While some fans were nervously biting their fingernails on the final day of the Premier League season, Brighton fans were relaxing.
Months of worry and nerves jangling had already been brought to an end after Graham Potter’s side upped the ante after play restarted in June, putting together an impressive run of results that ensured they would beat the drop for another year.
This year has been a season of transition following the departure of Chris Hughton as boss, so how have they got on? Here’s 90min’s report card for Brighton’s campaign.
Premier League – 15th
A strong performance. Brighton may not have pulled up any tree’s but an improvement on last season’s 17th placed finish is something to be proud of.
The 2019/20 season was only the Seagulls third campaign in the Premier League and survival is always the priority for a club looking to establish itself at the top table of English football.
Graham Potter’s side actually managed to set a new record points total, with their 41-point haul eclipsing the total set in their maiden Premier League campaign.
High points of the season include victories over Arsenal – they did the double over the Gunners – and Tottenham, while a point picked up at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea was another unexpected bonus. The only negative, perhaps, was slumping to a 1-0 home loss to bitter rivals Crystal Palace.
Carabao Cup – Third Round
It is often to the annoyance of fans of mid-table teams that their manager rarely seems to prioritise a domestic cup competition.
Realistically the Carabao Cup is Brighton’s best chance of winning some silverware so a third-round home exit at the hands of Aston Villa will have disappointed sections of the club’s support – even more so this time around, given their opponents went on to reach the final.
FA Cup – Third Round
Things got worse in the FA Cup, however, as Brighton were defeated 1-0 at home by Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
The Owls were flying high at the time, but defeat to lower league opposition at home is always tough to take. Potter did, however, make a number of changes to team, which has become all too common these days with the financial ramifications that possible relegation brings.
There are a number of candidates for Brighton’s player of the season, with Premier League rookie Neal Maupay among those to impress. He scored ten goals for Brighton in a side that initially found it difficult to create chances, and you can only imagine the 23-year-old going from strength to strength.
Yves Bissouma, Matt Ryan, Dan Burn and Tariq Lamptey have also had strong campaigns but centre-back Lewis Dunk has been the real stand-out performer.
Brighton’s skipper has once again been immense at the heart of central defence, with calls in some sections of the media pushing for an England recall.
An astonishing overhead kick against Chelsea aside, Alireza Jahanbakhsh has had a rather disappointing year.
The Iranian became somewhat of a regular under previous manager Chris Hughton but the arrival of Potter in the summer appeared to halt any progress made following his arrival from AZ Alkmaar two summers ago.
A £17m signing in 2018, Jahanbakhsh has now been reduced to bench warming duties – making only ten Premier League appearances this season, seven of those coming from the bench.
Brighton sacked their manager of five years after the 2018/19 campaign nearly ended in relegation. A disastrous end to the campaign saw them finish just two points above Cardiff, clinging on to their top-flight status by the narrowest of margins.
Despite this, the decision to get rid of Hughton was seen as a risk, particularly as they appointed Graham Potter – a man with only one year of experience managing in English football, at Championship outfit Swansea.
It is certainly a gamble that has paid off though. The 45-year-old Englishman has transformed Brighton’s playing style, making them more possession-based and easier on the eye. With further time and investment, who knows how high the former Ostersunds’ manager can take the Seagulls.
Survival was Brighton’s main aim, and that’s been accomplished by Potter and his staff. He’s also embedded a brand new philosophy at the club and while work still needs to be done, significant progress has already been made.