Yves Bissouma bonus: Why the transfer gods were smiling on Brighton as Mali star stays
Imagine if, at the start of the 2021 summer transfer window, you were lucky enough to have a chance audience with the Greek Goddess of Football Transfers.
She offered you a choice for the hand she would deal Brighton over the next three months – you could either keep Yves Bissouma but not sign a striker. Or sell Bissouma and bring in a new centre forward. One or the other but never both. What a temptress.
What would you have chosen? It is a tough one. The world and his wife know that a clinical finisher could transform the Albion from a side who underachieved in finishing 16th in 2020-21 into an outfit capable of finishing in the top 10. That much-talked-about fifth place in the xG table last season highlights what might have been.
On the other hand, Bissouma is a player who is already one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League. He has just turned 25 and is still a few years away from his peak.
When he reaches it, he could become a genuine world class talent. All that is missing from his game is goals. If he adds those this season, then his value will be even more excessive than the £60 million most Brighton fans expected any sale of the Malian marvel to generate this summer.
Take Bissouma out of this Brighton team and suddenly it lacks the man who makes it tick. Who else in Graham Potter’s squad can recover possession like Bissouma? Who else can read the game like him? Who else can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye, either with a perfectly threaded pass or a surging run with the ball at their feet?
The likes of Jakub Moder and Moises Caicedo appear to have been identified as the line of succession once Bissouma eventually leaves, but neither of those has anywhere near the dynamic skillset that Brighton’s number eight possesses. He is a one-of-a-kind player that clubs outside of the big six very rarely own.
Compare that to the striker situation. Ever since Glenn Murray was allowed to waltz into Crystal Palace for a free transfer in the summer of 2011, Brighton have been trying to replace him. Leonardo Ulloa did a good enough job that within 18 months he was flogged to Leicester City for a then-club record fee.
The long-term replacement for Murray eventually turned out to be Murray himself. For three seasons he scored the goals which took Brighton into the Premier League and then kept them there. Once Potter arrived and decided to put the veteran out to graze, that age-old question of how to replace him reared its ugly head for the second time
We appear to be no closer to an answer now than they were when Gus Poyet inexcusably decided that signing Craig Mackail-Smith for £2.5 million was a better option than giving Murray a pay rise for his 22 goals in the League One title winning season.
And yet… the Albion have not done badly despite this constant requirement for a new striker.
A new striker this summer would have been nice, especially as number look unnecessarily thin on the ground because of the decision to get rid of four forwards. Percy Tau has been flogged to Al Ahly after less than 120 minutes of top flight football to show what he can do.
Andi Zeqiri ,Florin Andone and new signing Abdallah Sima have all departed on loan. The Sima situation in particular seemed odd, Brighton paying £7 million for his services to Slavia Prague only to farm him straight out to Stoke City.
Potter is now left with only Neal Maupay, Danny Welbeck and Aaron Connolly as recognised centre forwards until at least January. Welbeck is quality but has legs made of cheese, so you have to expect him to spend his fair share of time in the treatment room.
Connolly meanwhile has been involved in more stories in the gossip pages of newspapers than he has scored Premier League goals in the past year. If anyone needed a loan in the Championship to rediscover some form and grow up a bit, it was him.
In Maupay then, Potter trusts. An injury or suspension to the Albion’s leading scorer of the past two seasons would lead to awkward questions about the four strikers who left in the summer with no incomings.
Brighton have got by before like this. Chris Hughton delivered promotion working with only Murray, Sam Baldock and Tomer Hemed in a 4-4-2.
Potter’s reluctance to use Murray in 2019-20 meant that the Albion achieved their joint-record top flight points haul of 41 with effectively only two strikers – Maupay and Connolly.
It may be difficult for the Albion to achieve Tony Bloom’s stated ambition of becoming a top 10 Premier League club with out better quality firepower.
Brighton can though avoid the relegation battle with the squad they have in the 2021-22 season.
Take Bissouma out though to replace him with a striker with no guarantees of the new man working out and staying out of the Championship suddenly looks a lot, lot harder.
Keeping hold of Bissouma is the best business the Albion could have done in the summer transfer window.
That is what I would have told the Goddess, anyway.