Brighton and Hove Albion opinion: Why it's time to put some respect back on Pascal Gross’ name

There was much to like about Brighton's 2-1 win over Aston Villa at the weekend.

It was the Seagulls' first ever win at Villa Park, Danny Welbeck got off the mark with a brilliantly taken goal, Solly March showed the world that not only does he possess a right foot but it is also pretty decent, and a moment of VAR controversy finally went in the Albion's favour.

Given all the drama, it almost went unnoticed that Pascal Gross quietly moved into number one position for Brighton goal involvements in the Premier League.

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Pascal Gross battles with Aston Villa's Jack Grealish

His assist for March's winner took him onto 17 since the Albion joined the top flight in 2017. Combine that with 12 goals and it means that Gross has scored or assisted 29 times in the Premier League, overtaking Glenn Murray who had registered 28 goals and assists prior to his summer departure to Watford.

A player who has been directly involved in 23.96% of a club's goals over the course of three-and-a-bit seasons would normally be heralded as a fan favourite. Especially in a side like Brighton, who prior to the 2020-21 campaign averaged less than a goal-a-game in the Premier League.

And yet Gross gets a lukewarm reception at best from certain sections of the Albion support. Some go as far as to actively dislike the German playmaker, if the incredulity that social media was awash with following his selection at Villa Park was anything to go by.

Those who underrate Gross have two stems to their argument. The first is that he is too slow. The second is that he is only a ‘set piece merchant’ and this inflates his statistics to make him appear better than he is.

Whilst it is true that Gross would probably find himself struggling in a 100 metre race with an Eddie Stobart lorry, he is a player who does not need to rely on pace. His talents lie in picking out passes, threading through balls and leaving opponents bamboozled with that beautiful Cruyff turn of his.

His lack of speed is more than made up for by his work rate. Gross is not a sprinter but a distance runner. In the 2017-18 season, he ran further than any other Brighton player by some distance. Against Villa, he covered every blade of grass. To say that Gross is not good enough because he is slow shows a lack of understanding over what he is in the team to do.

The charge of ‘set piece merchant’ is even more baffling. How can it be a bad thing that a player can deliver a pinpoint corner or free kick which leads to a goal? Those Brighton fans who do not value it as a skill should be made to watch a compilation video of the ridiculous number of horror short corners the Albion have taken this season as a re-education tool.

There are signs at least that the tide of opinion is beginning to turn in Gross’ favour. He was generally considered to have been excellent against Villa, helped of course by that cutting across-the-box pass to pick out March. It was a performance which was about so much more than goal, though.

Having started the season out of the team, Gross seems to have finally found a spot in Graham Potter’s 3-5-2. He has made three Premier League starts so far this season and claimed two assists. A midfield consisting of the playmaking talents of both Gross and Adam Lallana is one that will continue to create plenty of opportunities and with Danny Welbeck leading the line, Brighton finally have a striker who looks capable of making the most of those.

It is time to put some respect back on Pascal Gross’ name.

by Scott McCarthy -