Premier League

Brighton Duo Best Outside Top Six

 • by Thomas McIlroy
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Brighton and Hove Albion fans will have been big fans of the international break.

It means they’ll have had two weeks of looking at the Premier League table and seeing their side in eighth place.

If you offered them the chance for the season to end now, it would be a surprise if they didn’t bite your hand off.

With 15 points from their 11 games, it’s been an impressive start, and that’s largely been based on a good defence.

The Seagulls have scored just 11 goals so far this season, and have an xG (expected goals) of just 8.97 – the fourth lowest in the Premier League.

But while it has helped that it has been a low-scoring season, conceding just 11 goals has been the greater achievement.

There is always a fear that newly-promoted sides will struggle against top-flight attacks, but that hasn’t been the case for Brighton.

It’s important to have an effective defence as not since 2006/07, when Fulham conceded the joint-highest 60 goals, has the team with the leakiest back line not been relegated from the Premier League.

And with only six teams, including all of the current top four, conceding fewer goals than Brighton, they’re definitely off to a good start.

A defensive partnership

There’s no doubt that having centre-backs in good form is crucial for a firm defence and in Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk, they’ve already got one of the best partnerships in the Premier League.

They shone in the Championship and were key – it’s no coincidence that their first season together saw Chris Hughton’s side gain promotion.
And they’ve just grown in strength and strength. It’s not gone unnoticed either.

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Jermaine Jenas hailed them on Match of the Day 2, saying: “[I’m a] big fan. They really had got everything honestly.

“We’re talking about big lads that are 6ft 4ins, we expect them to be the bullish kind of centre-halves, they can do that, but they can also do these lovely little dinked passes to their wingers.

“It’s a big part of the way they play, thanks to the confidence Chris Hughton give them. With all due respects, these are passes that 6ft 4ins centre-halves are not supposed to be playing.

“They’ve got a real nice touch and feel for the ball and, defensive qualities, yes, but the quality on the ball is really impressive too.

“The Duffy & Dunk fan club, I’m there.”

And he’s not the only member of the Duffy & Dunk fan club, with Jamie Carragher hailing the Irishman in particular.

“He’s more of the commanding one in the air, a young player who came through at Everton,” he said on Sky Sports.

“We don’t see enough of this in the Premier League now. We want a lot more from our centre-backs, that’s the way the game is going.

“But there’s nothing better for me in the role that I played to see defenders defend like this, and want to defend. Doing everything they can to stop that ball going into the back of the net.

“A lot of their success will be built on those two centre-backs. If they are going to stay in the league they need to keep them fit, and if they perform they are going to give Brighton a fighting chance.”

Top of the class statistically

No player has made more clearances this in the Premier League than Duffy’s 103.

The 25-year-old Irishman is also in the top five in terms of shots blocked in England’s top flight too with 15.

It’s his centre-back partner Dunk who’s made the most, with both him and Burnley’s James Tarkowski on 19.

The two of them are also not afraid to get on the ball. Only Dale Stephens (49.3) makes more passes per match out of the Brighton squad than Dunk’s 41.5, while Duffy is joint fourth on 40.5.

It’s fair to say they’ve taken to the Premier League like ducks to water.

A future at the Amex?

With praise for not only their defensive ability, but for their passing quality too, it won’t be a surprise to see them them linked elsewhere.

When the January window opens, if they’re still performing as they are now, they’ll be linked to bigger clubs than Brighton for sure.

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Indeed Richard Dunne thinks Duffy in particular deserves a move.

“When you think of Liverpool and Arsenal are desperate for a centre-half, he is someone people are going to start talking about,” he told Sport Review.

“Brighton are keeping clean sheets and in the top ten in the league. He’s one of their star performers.

“He is young enough to go to that level. He has so much room to grow.”

Duffy is an Ireland international, but Dunk is yet to be recognised on the international stage, something his team-mate is surprised about when he sees current England squad.

“I’m probably a little bit biased but, if I’m looking at the centre-halves, I think he is capable of being in that squad,” said Duffy.

“It’s up to him now to keep that form up and it will be a matter of time.

“He can’t get too disappointed at the moment. It’s a big thing for him and I’ve no doubt in my mind he will be an England player.”

If they carry on performing as they are, it will be no surprise to see Dunk soon form part of an England squad.

It will no doubt be what he deserves for his good form, but for Brighton they won’t be worrying about that for now.

The longer he stays under the radar the better, and they will hope the talk that Duffy should be at a bigger club goes away too.

The two are the rock on which a good Brighton season is being built and the most important thing in January will not be signing players, but surely keeping hold of the pair of them – a solid defensive partnership is worth its weight in gold.

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