Gross misconduct: Why it's high time Brighton fans showed respect to Pascal Gross
There are not many nations on Earth who enjoy bizarre annual rituals and events as much as the United Kingdom. Us Brits love nothing more than doing things which, to much of the sane world, must seem completely mad.
My personal favourite is cheese rolling in Gloucester. What possesses people to throw themselves down what is effectively a cliff every Spring Bank Holiday for the purpose of catching a wheel of Double Gloucester which is descending at a top speed of 70mph?
A little closer to home is the Worthing Birdman competition. Build a flying machine and launch yourself off the end of Worthing Pier and into the English Channel to see who can fly the furthest. There is not even any cheese waiting for you at the end of that one, just freezing cold seawater. No thanks.
The Worthing Birdman is not Sussex’s only contribution to the UK’s tapestry of nonsense events – and it looks like one of them is taking place right now. Yes, it is that time of year again for the annual Pascal Gross Disparaging Month judging by recent posts on social media.
Every season, we seem to go through a short period where a number of Brighton supporters decide that Herr Gross is no longer good enough to play for the Albion. This is in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The 2020-21 campaign provided the best example of what a barking position it is to think Gross has no place at Brighton. Graham Potter thought the same in the first half of the season, starting Gross in only five of the Albion’s opening 18 Premier League matches.
You may recall that the Seagulls won only two of these, recording their worst ever start to a top flight season. That included a club-record run of 14 home matches without victory, somehow managing to eclipse the Albion side of 1997-98, largely considered to be the worst of all time.
Gross came back into the starting XI for the trip to Leeds United in mid-January. Brighton won their third league game of the season at Elland Road. Gross was not dropped again.
That coincided with a huge upturn in form that saw the Albion eventually finish 13 points of the drop zone, having looked deep in relegation trouble for most of the first half of the campaign.
When analysing last season, much of the praise for the turnaround was showered on Robert Sanchez. And whilst it is true that Sanchez’s elevation to the number one jersey significantly tightened up a leaky defence, Brighton did not win any of Big Bob’s first seven games between the posts. Victories only arrived when Gross was back in the team.
Gross finished the 2020-21 campaign with eight assists and three goals. So important had he become to the Albion by the end of the season that when Lewis Dunk was suspended following his red card away at Wolves, Potter made Gross Der Kapitan ahead of Adam Webster, who had previously stood in for Dunk.
Gross has brought that form into the current campaign. Outside of those turning out for big six clubs, he is the second most creative player in the Premier League so far having created 11 chances at an average of 2.75 per match. Only Newcastle United’s Matt Ritchie has a better creation rate.
That has led to Gross to claim two assists, helping the Albion into sixth place in the table. You would think that, with Brighton flying so high, supporters would find little reason to clamour for change in the starting XI of a side who have lost only once so far.
The main criticism levelled at Gross as that he lacks pace. Nobody can deny that. His slowness though is the only reason he plays for Brighton & Hove Albion and not one of the biggest clubs in the world.
If a player can become the second-highest assisting German in Premier League history whilst looking like an 18 wheeler going up Mount Everest, imagine what he could do if he had speed in his armoury alongside that beautiful Gross Turn?
Perhaps it is Yves Bissouma’s absence that has led people to call for Gross to be dropped. A central midfield pairing of Adam Lallana and Gross were overrun at Crystal Palace. The blame for that though is surely more justified being laid at Potter’s door.
Jakub Moder was the obvious pick to provide the energy normally provided by Bissouma alongside Lallana and Gross at Selhurst Park. Potter realised this, named all three against Arsenal and Brighton duly gave one of their best performances of his reign so far.
As the great Taylor Swift once said, the haters gonna’ hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Gross was untouchable in his debut 2017-18 season when his goals and assists for Glenn Murray kept Brighton up almost single-handedly.
Over the past three seasons since, there have been those who have questioned Gross. His answer is always the same; to keep bamboozling opponents with this Gross Turn and racking up assists at a rate that none of his teammates can match.
You write Gross off at your peril. Potter did that at the start of last season. Since the Brighton boss learnt his lesson and recalled Gross, the Albion have gone from relegation battlers to - at this moment in time - contenders for European football.
That speaks for itself. Time to put an early end to Pascal Gross Disparaging Month.