 seater Falmer Stadium, currently the AMEX Stadium due to a sponsorship deal. 34 years ago, Brighton were relegated from the old First Division, the last time the featured in England’s top flight. 20 years ago, whhile the Premier League format was finding its feet, Brighton were homeless after the club ran into financial difficulties and their stadium was sold – fans were forced to drive 70 miles to Gillingham to attend home matches instead. They were deducted points during the 1996/97 season due to fan protests about this very issue. Needless to say, the Seagulls have come a long way from that season, when they barely held onto their Football League status.

Opening Fixtures

1. Manchester City (H)

2. Leicester City (A)

3. Watford (A)

*International Break*

4. West Brom (H)

5. Bournemouth (A)

6. Newcastle (H)

*International Break*

7. Arsenal (A)

8. Everton (H)

9. West Ham (A)

10. Southampton (H)

With FPL managers traditionally deploying their first wildcard after the second international break, it’s reasonable to select one, if not more, Brighton players in your initial squads. I’ve highlighted Albion’s favourable fixtures by underlining them.

Manager Profile

Chris Hughton is a man we’ve seen in the Premier League twice before with two different teams. He first took charge of Newcastle in 2009/10 when they won promotion from the Championship under his stewardship. He was sacked in December of the 2010/11 season, with the team in 11th position. His sacking was greeted by widespread anger given that the side hadn’t been performing badly for a promoted side.

That season in the PL with the Toon, he had primarily relied upon a 442 formation once his attempts to use a 451 failed were unsuccessful. In his next job at Birmingham City, he led the then League Cup champions in a Europa League run, to the FA Cup fifth round and to fourth in the Championship. They subsequently lost a playoff semi-final. In that job, he once again relied on 442 for the majority of his tenure, while occasionally experimenting with the same formation but deploying two defensive midfielders instead – a so called 442 “double six”.

That solid season led to him being poached by Norwich City, who he led in the Premier League for almost two full seasons. His first season promoted saw him deploy 2 defensive midfielders in almost every game he played, usually as part of a 4231. They finished a credible 11th in that season, a feat he will hope to replicate with Brighton this season. However, about a year later he lost his job in charge of the Canaries as the club battled relegation. He had switched between a 4231 and a 442 double six all season. He mainly used the latter in games where Norwich could reasonably be expected to take all three points such as home games against weaker opposition.

Since then, he has been rebuilding at Brighton. Last season, he switched between a 442 and a 442 double six.

Career Record:
Total: 357 Games || 156 Wins || 98 Draws || 103 Losses || 43.7% Win Ratio

Brighton: 126 Games || 63 Wins || 33 Draws || 30 Losses || 50.0% Win Ratio

So what can we expect?

It seems to me that Hughton is unlikely to experiment with the new 3 man defence with wing-backs that is currently in fashion. Instead, we can expect a traditional 4 at the back, with 2 defensive midfielders for solidity. Two strikers also seems to be his preference, though his quotes back in May suggest he will play with a 4-4-1-1 to start:

"I think it's difficult to go through a season playing 4-4-2, particularly as a new club.”
"Leicester play it generally but they are more established. I would see myself at times playing it but also very much a 4-4-1-1." [Source]

New summer arrival Pascal Groß, previewed below, is expect to fulfil the Number 10 role in the new system.

The tweet below shows a rough calculation for what we can expect from Brighton as a second placed promoted side. I acknowledge that it’s a rough  yardstick, but it’s the best we have to work with right now:

Players to watch


Mathew Ryan (4.5)

Given that Ryan just arrived at Albion for a club record transfer fee, we can expect that he will take over first team duties, especially given that last season’s number one, David Stockdale, has left the club. Stockdale led the Championship for clean sheets (20 in 45 games), which indicates the solidity at the back of this Brighton side last season. They conceded 40 goals in total, which was the joint-best in the division with Newcastle. However, it was at home, where they let in just 13, that they really proved their mettle.

