The key area Brighton must improve to avoid another nerve-jangling relegation battle

If Brighton and Hove Albion allow their poor home league form to continue, then they run the risk of relegation to the Championship.
Graham Potter's team have kept two clean sheets this seasonGraham Potter's team have kept two clean sheets this season
Graham Potter's team have kept two clean sheets this season

Fans returned to the AMEX Stadium for the first time since the 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in February of this year but witnessed a familiar story as the Seagull’s narrowly lost to Southampton on Monday night.

After starting the stronger out of the two south coast sides, Brighton deservedly took the lead when Pascal Gross sent Alex McCarthy the wrong way from the spot after James Ward-Prowse handled the ball inside the area.

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Prior to Gross’s spot-kick, the Seagulls were the oppressors and were preventing the Saints from playing their usual high-pressing style of football.

However, after taking the lead Potter’s side formed their defensive shell and sat behind the ball, allowing Southampton to maintain a high percentage of possession.

After combating Southampton well, Brighton’s Achilles heel let them down on the stroke of half-time when Ward-Prowse made up for his earlier mistake by whipping in a trademark corner onto the head of Jannik Vestergaard, who directed the ball past Matt Ryan.

The second half produced more of the same from both sides, as they seemingly cancelled each other out. Both Potter and Ralph Hasenhuttl turned to their star strikers, Neil Maupay and Danny Ings to turn the screw, but it was the latter who provided the killer edge.

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A dubious VAR decision stung Albion when Solly March was adjudged to have fouled Kyle Walker-Peters outside the box initially by on-field official David Coote.

After a lengthy and meticulous VAR check, the decision was overturned and changed to a penalty as the remote officials believed Saints’ summer signing from Spurs was fouled inside the box.

Ings stepped up and made no mistake from the spot, as he marked his return from injury with a goal.

Unfortunately, this is a similar scenario for Brighton. The football played and the tactics implemented to ensure that the team are competitive in most matches, but they lack a cutting edge that is able to put teams to bed when Albion are on top.

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The team’s inability to keep a clean sheet is also letting them down massively. Albion have only prevented their opponents from scoring on two occasions so far this season while keeping four clean sheets in their last 19 Premier League matches stretching back to last season.

One of Southampton’s key threats is from dead-ball situations. Ward-Prowse is renowned for his delivery from set-plays which makes the Saints’ equaliser even more baffling.

Vestergaard is one of the tallest outfield players in the league but was seemingly given a free run at goal when he headed home the leveller, and it’s a painful reminder of Albion’s inconsistent game management.

It may be far-fetched at this point in the season to say relegation is a real possibility for the club, due to the teams they have faced at home already.

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Albion have already played host to Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool at the AMEX so far this season, and have taken a point across all three matches.

On the other hand, Brighton have also faced Burnley and West Bromwich Albion, where they claimed a disappointing collective two points.

The Seagulls have averaged a goal a game at home throughout the campaign so far but when examining this statistic shows that to enable home victories they’ll have to learn how to keep the ball out of the net in order to turn their AMEX fortunes around.

The old football cliche goes that in order to be a successful team, you have to make your home a fortress.

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In part, this is true as away form should be a building block off the back of strong home results, and Albion don’t look a million miles away from becoming a highly competitive team in the Premier League, but Potter will have to work his magic in order to change his side’s footballing home fortunes.

The winter period already feels like a make-or-break run of fixtures for the club. Albion next face back-to-back away matches against Leicester and Fulham, respectively before hosting Sheffield United at the AMEX in their next home fixture.

The Blades are currently sat rock-bottom of the Premier League table with only one point to their name.

Four points should be the minimum gained across the fixture in west London and at home to Sheffield United if the Seagulls want to prevent being sucked into a relegation scrap.