An impressive Fulham showing on Sunday earned the Whites a first win of the season, and blew the Clarets away in a 4-2 victory. Can we earn a second Premier League win on the bounce, as we travel to the Amex to face Brighton? Our man George Singer takes a look.
Various Fulham sides have struggled when facing Brighton in recent years. In fact, despite some good performances, the Seagulls have won 5 of the last 5 meetings. However, following a strong transfer window, a new wave of optimism has swept up to the side of the Thames. Can we keep this good feeling going, and earn a result on the South Coast?
January 2017 Fulham 1 – 2 Brighton
November 2016 Brighton 2 – 1 Fulham
April 2016 Brighton 5 – 0 Fulham
August 2015 Fulham 1 – 2 Brighton
December 2014 Fulham 0 – 2 Brighton
Last time we met
On a cold January afternoon, then top-of-the-table Brighton visited the Cottage. The Fulham side that day was missing Chris Martin, following the player’s public comments about wanting to rejoin Derby County. However, it initially looked like the Whites were coping well, impressing in their first half performance. Fulham even earned a penalty, however StefJo (like many others that year) couldn’t convert – this time his attempt was saved by David Stockdale.
The Whites finally did take the lead, with a pin-point Cairney pass finding Piazon in space in the box. The Brazilian found the far corner with a neat finish, and it looked like we were on our way to 3 points.
However, the Seagulls proved their quality, and won the match with 2 late goals in quick succession. Firstly, Hemed showed Johansen how to put away a penalty, following a foul from Ragnar Sigurdsson. To compound the misery, 2 minutes later Lewis Dunk reacted quickest to head home a quick break to earn Brighton the 3 points.
It’s fair to say that Hughton has stuck with the majority of this promoted side – and they have repayed his faith by steering the club to a respectable 15th place finish last year. Those fans who went to the above game will likely recognise a few Brighton faces on Saturday – with the settled side keeping many impressive Summer signings rooted to the Seagull’s bench.
After tweaking their game plan slightly against Liverpool, I think It’s likely that Pascal Gross will come back into the side, and play in the number 10 role in their 4-4-1-1. This is the most common formation that they’ve used at the Amex, and it earned them a couple of impressive victories recently (including two against Manchester United).
Lewis Dunk may still be missing, after an injury in the United game, but replacement Balogun has seamlessly slotted in to centre back after his Summer transfer from Mainz.
In defence, Brighton will look to press high immediately after losing the ball – a tactic which they used to great affect against United. However, once the opposition has settled on the ball, they will sit back and settle into their system. They like to revert to two banks of 4 – with the wingers often moving wider to double up on opposition wingers. I’d like to see us try to exploit this, particularly on Knockaert’s side, with Joe Bryan pulling Knockaert away and an inside forward like Schurrle moving into the gaps he leaves.
In attack, there is no clear style of play, except they’re fairly direct. Expect Glenn Murray, still impressing at 34, to play as the lone striker – drifting in the channels and pouncing on through balls. Knockaert can also be a danger on the break, and Gross is an expert at finding gaps in the box to finish of moves. The German is also a good set piece taker, and with some big central defenders this is an area they will look to punish us at.
One to watch
There are two clear standout players in the Brighton team in my eyes – Pascal Gross and Glenn Murray. However, as Gross was dropped against Liverpool (and therefore isn’t necessarily guaranteed to play), I’ll choose Murray to be the one to watch this week.
As previously mentioned, Murray’s main threat lies in his ability to put himself into good positions, and running onto throughballs from his midfielders. Whilst he offers little on the creativity side, he’s got bucketloads of experience, and can finish with any part of his body. In some ways he’s quite similar to Jermain Defoe, in that he’s matured nicely in his later years – and his performances are keeping January signing Locadia fixed to the subs bench.
Notes for Slav
As discussed earlier on the pod this week, I’d definitely look to keep the winning feeling going and stick with the majority of the side that comfortably swept aside Burnley. With the obvious exception of needing a replacement for Cairney, the attackers justifiably staked a serious claim to keep their spot on Saturday.
By deploying bombing wingbacks, inside forwards and a central attacking midfielder, we possess all the keys needed to unlock a strong Brighton defence. In this regard, Johansen could provide some good attacking impetus to trigger attacks, however it’s more likely that Slav will bring the excellent Anguissa in to offer some more defensive cover on the break.
In defence, I think that Alfie Mawson really impressed on Tuesday, albeit against a fairly weak Exeter attack. Therefore, if he’s fit, I’d like to see him play some role. Whilst Odoi impressed many against Burnley, successfully nullifying Wood’s aerial threat, his poor defensive positioning could be exposed by Brighton’s ability to thread through balls forward to Murray. Therefore, adding the experience in the form of the Englishman next to Le Marchand is the way I’d go, as we look to go into the international break on a winning streak.
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