Brighton & Hove Albion are looking forward to a first-ever European campaign.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side finished sixth in the Premier League, subsequently guaranteeing them a place in the 2023/24 Europa League group stage. De Zerbi’s own appointment came a month into the season after Graham Potter was chosen to succeed Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea and though he’s slowly being forgotten, Potter’s on-field work cannot be understated.
If anything, the Seagulls have become the poster child of a well-run club operating inside England’s top division, with their rivals laced with absence untold riches while Brighton opt to live within their means. Their recent changing fortunes, which have seen them go from a club looking over their shoulders to dining with the best, can be attributed to no fewer than three simple and effective reasons: a frugal business model, a very good scouting network — at home and abroad — and a youth program to match.
However, their status remains below the big dogs, which means an inability to keep hold of their biggest assets. In the season just gone, they’ve lost Yves Bissouma, Marc Cucurella, Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard albeit for a large amount of cash. Being able to replace key personnel is a skill but frustratingly difficult, though Brighton are turning it into an art form. Julio Enciso, Pervis Estupiñán, Billy Gilmour, Facundo Buonanotte and Yasin Ayari all joined across the last two windows. Enciso, Estupiñán and Buonanotte have all stood out in certain moments.
So far this summer, they’ve lost influential midfielder Alexis Mac Allister to Liverpool and there are potentially more departures (namely Robert Sánchez and Moisés Caicedo) to follow. As you’d expect, this is a club that doesn’t leave anything to chance and has already been active in bringing new faces as they seek to give De Zerbi a squad capable of fighting on numerous fronts.
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) June 14, 2023
Brighton had no trouble scoring during their 2022/23 league campaign. Only eventual champions Manchester City (94), Arsenal (88) and Liverpool (75) were more prolific than De Zebri’s side, who registered 72 goals across 38 matches. Breaking that number further down, though, Mac Allister was their leading scorer with 10 strikes and the only Brighton player to reach double figures. Solly March and Kaoru Mitoma provided seven each from the flanks while promising young marksman Evan Ferguson accumulated six goals.
An upcoming European adventure means Brighton’s squad will be tested and pushed to new limits. Strength in depth now becomes paramount. João Pedro has been identified with the Brazilian centre-forward joining from Watford, where he managed 23 goals across 104 league matches. He also boasts Premier League experience having previously registered nine goals in English football’s top division. His acquisition is also reportedly the club’s record signing.
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) June 16, 2023
From: Borussia Dortmund
On arrival from Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he began his football journey, Mahmoud Dahoud was heralded for big things. He was earmarked as Ilkay Gündogan’s successor at Borussia Dortmund, a club which has built a strong reputation for nurturing tomorrow’s stars, and though he’s made over 100 league appearances, it’s fair to say Dahoud never really fulfilled those lofty expectations. A smart and tidy footballer nevertheless remains in there somewhere and perhaps a change of scene is what he needs.
De Zerbi will undoubtedly relish turning Dahoud’s career around. For one, the Italian tactician appreciates a player’s versatility, with Pascal Gross being a prime example of that having played in midfield and defence. Dahoud could follow a similar path as he’s able to operate in a number of positions in midfield. The two-time Germany international, who’s an effective presser and loves a tackle, is best as a six or in a more attacking role as an eight.
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— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) June 14, 2023
For the many talented youngsters on Brighton’s books, there’s a calm balance with several experienced campaigners around to guide them along. Lewis Dunk, Joël Veltman and Gross are to name but a few. We can add one more in the guise of James Milner, who ended an illustrious stint with Liverpool and though manager Jurgen Klopp wanted his contract renewed it wasn’t meant to be. Milner, though, can embark on yet another top-flight adventure. Along with Gareth Barry and Gary Speed, he owns the rare distinction of playing 100 times for three Premier League clubs.
Being at the tail-end of his career, the chances of him making it four seem rare even if stranger things have occurred. Milner also reunites with former Reds teammate Adam Lallana who, following Graham Potter’s departure, led the first team before De Zebri’s permanent appointment. The former Leeds academy graduate brings a plethora of experience and versatility. His ability to play in a host of positions spanning from full-back, across midfield and on the wing makes him a manager’s dream. Milner’s role is likely to be plugging the gaps and not a regular starter. That being said, what he offers behind the scenes will be invaluable, especially as Brighton set sail into uncharted waters.
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) July 3, 2023
Anderlecht worked wonders to reach the Europa Conference League quarter-finals last season after beating Villarreal in the last 16. That triumph came courtesy of a 1-0 win at the Estadio de la Ceramica in the second leg, with 20-year-old shot-stopper Bart Verbruggen keeping a clean sheet against the Spanish club.
They would then beat AZ 2-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final clash, again with Verbruggen keeping a lid on the Dutch club’s attack, before falling on penalties in the return fixture. Although a disappointing exit for the Les Mauves et Blancs, their European campaign thrust Verbruggen’s name into the limelight.
The Netherlands U21 international was named as Anderlecht’s ‘Player of the Season’ for 2022/23, which is certainly no mean feat for a ‘keeper, and also serves well to underline his qualities between the sticks. This feels like another trademark Brighton purchase and should prove a very astute piece of business.