Graham Potter faces Leandro Trossard dilemma in order to save Brighton
Do you remember when Leandro Trossard made his first appearance for Brighton & Hove Albion?
It was Saturday 17th August 2019 against West Ham United at the Amex Stadium and it was easily the best debut any player has managed since the Seagulls became a Premier League club in 2017, writes Scott McCarthy of wearebrighton.comTrossard looked genuinely unplayable. He scored one and had another controversially ruled out through our first experience of VAR. Every time he got the ball, West Ham eyes filled with sheer panic in the same way that Championship defenders used to cower at the sight of Anthony Knockaert.
The Belgian was direct, he was tricky, he wanted to take his man on whenever he had the ball and he looked like a player who was set to take the Premier League by storm.
If you had said whilst filtering away from Falmer that day that within 16 months, Trossard would be the worst player on the pitch against the might of League Two Newport County, you would have been taken away by the men in white coats.
Trossard was on the pitch for 57 minutes at Rodney Parade on Sunday night. According to the excellent Albion Analytics Twitter feed, in that time he had 59 touches and gave the ball away 24 times.
To round off a miserable evening in apt style, he then took a spot kick in the shoot out so bad that it rivalled Ryan Harley’s infamous effort at Millwall in 2011. It was more like a back pass than a penalty.
What has happened to Trossard? It is a question that a lot of Brighton fans have been searching for an answer to – and it is one that could be equally asked of numerous members of the Albion squad.
Aaron Connolly, Neal Maupay, Ben White, Steve Alzate and to a lesser degree, Alexis Mac Allister were all players who showed real excitement when they first arrived in Brighton’s first team. At best, they have stood still. Some even appear to have gone backwards.
Graham Potter’s frequent chopping and changing of personnel cannot help. How can Trossard be expected to find any sort of form or momentum when he goes from playing as a number 10 one week to a second striker the next to out wide in a front three?
For the trip to Tottenham Hotspur, he was even been deployed by Potter as a lone centre forward, a position which nobody else in the world other than the Albion boss would consider Trossard’s skill set suited to.
What we saw against Newport was a Trossard who, rather than bamboozling opponents with pace and trickery as he used to, was instead always looking for a sideways pass.
The Trossard who arrived at Brighton from Genk would have thrived on leading the Exiles’ League Two defenders on a merry dance. It feels like Potter has told Trossard to play in a certain way, burning “pass the football” into his mind until all the fun and excitement has been coached out of him.
Compare Trossard at Rodney Parade to Percy Tau. Every time the Lion of Judah got the ball, he looked to take an opponent on with his speed and directness.
Tau even did something completely radical and took a shot from outside the box. He was a breath of fresh air in the way he approached the game and Brighton fans were justifiable excited about what he will bring to the party going forward.
Just as they were after Trossard’s debut against West Ham. And Connolly’s full debut against Spurs. And Mac Allister’s against Leicester City.
And Maupay’s lively first few appearances after signing from Brentford. And Alzate when he broke through. And White at the start of the season.
Will the same now happen to Tau? Is the latest player to show something a little different to what the Albion have going to end up with the flair and skill drained out of them?
How can anyone expect Tau to adapt to English football should he be in and out of the team or if Potter dreams up a madcap scheme to use him as a right wing back or something?
Watching Trossard against Newport was painful not because of how bad he was, but because of knowing how good he can be.
When he plays with the freedom to take players on and try and make things happen, he can be blockbuster – the sort of player who could drag Brighton out of the current relegation mess they find themselves in almost single -handedly.
If Potter really is a good enough manager to be on a six-year contract with a Premier League club and retain the seemingly unwavering faith of Tony Bloom and Paul Barber, then he should be able to unlock that Trossard who first arrived from Belgium. Lord knows Brighton need him.