Can Chris Hughton’s new-look Brighton side go all the way?

Last year, the Championship season simply swept Brighton by. The Seagulls finished 20th, a terrible finish for a squad consisting of several quality players.

Their hugely impressive new stadium was fairly sparsely populated by the end of the season, as the locals expressed their displeasure at the standard of football on offer at home games.

A porous defence leaked goals like a sieve, while a fairly toothless strike-force simply did not stick the ball in the net on a regular enough basis.

What a difference a few months makes. Now the Seagulls are playing with the sort of confidence and swagger that befits a team flying high at the top of the league.

New signings have doubtless made a huge difference to the side for a start. The experience and class of Bobby Zamora will have done wonders for the group, with his knowledge and years of acquired wisdom about the game a massive asset to the south coast side. He can still over a great deal on the pitch as well, and will be very useful as potentially a back-up striker to the main man at the moment, Israeli international Tomer Hemed, who signed in the summer. Hemed has settled in well to life at Brighton, scoring six goals so far this campaign.

He has been ably supported by other attacking players such as new signing Jamie Murphy, a summer acquisition from Sheffield United, and Beram Kayal, who brings a bit of class to the midfield after moving from Celtic in January.

Added to the trickery and flair of Kazenga LuaLua (younger brother of THE LuaLua), who is adept at bursting past defenders with either pace or skill, and you can see that they have a formidable attacking line up.

The defence is also looking strong, experienced Scotsman Gordon Greer marshalling a backline that includes Bruno Saltor, Inigo Calderon and Lewis Dunk (who also has a habit of picking up a fair few goals). Relentlessly well-organised and well-drilled this year, the momentary lapse in concentration that led to Boltons last minute equaliser last Saturday will have hurt and group; Chris Hughton is a coach who prides himself on organisation and a hard work ethic that lets every opposing team they’re in for a serious game when they take on the Seagulls.

Hughton is a man on a mission, having taken over in December after a miserable few months for Brighton under the stewardship of Sami Hypia, for whom things just didn’t work out. Hughtons first job after arriving at the AMEX was simply to stabilise a side who were careering around the lower echelons of the Championship with no direction and no belief.

Having removed any realistic possibilities of relegation, thoughts turned to the next season. Results still remained fairly low-key, but Hughton was quietly putting the blocks in place, on the training ground and in the transfer market, to make this season a much better one. Getting the large crowd that the AMEX can still attract fully behind the players has been one of his biggest achievements, and the ground now gets one of the largest average attendances in the league.

While they may not be seeing all-out attacking football with the constant prospect of their side overwhelming visiting teams, Brighton play a neat passing style of football with midfielders and wingers who always look to break into the box, all with Hemed doing an excellent job leading the line, mostly on his own.

Hughtons side may not have the stand-out names or familiar faces that Derby, Burnley or Middlesbrough, but with each win their confidence will keep growing and this new-look side will become harder and harder to face. If anyone now asks if they can get promoted, while there is still of course a very long way to go, I would ask in response, why not?

 


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