Crystal Palace vs Brighton: Why Selhurst Park is the perfect test for Graham Potter's evolving Albion
For the first time since their promotion to the top flight in 2017, Brighton are beginning to look like an established Premier League team.
The results have of course been excellent so far this season and Graham Potter’s men sit in fourth place –sandwiched between the two Manchester giants –having won four from their first five matches.
It’s not all simply down to the results. Margins of victory against Burnley, Brentford and Leicester were narrow – indeed Burnley and Brentford could have been out of sight had they taken their first half chances and VAR played a huge role in the win against Leicester last Sunday.
But this season Potter’s team has a different feel to it, a bit more resolute and able to manage tough periods of matches. It has taken time to build but each player looks more comfortable in their role and Potter’s tactics are less risky, keeping Albion in matches and giving themselves a better chance to win.
The players also appear to have the belief they belong in the Premier League, rather than giving their best each week but fearing the worst. “We respected Leicester but we did not fear them,” said Potter after his team beat the former Premier League champions and FA Cup holders for the first time ever in the top tier.
It has taken time for Albion to reach this point and Potter’s faith in the likes of Rob Sanchez, Leo Trossard and Neal Maupay looks to be paying off.
Trossard has been excellent this season and was Albion’s most creative spark during the win against Leicester. The Belgian international now looks settled in the Premier League and Potter’s team.
The role he now plays enables him to find the space between the opposition’s defence and midfield and he has the awareness to pick out the right pass to Maupay or Danny Welbeck.
The experience of Lewis Dunk, Joel Veltman and Adam Lallana also plays a key role and has allowed Yves Bissouma to develop into the powerhouse of a midfielder that he is.
The Mali international played on after extending his knee last Sunday and all at Albion will hope he recovers in time for Monday where Brighton’s new found lofty status will be fully tested at old rivals Crystal Palace.
There’s nothing like to trip to Selhurst Park to bring Albion firmly back down to earth. Palace were widely tipped to struggle this term. Numerous players were out of contract, rock-steady head coach Roy Hodgson departed and Patrick Vieira – a Premier League rookie –took the role.
But Vieira’s men have a compact and dangerous look about them and the early signs suggest there are other teams that appear more vulnerable than Palace this season.
Conor Gallagher is clearly a fine addition to their midfield and any line-up with a fully fit and fully committed Wilf Zaha is a serious danger.
A rocking Selhurst Park will be a great test for Potter’s team at this stage and they should be boosted by the return of their flying wing back Tariq Lamptey.
It’s been a tough period for the former Chelsea man who has not seen Premier League action following a hamstring injury sustained last December.
Lamptey, 20, was on the bench against Leicester and featured in midweek Carabao Cup fixture. A game of this intensity maybe too soon for Lamptey to start but he certainly provides a handy option for Potter to unleash from the bench.
His injury has required patience from all but it’s also easy to expect too much too soon. The prospect however of Lamptey on the right and Marc Currella – who made a classy home debut against Leicester – on the left is a tantalising one.
Brighton are fourth and still have a few extra weapons to bring out of their locker. These are heady days indeed.