Opposition Focus: Brighton


Image: PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In this weeks Opposition Focus, Matt Wiggins spoke to We Are Brighton to get a Seagulls perspective ahead of tonights massive game at The Amex…

Brighton vs Fulham, what comes to mind when you think of this fixture from years gone by?

That Brighton are normally lucky to win! The 2016-17 in particular was ridiculous, you battered us for both matches and yet we somehow won 2-1 at the Amex and by the same score again at Craven Cottage. That game at yours was one of the best away days we have had for many years; 7,000 Albion fans thanks to your ‘neutral’ stand, two goals in 90 seconds and a David Stockdale penalty save.

Obviously, the less said about our three Premier League meetings so far, the better!

Mat Ryan has left for a loan spell at Arsenal. How do you feel about the loan and are you surprised by his temporary for departure?

Not surprised as Graham Potter made it pretty clear that Ryan has no future at the club when demoting him practically overnight from first choice to fourth behind Robert Sanchez, Jason Steele and Christian Walton.

The brutality of it all seemed particularly harsh. Yes, Ryan had struggled this season and he did deserve to be dropped for his form but to be cast aside so dramatically and told to leave suggests something must have happened behind the scenes.

It cannot be a purely footballing decision – if Potter thinks Steele is a better goalkeeper than Ryan, then somebody needs to call the men in white coats.

Willingly disregarding a goalkeeper as good and with as much experience as Ryan seems like an unnecessary gamble. We are now going to try and navigate the second half of the season with a 23-year-old who has never played above League One before, a 25-year-old who was spent the past five seasons out on loan and Steele, who looked like he had a won a cornflake competition to play in goal when we scraped past Newport in the FA Cup. If Sanchez loses form or does not prove to be as good as we think he will be, then letting Ryan go could come back to haunt us.

Brighton’s win at Leeds was a big three points for you. How do you feel you’ve been playing coming into this fixture?

We’ve been in pretty good nick. Leeds away was obviously a huge three points and we gave Manchester City plenty to think about in the game before that, losing 1-0 at the Etihad.

Interestingly, we had under 40 percent possession in both those games. Five of our six wins since the start of 2020 – yes, we have only won six games in over a year – have come in matches where we have less of the ball than our opponents.

If the last two matches are a sign that Potter has realised we are a much better side when we set up to have less possession but do more with it, playing more on the counter, then that can only be a good thing going forward.

Last time we spoke you said the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage was a six pointer. Do you think this game is a six pointer and if so, is it an even bigger game than before?

It’s massive for us. We have been looking over our shoulders since mid-October really with the relegation zoom gradually creeping closer and closer. Fulham picking up points and West Brom seeming to improve slightly has been alarming

And yet because of that win at Leeds, we could now go eight clear of 18th with a win on Wednesday night. That’s quite a turnaround from where we were even two weeks ago.

We’re nearing the end of the January Transfer Window and there’s been a lack of deals in the Premier League. Do you feel as though Brighton need to strengthen and if so where?

We need a striker who can put away our countless chances, but who doesn’t? As already mentioned, the goalkeeper situation is a worry and the eagerness with which Potter has got rid of Ryan would be explained if a replacement is coming in.

We have been linked with Sergio Romero at Manchester United who would be an excellent signing. Whether it happens though remains to be seen as Tony Bloom is known to be reluctant to open his wallet in January.

Previously you suggested Tariq Lamptey was the Brighton player for Fulham to watch out for. Are there any other players this time around that you think Fulham will need to watch out for?

Lamptey is out injured so you don’t need to worry about him. South African striker Percy Tau is an intriguing arrival. We signed him in the summer of 2018 but it has taken two-and-a-half years and Brexit changing the work permit rules to get him legal entry to the UK.

He caused City some problems with his speed, directness and willingness to run at people. Early days yet, but he looks different to anything else we have got and could cause defences in the Premier League Premier problems.

Last time you said Aleksander Mitrovic was the player who would threaten Brighton most. Given his lack of game time, do you feel as though there are any other players who can threaten Brighton on Wednesday?

We cannot defend aerial balls into the box for love nor money, part of the reason I said Mitrovic last time as his height and target man skillset would bring Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster out in a cold sweat.

This inability to mark players or head anything away crosses over to set pieces, so any Fulham player who can offer a bit of height in the box could have a good day at the Amex. An anytime goalscorer bet on our opponent’s centre backs has proven to be a bit of a goldmine so far this season.

In December your predictions for the Top 4 were Spurs, Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea. You also had a bottom 3 of Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham. Are there any changes you’d make to your previous predictions?

Liverpool have collapsed since we last spoke and Jurgen Klopp is very menopausal which is fantastic to see. They will still make the top four though. Chelsea are a mess so I’ll swap them for Leicester City.

Fulham look much more resolute now and if you can turn draws into wins then you could overhaul Newcastle, who look to be in absolute freefall.

Finally, how do you see the game panning out tonight?

Neither side is particularly clinical so I can’t see it being a classic, much like the game at Craven Cottage. A 1-1 draw, which I guess would suit both of us as it really is a fixture neither side can afford to lose.

Neal Maupay to score for the Albion as he tends to enjoy scoring against sides he has done well against in the past with Fulham’s goal coming from a set piece. I am not sure who or how, but Brighton’s marking will be to blame.

Thanks to the guys at We Are Brighton for answering our questions. Focus’ Matt Wiggins did likewise for their match preview, check it out here