Today, the mighty Aston Villa face Brighton and Hove Albion at the AMEX in what anyone would describe an important game for both teams. Eager to bounce back after Sunday’s 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Manchester City, Villa will look to complete the league double over Brighton this season after an incredible last-minute Targett winner saw Villa take the three points in the reverse fixture at Villa Park.
To get an opposition perspective on today’s game, we spoke to We Are Brighton.
1. Brighton’s solid draw against Chelsea and win over Bournemouth has been cancelled out by defeat to Everton. How have Brighton performed over the last three games?
From the outside looking in, four points against a struggling Bournemouth and a Chelsea who perhaps aren’t what they once were might not be that much to shout about. But for Brighton, they were significant results.
Bournemouth were very much our bogey side. We hadn’t beaten them since 2008, a run which stretched back 12 games and across the Premier League, Championship and League One. They were also the opponents who hammered the nail into the coffin which convinced many Albion fans that Chris Hughton’s time was coming to an end when they won 5-0 at the Amex last April. So beating them was no mean feat and we’d never taken a league point off Chelsea before, so that was another monkey off the back.
As for Everton last weekend, the less said about that the beter. What defeat at Goodison Park did do is hammer home just how important Aaron Mooy is to us after he missed the game injured.
2. Like Dean Smith, Graham Potter is a manager who proved his worth in the Championship to manage in the Premier League. How is he impressing Seagulls fans?
The football is a world away from the avoid-defeat-at-all-costs stuff Hughton was serving up by the end. Ultimately, that’s why Tony Bloom brought him in. Hughton’s style was only ever suited to surviving in the Premier League and Bloom has rathr boldly stated that he wants the Albion to be a top 10 club. If we’ve finished higher than 17th come the end of the season, then we’ll know whether it was a gamble that has paid off.
3. Villa were linked with Neal Maupay in the summer, who of course plays for Brighton now – how has he been getting on?
I’d give him a solid 6.5/10 so far. He’s our top scorer with seven goals, his workrate is superb and the fact he goes out of his way to wind oppositions fans up at every opportunity is very enjoyable. He has though missed a lot of simple chances which, had he have taken, could have put him easily into double figures so far. If he can improve his conversion rate, than we could have a top player on our hands given that he’s still in his early twenties.
4. What are Brighton’s main targets in the transfer window?
We generally don’t do much business in January, which is probably a good thing as most of the signings we’ve made in this window have been dreadful. In fact, only Anthony Knockaert and Leonardo Ulloa could be considered a success going back over the past decade.
If Potter does enter the market, then I’d hope it would be for a left back. Dan Burn has been very much a square peg in a round hole solution as a 6’7 centre half playing out of position. He’s now crocked anyway, which means Bernardo is back in the side. Potter doesn’t seem keen on Glenn Murray either despite what he keeps saying in public, in which case another striker to ease the burden on Maupay wouldn’t go amiss.
5. What constitutes a successful season for Brighton?
Improving on last season’s 17th position. Given that we won only two league games between January and the end of last season, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Potter to do that. Fingers crossed.
6. What are Brighton’s main strengths you will utilise against Villa?
We were well in control at Villa Park until Aaron Mooy lost his marbles and picked up two stupid bookings in the space of five minutes. If he can stay on the pitch for more than 30 minutes this time, then I think Villa might have serious problems containing him. Most Brighton fans had their doubts when we signed him on loan on the final day of August’s transfer window, but he’s been an absolute joy to watch.
7. What kind of Brighton lineup can we expect?
There’s doubts about Shane Duffy’s fitness which would leave Potter with just two decent centre backs available, so presumably the back three we saw at Everton would be ditched. Other than that, who knows? It’s a very futile exercise trying to predict Brighton’s starting XI this season as Potter is constantly chopping and changing personnel and formations, usually with some whacky idea thrown in. We’ve seen four centre backs starting, six central midfielders on the pitch at once and three wingers in the line up on a day when we played 4-2-2-2 and so didn’t require any natural width.
8. After a last-ditch Targett winner at Villa Park, will the outcome be the same at the AMEX, or do you foresee Saturday’s game going differently?
Our home form hasn’t been the best this season but we’re yet to have three bad performances in a row under Potter. Last week aganst Everton was dire and the previous Saturday we were deservedly dumped out the FA Cup by Sheffield Wednesday. Hopefully there’ll be a reaction to those defeats, so I’m going with a tentative 2-1 – although I’ll be sticking some money on the draw.
Thank you again to We Are Brighton for graciously providing the answers to our questions.