Ryan, 24, has had a stellar career to date. He already has 31 international caps for Australia to his name. However, it’s interesting to note that his career has stalled in recent seasons. He was signed by Valencia in 2015, but only played a bit-part role for them, making 10 appearances across a season and a half. However, he was Genk’s first choice once he arrived there in the winter transfer window last season as part of a loan agreement. He kept eleven clean sheets in 24 matches, conceding 20 times in total. Only one of those cleanies came in the six Europa League matches he featured in. The other ten came in lower standard domestic games in Belgium.

I think it’s fair to say that Ryan has been overhyped by pundits in the fantasy football sphere since the fixture list was announced. I wouldn’t be in a major rush to acquire a player as unproven as Ryan at Premier League level – search him on google, he’s outranked by a musician. Sure, he’ll face a lot of shots and make a lot of saves (Brighton hope) but I think that other goalkeepers at his price level provide a more dependable option for gameweek one.


Lewis Dunk (4.5)

Dunk is attracting a lot of interest among FPL managers because he is one of Brighton’s many set-piece takers. However, as a man who stands at 6’3” (192 cm) (some sites say he’s a centimetre taller), he is not going to be on corners or crossable free-kicks. Most of their direct set-pieces are taken by Anthony Knockaert.

However, having scored just 2 goals off 31 shots last year, we’re not talking about a player like Phil Jagielka in April. Instead, what we have in Dunk is a consistent starting player who does his defensive duties well. He’s likely to be in line for bonus points if the Seagulls manage to keep a clean sheet, though he could scupper his chances by picking up a yellow card – he was joint 4th in the Championship last season with 13 (0.32 per game).

A quick look at the positives – he was second for the Championship for interceptions with 125, 8th for blocked shots in the division with 39 too, which was the best total for the promoted teams. He also won 68% of his aerial duels (152 won), but you’d expect that given his stature. He popped up with 14 key passes all season too.

Shane Duffy (4.5)

Duffy is a man that is close to my heart given he’s a Republic of Ireland player, though I’ll try to stop his international exploits from clouding my judgement.

I believe Duffy is a much better option in fantasy than Dunk. He scored twice last season as Dunk did, though he did so in less games. He betters Dunk’s per game ratio in aerial duels with 5.62 (70% success rate) and he was also superior to Dunk on a per 90 basis for clearances (8.45 v 7.8), while he was second among the Brighton defenders in pretty much every other defensive stat. However, Duffy is more likely to pick up FPL bonuses given that he’s less of a card magnet, getting 0.21 per game ie. About once every five matches.

From the matches I have seen of Duffy, he can be a bit rash and prone to dips in concentration. However from a fantasy point of view, Duffy is the superior choice – more likely to score and more likely to get bonuses.

Markus Suttner (4.5)

Chris Hughton has already brought in Markus Suttner (4.5) to take over duties on the left side as part of his two part raid of Ingolstadt. The Austrian got four goals and five assists in his 31 Bundesliga games, so he’s obviously quite attack minded – 1.7 key passes, 1.5 crosses and 1.4 shots per game. Intriguingly, he had the second highest shot count by a defender in the German league (43), although 37 of those efforts came from outside the area. Furthermore, he provided more key passes than any other defender in the Bundesliga too with 49. Let’s see how he fits into the system for Hughton and whether or not he takes set-pieces before getting too excited, but this boy could be a hidden gem.

The Other Defenders

Brighton’s main man on the right flank, Bruno, is 36 and should be fading. He played 39 of their league games last season and got four assists off 28 key passes. It’s unlikely he’ll reach those levels in the PL. Uwe Hünemeier, Bong, former fantasy favourite Rosenior and Goldson are all unlikely to feature in the early season starting elevens. That said, if nobody is brought in to share minutes with or completely replace Bruno, we could see Rosenior get his chance on that right side of the back four.

You can read the rest of this preview over on the Rotoworld site, where Stag continues by examining Albion's midfield and forward prospects. For Anthony Knockaert and Pascal Gross alone, you're not going to want to miss that! Click this link -> Brighton FPL Preview 2017/18 continued

If you want to hear more from Stag, you can follow him on Twitter for #FPL hints, tips, help and reaction.