The Seagulls Summary #1: What is Potter’s Best XI?

By Charlie Parker-Turner (@CParkerTurner)

Sub-edited by Riley Taylor

Image credit: Paul Gillett licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

With Brighton sitting just two points above the relegation zone with a tough set of fixtures to come, the idea of Championship football next season becoming a reality rather than a probability is starting to hit home with Albion fans, such as myself.

Under Graham Potter, Brighton have appeared a much better side to last season and their current league status is probably not truly reflective of their performances this season.

The free-flowing, attacking style that Potter has implemented at the AMEX has been very pleasing to the eye and has looked a step in the right direction in solidifying themselves as a Premier League side.

However, in recent months the Potter-style has turned from attacking football to possession-based football, with few credible chances created. At times it has simply been misfortune, with Neal Maupay blocking a goal-bound header from captain Lewis Dunk against Crystal Palace which would have put them 1-0 up against their fierce rivals. But on other occasions, the players have just not clicked and have seemed on completely different wavelengths.

The concept of not being on the same wavelength could very much be the result of Potter sparingly fielding the same starting eleven week-in, week-out. Which begs the question: Does Potter know his best eleven?

Brighton have fielded 21 different players this season, and most have made fair contributions to the Seagulls season, with Maty Ryan being the only player to start in every game this season and, with no disrespect to the Aussie, this does appear to be due to the lack of any serious competition for the goalkeeping position.

Former Swansea-boss Potter loves to field a versatile side that is able to transition into different formations based on the momentum of the game. When under the cosh he wants his wingers dropping into the fullback positions, but when the opposition are dropping their backline and inviting pressure he shifts to a back three to put more numbers in the box.

With that in mind, I have composed the side that includes as many players that fans truly want to see and performed best so far this season. Players like Dale Stephens and Adam Webster have fallen out of favour after a few mistakes and injuries, whereas young talents like Steven Alzate and Aaron Connolly have shown they want to play for the badge and have the energy and fight to win games.

Brighton flourished with a back three early in the season, especially with Dan Burn playing in his preferred position of centre-back. The 6ft7 Englishman has towered over pacey and agile wingers when played out in left-back and, in fairness, has coped. He kept Wilfried Zaha and Adama Traore quiet formidably, a task many defenders fail to survive to tell the tale.

A strike partnership of Glenn Murray and Connolly has never truly been trialled under Potter, potentially due to how Maupay is able to be shifted out wide when transitions occur. However, Maupay has been misfiring recently and is in desperate need of a confidence-boosting goal, a spell on the sideline may push The Frenchman to becoming the prolific and clinical striker he was in the earlier stages only the season.

A strike partnership with an age difference of Harvey Elliott (16 years) is unheard of in the Premier League, however, the pair look like an ideal match. Murray flourished in the season of 2015/16 when accompanied up top with Sam Baldock, who has a similar style to Connolly with arguably less ability. Having Connolly running off Murray into the channels would cut defences apart and drag defenders into unnatural territory.

Despite being out-of-form in front of goal, Solly March has the ability to create an abundance of chances from out wide and, besides Pascal Gross, is arguably Brighton’s best crosser of the ball. With Murray replacing Maupay to provide more of an aerial presence then it is irrefutable that March has to play, especially with his ability to drop back into either full-back position.

It comes as no surprise to see the squad being able to switch into a completely reshuffled formation. March has proven that he is able to play as part of a back four a few times this season so it is only right to give him another chance to shine there, especially with Martin Montoya predominantly being a defensive presence and Ezequiel Schelotto being more of an attacking presence, March appears to be the happy medium between the two.

Steven Alzate is the first name on the team sheet for me. The Colombian has heaps of ability, is incredibly composed for his age and brings that element of restricted aggression in the midfield that we have lacked since the days of Liam Bridcutt.

Alexis Mac Allister showed he was able to cope at this level I n his 10 minute run out at Wolves last weekend and if given the creative freedom, could really add something to the side. Aaron Mooy has very much been a different player compared to the end of last year, it is only just to drop him for a player with something to prove and that can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and win it single-handedly, like Mac Allister.

Leandro Trossard would have a free-roaming number 10 role in this set-up, where he would really need to prove that he is an upgrade on Anthony Knockaert, who is beginning to look more and more sorely missed as the weeks of unfavourable results go on.

The final set-up that Potter loves to use is the 5-2-3. On the unfamiliar occasions that Albion are leading, the 44-year-old brings his three centre-backs together and then utilises his midfielders as full-backs. Alzate and March move into wing-back where they can both push on when in position but when under pressure, can solidify a back five.

Davy Propper is a key member of any of Brighton’s line-ups and is easily the most technically gifted player on the books. His engine-like stamina is vital in a pivoting two-man midfield, where Mac Allister would have to be very restricted so that the midfield does not become outnumbered and overwhelmed.

Obviously, the likelihood of this starting eleven strolling out on Saturday is incredibly low and, considering the hefty contract extension, Tony Bloom certainly trusts Potter and the style of football he is implementing on the South Coast. This is just an accumulation of being in a lot of Brighton and Hove Albion fan groups being matched with the plans the manager is instating currently.

For more Overtime football content check out Cameron Winstanley’s piece on Bruno Fernandes’ impact at Manchester United.

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