What represents success for Graham Potter at Brighton?
Image by: Paul Gillett, West Stand - Amex Stadium - geograph.org.uk - 2634148, CC BY 2.0 UK.
With the Premier League season over and the summer now upon us, all 20 clubs are getting ready to make their transfer moves. Brighton & Hove Albion started things off in exciting fashion, by replacing Chris Hughton with Graham Potter.
Hughton was dispatched with rapid efficiency just days after securing Premier League survival. Potter was brought in to replace him just as proficiently.
It marks a rapid rise for the 44-year-old, who after only a year in the Championship, during which Swansea City finished tenth in the table and nine points out of the playoff places, now finds himself at a Premier League club. More than that, Potter is in charge of a side who want more than just maintaining their Premier League status.
Some have looked on the decision with scorn and Potter has his work to cut out to ensure that it was a smart one. But what will constitute success for the new Seagulls boss? Sitting atop his list of priorities will be to install a brand new, exciting style of football.
Hughton’s success at Brighton was built on a defensive-minded, safety-first approach. It got them out of the Championship and ensured that they could avoid relegation for two years on the bounce. It was also limited in terms of what it offered. That became evident last season when Hughton's plan stopped working. The 60-year-old didn’t have a backup option and nothing changed. Brighton didn’t have anything to offer, relying largely on luck towards the season's end.
Brighton wants more than that. They want to see a progressive, exciting brand of football. They’ve seen the likes of Bournemouth, Watford and even Southampton play an expansive style. It's only right that they want the same. The Seagulls faithful have also seen Wolves take the league by storm, going on the front foot and playing an adventurous, attacking style under the ever-improving Nuno Espirito Santo. Potter has to offer something similar. It needn’t be an exact replica of those styles, but it needs to be more than the defensive-minded philosophy of his predecessor.
You cannot hope to rapidly rise up the table by playing defensive football. The Premier League has adapted beyond that approach now. Potter has to change things around at the Amex, moving his side into an offensive direction. Key to that is focusing on developing Brighton's attacking players.
Brighton were the third-lowest scorers in the Premier League last season while having the second lowest shots per game. They were also in the bottom five for successful dribbles and total runs made. Hughton’s style had a lot to do with it, but so did his failure to do anything with Brighton’s talented forwards.
The likes of Pascal Groß, Joze Izquierdo, Anthony Knockaert, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Jürgen Locadia and Florin Andone did nothing across the campaign. They aren't talentless players. Izquierdo is an exciting, fast winger. Knockaert is a talented creator while Locadia and Andone scored plenty of goals at other clubs. Groß was superb in his first season in England, playing the role of creator in chief and garnering plenty of interest from clubs higher up the league.
None, though, epitomise the fall better than Jahanbakhsh. He joined the club last summer in a £17 million deal after scoring 22 goals and registering 14 assists in all competitions the previous year. He ultimately fell off the cliff for the Seagulls, finishing the campaign with no goals, no assists and barely any contribution to the cause. The star player from the Eredivisie looked out of his depth.
Potter needs to take these players and help them to flourish once again. Alongside his new, open style, these attacking players need to shine. He has to find a way for them to shake off the shackles and demonstrate how good some of them are. There’s talent there to be utilised, and he has to give them the confidence to show it, and regularly...
The man took a 4th division Swedish team to the Europa League (where they won 8 of their 14 games. One of which was a 2-1 win against Arsenal at the Emirates.) At Swansea he coached some great football without any money. https://t.co/JUEzVupak7
After those two things, their aims will become long-term ones. Alongside a more progressive, ambitious style, the club itself has to become more forward-thinking. Brighton doesn't want to be looking behind them in the table, rather they want to be moving up it.
They’ve been in the league long enough now that they are becoming an established club. It is time to push closer to the top ten and become a Premier League side for the next decade or more. Brighton has a good squad. With a few tweaks and further investment from an ambitious owner, the Seagulls could well and truly soar. Potter has to be the man to lead that push upwards. The ambition has to come from him; he must be the driving force behind it all.
These things, of course, are not easy to deliver, especially for a manager who has one year in the English game and no Premier League experience. Potter does have experience elsewhere, though. His time at Ostersunds should serve him particularly well on the south coast.
If he can deliver at least one of the three things outlined here, then his appointment at Brighton will look like a smart one. Accomplish all three? It'll be an inspired one.