Premier League

Jose Izquierdo: Brighton’s Relegation Battle Wildcard

 • by Sam McGuire
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If it wasn’t for Victor Wanyama’s piledriver against Liverpool, José Izquierdo would have had a good chance of claiming a top two finish in February’s goal of the month competition.

He followed up his stunning curled effort from the edge of the penalty area against West Ham United – which gave Brighton and Hove Albion the lead – by being the man to finish off a team move which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Manchester City highlight reel against Stoke City. 

The Colombia international picked the ball up on the left hand side of the pitch and drove into a central area. He played a one-two with Solly March and then exchanged passes with Dale Stephens. Izquierdo then showed great composure in the penalty area to shimmy the ball back onto his right foot and stroke it past Chelsea transfer target Jack Butland

The winger has been in fine form since returning to the starting XI for the trip to Southampton at the end of January. And his recall to the team has coincided with an upturn in results.

Brighton are now three games undefeated in the Premier League and have picked up five points in the process – the same amount they’d managed to accumulate in their previous six matches. 

They’ve jumped from 0.83 points to 1.6 points per game. The longer they manage to keep this run going, the more chance they have of staying up – as alluded to in the relegation feature on the website.

Right now things might look rosy with the team sitting in 14th position with 11 games to play, but the Seagulls are just about keeping their heads above the water and are just the two points clear of the relegation zone. 

It’s a basic way of looking at things but Izquierdo’s goals over recent weeks have played a key part in keeping Brighton out of the drop zone. It means the fate of their season remains in their own hands. 

The 25-year-old could be playing himself into form at the right time for Hughton. Up until now he’s been in and out of the team and failed to really replicate the performances which saw Brighton pay £13.5million for his services during the summer. There had been flashes but nothing more.

But there’s been something different about him over recent weeks. He looks to be more assured and confident in his own ability. In the space of ten days he doubled his season’s goals tally from two to four.

Prior to this he’d found it difficult to deliver an end product similar to the one he had at Club Brugge, where his 14 goals lifted the club to within touching distance of the Belgian title last season.

If he’s found his rhythm then he could could fire Brighton to safety. And that’s been their problem all season.

The Seagulls not had issues defensively, with only six teams in the top flight conceding a fewer number goals, but 17 teams have score more in the Premier League than Hughton’s men with only West Brom (21) and Swansea City (20) hitting the back of the net with less frequency.

Despite his inconsistency this season Izquierdo still been involved in a goal every 186 minutes. Pascal Groß, praised as a creative hub, averages a goal involvement every 188 minutes while Glenn Murray comes in at 185 minutes.

In terms of output for the Seagulls Izquierdo is alongside their better players. In theory, the more time he spends on the pitch the more chance Hughton’s men have of putting the ball into the back of the net.

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In terms of underlying stats he’s again holding his own. His has an xG90 of 0.19, only Murray has a higher average than that in the entire Brighton squad. Not only does he get get into good goalscoring positions more often than all but one of his teammates, but he’s a scorer of low quality chances too as seen against West Ham.

It shows, in a way, that he’s not overly reliant on needing high quality chances to find the back of the net and that if starved of service he’s not going to be completely ineffective.

Izquierdo’s involvement gives Hughton’s team a different dimension when going forward. He gives Brighton an unpredictability to their game. He’s a wildcard. A difference maker. A match winner.

He can beat an opponent on the outside just as comfortably as he can on the inside. Izquierdo’s dominant foot may be his right but it doesn’t mean his left is just for standing on. If the opposition get tight to him then he can dance past them. If he’s given space he can fire the ball home from absurd angles. 

If this run of form isn’t a purple patch and becomes the norm, then the £13.5million will look like a bargain when the season ends and Brighton are celebrating a second successive season in the Premier League.

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