The start of the competitions has given rise to certain teams standing out from the rest of their competitors with a magnificent start. In the case of the English Premier League, we can see how Graham Potter’s Brighton & Hove Albion FC have entered the fight for the top places in the table in these first 7 rounds of the championship, just 2 points behind the leaders and tied on points with teams of the stature of Manchester City and Manchester United. A team that last season finished in 16th position but with a very peculiar and defined style of play.
ABOUT HIS COACH: GRAHAM POTTER
Graham Potter is an English coach with a very unusual career. He started his professional coaching career in 2010 at Östersunds FK, a team in the Swedish 4th division. In 8 years as coach of this club, he managed to promote them to the 1st division of Swedish football and won a national cup.
These achievements brought him to the attention of Swansea City AFC, who signed him to implement his innovative methods at the club, but in 2019 he was signed by his current team Brighton & Hove Albion FC to revamp the team’s identity and establish it in the Premier League.
BRIGHTON’S STYLE OF PLAY. OVERVIEW
The Premier League is generally known for being a very physically demanding league. Historically the “kick and run” has been a hallmark of this league although in recent years, due to the modernisation of football, several teams have tried to have a style of play marked by ball possession and pressure in the opposition half.
In this aspect, Brighton are not far behind, and based on the ideas of their coach Graham Potter, they have managed to establish a possession and attacking style of play that is very new in world football. Aspects such as the ball out from the back and the movement of their two strikers and wingers have made the Seagulls one of the most in-form teams in the competition at the moment.
TACTICAL KEYS. OFFENSIVE PHASE
Offensively, Brighton are a brave team with the ball as they try to play out from the back with their defenders and midfielders. It is worth noting that goalkeeper Robert Sánchez (Spanish international) is very important in the game, especially in dynamic ball control.
- If the build up is from a goal kick, i.e. a static build up, they tend to carry the ball out from the back on a 4+2 , where their 3 central defenders and right back are positioned in line while the left back (Cucurella) tries to gain height and their two deffensive midfielders help the central defenders and the theoretically full-backs to generate options to bring the ball out from the back fluently. In this type of situation, by “reconverting” the formation into a 1-4-2-3-1 with Maupay dropping to the right flank while Welbeck remaining as a reference up front as his physical strength serves as a resource in case they need to play long.
- Robert Sánchez‘s importance in the build up of the team can be seen when the goalkeeper himself is positioned as an extra central – defender in possession. His great ability to play with both legs means that he has the confidence of his coach to play with the ball on his feet. Currently, the Spanish international is in the top 10% of goalkeepers in the 5 big leagues in terms of touches on the ball per game (43.47). At the same time, he is the Premier League goalkeeper who attempts the most passes per game with 37.71 when the average for English league goalkeepers is 25.28 passes per game.
- One of their most representative characteristics is the lateralisation of the attacking play in the last third quarter of the field. So far this season, they have attacked down the left flank 40% of the time and down the right flank 36% of the time and they always look to combine or look for deep passes to end up in the opponent’s box (59% of the time).
- As far as movement is concerned, it is worth highlighting two aspects that differentiate Brighton’s attacking game.
- Firstly, it is very common to see Welbeck, Maupay, or Trossard on occasions, dropping to the wing leaving their most attacking midfielder (Trossard, Lallana, Mac Allister…) as a reference up front and their more centralised center midfielders looking to go deep with the attackers through filtered balls behind the backs of the defenders.
- At other times, they look to stick to the same pattern, leaving the full-backs to create chances down the flank with crosses into the box. Their full-backs stand out for being remarkably good in one-on-one duels to get crosses in.
TACTICAL KEYS. DEFENSIVE PHASE
Due to the physical ability of their full-backs and the long distance they can run during the game, Graham Potter can structure his defence as follows.
- Line of 5 in defence with 3 centre backs the full backs.
- In midfield, a defensive midfielder and two midfielders inside. One of the midfielders will be the one who jumps to press the opposing defenders.
- Two strikers constantly working on the ball and covering well for their opponents on the flanks.
Brighton are a very combinative team as we have already mentioned, which is why they prefer to structure their attacks in an organised and positional way, trying to keep the ball under control at all times of the game.
We could highlight that they are not a team that will generally launch counterattacks, whenever they recover the ball, they will try to combine between them to structure an open play attack.
HOW DOES BRIGHTON STRUCTURE THE PRESSURE?
Potter’s tactics are also revolutionary in pressing. Firstly, as is common in this type of team, they use high and intense pressure on their opponents. They usually place their line of pressure in the 3/4 zone of the field and we would highlight the following:
- Line of 3 centre-backs positioned in line with the midfield line and their full-backs slightly advanced on the field.
- Two open strikers covering full-backs and the one who jumps into the pressure is the inside player who acts as an attacking midfielder.
- Two center midfielders stay behind the CAM, balancing the team’s pressing and defensive play.
Based on what we have analysed, we draw the following conclusions about Brighton, a team that is undoubtedly causing a sensation in one of the most demanding competitions on the planet:
- Offensively, they are a very combinative team who, through the dynamic movements of their attackers, seek to create confusion in the opposition defence when marking.
- They work a lot on building the game up from the back and are very brave on it. On occasions, their build up play goes through Robert Sánchez, the Spanish goalkeeper who is positioned as a theoretical centre-back to create superiority by attacking with an extra player.
- Their greatest danger is to filter balls to either flank behind the full-backs and once in that situation their attackers and wingers are skilful at getting crosses in.
- Defensively they are a team that tries to press the opposition high.
- Their biggest steals occur in the central area of the pitch although once they have recovered the ball they will attack positionally, it is not common to see them looking for counter-attacking options.