Preview | Brighton & Hove Albion
Brian Owen, of the Argus, gives us the lowdown on tomorrow's opponents.
Has it been a tough baptism so far for Brighton in the Premier League?
“Yeah, I’d say so. I don’t think anybody was expecting too much from Man City at home, although they did play quite well in aspects. Rightly or wrongly, there was more expectation on the Leicester game but that went out the window when they conceded inside a minute. Losing at home to City and away at Leicester, the former champions, are not disastrous results by any means but they need to get off the mark soon.”
They’ve lost both games 2-0 but does that tell the whole story?
“They have done alright defensively for large parts of games. They’ve suffered lapses which they would have got away with in the Championship but have cost them in the Premier League. They had decent possession at Leicester and probably had the lion’s share but I think Leicester were quite happy to let them have the ball.
“I just can’t think of many goalscoring chances they created. Their use of the ball and creating chances have been the main problems so far.”
How has Chris Hughton got them set-up?
“They were 4-4-2 last season and are more 4-4-1-1 now. Hughton played with one up top in certain games last season but he’s definitely made the switch more permanent now. The personnel has changed quite a lot, probably more than he wanted to. Plus Sam Baldock was a big part of the 4-4-2 system and he’s been injured.”
You’ve made seven signings so far. How have the new boys fared?
“They all look like upgrades but players take time to settle. Most are coming in from other leagues and some take longer to settle than others. It’s a hard time to come in and some have found it difficult. They’ve been thrown in at the deep end against City and Leicester and it’s been a bit of a culture shock. We’ve definitely not seen the best of them yet, although Izzy Brown did look very sharp in friendlies but he then got injured against City.”
You spent £16m to sign Jose Izquierdo. What sort of impression has he made?
“He’s not been involved yet but he should get a game on Saturday. There has to be a bit of an adaption process with him but he has come through a European league (Belgium) so that should help the process.
“We might have to wait and see a bit with him. He’s a bit of a character (he owns a pig and once wore a pair of sunglasses to celebrate a goal) and is working worked quite hard on his game so the fans are looking forward to seeing him as he’s the club-record signing.”
Do you think the Seagulls will be busy before Deadline Day?
“There will plenty of activity in and out and everyone here is poised for a busy week. There is talk about getting another goalkeeper and obviously they need a new striker. There’s been a seven-figure bid for Cardiff’s Kenneth Zohore and also interest in Everton’s Oumar Niasse. They have signed Raphael Dwamena but they are waiting on a work permit for him.”
Anthony Knockaert will always be remembered in these parts for his role in that memorable play-off game between us and Leicester. How crucial is he to your hopes?
“Knockaert is a person who really makes things happen. He got 15 goals last season and won the Championship Player of the Year. There is a theory he doesn’t play as well away from home as he does at home, but he was the top-scorer away from home last season so the stats don’t bare that out.
“This is his second go at the Premier League and he didn’t get much of a crack last time so there is a feeling he has a bit of a point to prove.”
What’s the latest news from the treatment room?
“Midfielder Beram Kayal is out with a broken leg he picked up in pre-season against Atletico Madrid. That’s a blow as he played 49 times last season. Glenn Murray went off against Leicester and they are waiting to see if he’ll be back.
“Izzy Brown went off in the first match and missed the Leicester game while Steve Sidwell has something wrong with his back.”
You got through to the third round of the Carabao Cup this week. That must have boosted confidence?
“It was a boost for the club as a whole as a couple of young players did well. Whether it boosts the team or not I’m not sure as there were so many changes and it was only 1-0 against Barnet.
“It’s better than losing though and the good thing was Knockaert got 45 minutes and youngster James Tiklley (19) came off the bench to score.”
How do you think Brighton will line up on Saturday?
“Ryan in goal and a back-four of Bruno, Duffy, Dunk and Suttner. The midfield should be Knockaert, Stevens, Propper and then I think Izquierdo might start on the left. I’d fancy Solly March to play in the No 10 role and then Glenn Murray up front.”
And, finally, what do you make of the Hornets?
“They are one of a clutch of teams who it’s easy to underestimate what they’ve done in establishing themselves as a Premier League club. They’ve clearly shown good levels of organisation, professionalism and recruited really well. Watford have done well to establish themselves as established Premier League clubs like Stoke and West Brom and that’s the biggest compliment you can pay them.
“Brighton are already finding out how difficult it is to make your mark in this league. I’m also looking forward to working in the new facilities as the last time I came here we were working in the condemned stand!”