Shrewd summer investment can often be the making or breaking of a newly-promoted side.
There is no hiding from the fact that making the jump from the Championship to the top-flight is both significant and daunting, but previous seasons have proven that a focused recruitment strategy can help stave off immediate relegation back to the second-tier.
Brighton & Hove Albion look to have achieved just that. It’s early days, yes, but Chris Hughton‘s Seagulls are flying high thanks to a string of impressive results, currently sitting eighth in the table with 15 points.
Key to their expectation-surpassing form has been the impact of their summer signings. The club doesn’t boast the transfer warchest available to Chelsea and the Manchester sides, but Brighton have evidently spent wisely on players that have helped establish them as a creditable top-flight entity.
Here is a report card on how their summer signings have fared so far.
José Izquierdo – B-
The Colombia international hasn’t quite matched his scoring exploits in Belgium (16 in 34 appearances for Club Brugge last season), but there have been encouraging signs of late that he is beginning to settle into the Premier League.
He was impressive in the 3-0 win at West Ham United earlier in the campaign, scoring an excellent goal from outside the box for his first in England.
However, as a winger, he will ultimately be measured on his goals and assists. With just a solitary strike in six appearances, there is plenty of room for improvement in terms of his output
With Hughton reportedly looking to bring in another attacker during the January transfer market, Izquierdo needs to find some consistency or risk falling down the pecking order.
Davy Pröpper – B+
Another expensive import by Brighton’s standards, the £11million signing from PSV Eindhoven has done an impressive job of establishing himself.
Pröpper has formed a solid partnership in central midfield alongside Dale Stephens and, together, they have offered Hughton continuity (both have played every minute of Premier League action this season).
The 26-year-old Netherlands international has been a steady and consistent presence in the middle of the park, completing 81 per cent of his passes and notching one assist so far.
Although he has regularly enjoyed a more advanced role under Dick Advocaat for his country, Pröpper has been required to show more defensive discipline for Brighton. But he has stepped up to the plate admirably, averaging two interceptions and 1.8 tackles per game.
Pröpper has impressed with the speed in which he has acclimatised to a different style of football in England and Seagulls fans will be hoping he can maintain his fitness leading up to a chaotic Christmas fixture schedule.
Mat Ryan – B+
The Australia international goalkeeper was briefly Brighton’s club-record signing, joining from Valencia for £5million before Izquierdo and Pröpper arrived in more expensive deals.
Like the Dutch midfielder, Ryan has been ever-present in the team, immediately cementing his place as Hughton’s first-choice stopper while keeping four clean sheets.
The 25-year-old, who helped Australia qualify for the World Cup after a play-off victory over Honduras, has managed 28 saves in total this season, which places him tied for tenth of all goalkeepers in the league.
Overall, it’s been an impressive start to life for Ryan at the Amex Stadium, managing to keep experienced Premier League keeper Tim Krul at arm’s length in the process.
Markus Suttner – C
The experienced Austrian left-back, signed from Ingolstadt in the summer, benefitted from first-choice left-back Gaëtan Bong’s injury at the start of the season but has had to be content with a spot on the bench in recent weeks following the Cameroon international’s return.
Suttner is a different player to Bong, who likes to get forward as much as possible. The 30-year-old, in contrast, offers more defensive discipline but struggled to keep Riyad Mahrez in check during the 2-0 defeat to Leicester City.
Suttner was solid in his most recent start – the 1-0 win over Newcastle United – but it looks as though Hughton has chosen Bong as his first-choice on the left of defence, with the 29-year-old impressing in a back four that includes Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk and 37-year-old right-back Bruno.
Pascal Groß – A
The German midfielder has undoubtedly made the most telling impact of all Brighton’s summer signings.
Captured for a modest £2.7million from Ingolstadt, like Suttner, the 26-year-old has already notched five assists and two goals, and has been directly involved in more Brighton goals than any of his team-mates.
Groß has endeared himself to the Brighton supporters by combining a tireless work-rate – he averages close to 13km covered per game – with finesse and creativity to become one of Hughton’s deadliest weapons. Last season in the Bundesliga, Groß created more chances than any other player with 98, a highly impressive return considering his side were relegated.
He has brought a similar sense of craft to the Seagulls, laying on five goals for his teammates, including Anthony Knockaert and Glenn Murray‘s goals in 1-1 draws with Everton and Southampton respectively.
He underlined his goalscoring threat by notching twice against West Bromwich Albion and, if he continues in a similar vein, Brighton will face a fight to keep him after proving to be one of the bargains of the season.
Signed from Sporting Lisbon in a £2.7million deal on transfer deadline day, the Argentine-born Italian has failed to make an impression at the Amex.
He has most often been an unused substitute while his only Premier League action was an 18-minute cameo against Arsenal.
The former Internazionale man, who can operate at either right-back or on the wing, has been unable to dislodge Bruno or Knockaert and has to go down as one of the disappointing recruits.
Tim Krul – D+
Not helped by Ryan’s solid form, the eight-time Netherlands international was once regarded as one of the Premier League’s finest keepers during his time at Newcastle, but can’t get near the Brighton team at the moment.
Still, Hughton has clearly been impressed with what he’s seen in the cups and tuned the initial loan agreement into a permanent one.
Isaiah Brown – C-
One of Chelsea‘s many youth prospects, the 20-year-old forward joined from the Stamford Bridge side on loan to get some first-team experience but has found starting opportunities hard to come by.
Brown fluffed his chance to convince Hughton of his worth against Arsenal when he started up front, and was marked out of the game by Shkodran Mustafi before being substituted. He has been used as a late substitute since but may get another shot at staking his claim for a starting berth when the FA Cup rolls around in January.
Aleš Matějů – N/A
Still only 21, the Czech Republic right-back is having to bide his time under Hughton after joining from Viktoria Plzeň, with his time on the pitch limited to just two EFL Cup substitute appearances. He may go on loan to get more experience.
Soufyan Ahannach – N/A
The 22-year-old Dutchman joined from Almere City in the summer but is yet to make a senior appearance, but has recently turned out for Brighton’s academy in the EFL Trophy defeat to Stevenage.