At the outset of the 2018/19 season, Premier League survival would once again have been the target for Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton. And, as things stand, the Seagulls are on course to remain in the top flight next term.
But it is perhaps closer than Hughton would have hoped. Brighton are 16th, level on points with 17th-placed Southampton and only three clear of the relegation zone. They hold a game in hand over the teams around them, but that game in hand is against top-four contenders Chelsea, so the points are far from guaranteed.
Seemingly in an effort to widen the gap between his side and the bottom three, Hughton has implemented a few tactical changes since the turn of the year, as outlined by the below Football Whispers Team Persona diagram.
But, so far, it’s been a case of new year, same problems for Brighton, as they are without a Premier League win in 2019.
With a more direct approach and a greater emphasis on wing play, much of what Hughton is attempting to do is working, it’s just not yielding results.
Brighton have increased their amount of accurate crosses they are making per 90 minutes, up to 7.28 from 4.79, and it is generating more chances – they are now averaging 13.42 shots per game, compared to 9.37 for the season up until January 1.
They are also creating 1.14 “big” chances from 0.91, and the general quality of their chances has increased, raising their expected goals (xG) per game to 1.45 from 1.11.
But they have not been able to make this translate into goals; Brighton’s goals-per-game average has slipped from 1.2 to 1.0.
And, despite facing fewer shots per game in their seven Premier League matches since the turn of the year, the quality of chances they are giving up has increased, with their xG conceded raising from 1.72 per game to 2.01.
Brighton are unfortunate not to have won a league game in 2019, and there is plenty to like about the tweaks Hughton has made to his side’s style; in time, it is likely they will begin to score more frequently as a result.
But in the long run, giving up more and better chances than you are able to create is not a sustainable approach. Brighton must rediscover some defensive solidity before their new style can carry them forward.