Behind Enemy Lines: Brighton (H)

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What an incredible week since the last time I’ve wrote a piece. We’ve won ugly at Palace, we’ve dominated Moyes’ West Ham and their was that wonderful surge up the iTunes chart which was prime Everton Twitter. What a moment that was for our fanbase. We seem to be getting a lot right.

The game against Brighton – a team whose points do not reflect their play, marks the end of a very hectic opening phase of the season. Brighton have seen themselves lose against Chelsea and Manchester United (somehow) and they dispatched Newcastle with relative ease. Although, I’m not sure Brighton, and their manager Graham Potter, showed the same enthusiasm as we have towards the Carabao cup, which is fair enough.

For all Everton’s star power and golden performances so far this season, you’d imagine a match at home vs Brighton would represent a good game to head into the first international break. That won’t be the case, and if I know that, Carlo know’s that.

Talking to me ahead of this one is Twitters favourite Brightonian (No idea if this is a thing), Jeremy Smith, The french football expert who supports Anthony Knockaert Brighton and Hove Albion.

How do you rate your chances in the league this season? 

We’re feeling optimistic that we should be able to push on from last season. The first three games already suggest that, after a transition season, this really is Potter’s team, playing Potter’s way. As long as we can finish the chances that we create, we shouldn’t be fighting relegation this year. Top half of the table is probably too much to hope for but somewhere between 11th and 14th would be great and show progress.

Brighton currently sits on 3 points out of 9. With games vs Chelsea and United already played    – your football warrants more than those 3 points doesn’t it? Especially after Manchester United on Saturday?

It absolutely does. We were better for much of the Chelsea match and we totally outplayed Utd – that match was extremely painful. But it highlighted some of the areas that we still need to improve – defending set pieces, concentrating after scoring and finishing our chances. But we’re still a very young squad and hopefully we’ll learn quickly.

Is your current squad strong enough to ensure premier league safety? Are you likely to do any late business?

I think that it should be strong enough. What is good is that there is not a clear drop from our first XI to our second XI, which I think bodes well. We look stronger and deeper than last year, with important players now having had the experience of a top flight season and hopefully pushing on this year. Our main areas to strengthen are left-back and striker. March’s performances at left wing back have taken the pressure off there. We’re still struggling to find a big target man to give a different option than Maupay and Connolly. Maybe if we fail to bring one in, Andone will be given a second chance.

What signings have you been most impressed with at Brighton?

If we’re going back to January, then undoubtedly Tariq Lamptey, who is looking an absolute bargain buy from Chelsea. He is tiny but is a deceptively strong defender and fantastic in support of the attack.

He has been our man of the match in almost every game he’s played since coming into the team after lockdown. In terms of summer signings, Adam Lallana has already settled in well, looked excellent against Utd and will hopefully help the younger players with his experience. The main thing with him is staying fit.

Did Everton’s win vs Crystal Palace give you some slight happiness on Saturday after what happened in your match? 

Everton have always been my second team and obviously I hate P*l*ce, so it was a small consolation. But knowing that our match was coming up, I’m also worried that you’re in good winning form.

What are your main strengths, where can you cause Everton damage?

I think that it’s our speed in transition. With Lamptey up the right and the likes of Maupay and Connolly up front, opponents need to be fully concentrating 100% of the time or they can be punished. Maupay’s and Connolly’s pressing to win the ball back caused Utd lots of problems and Connolly should have had at least one, if not two, penalties (although after last season’s match at the Amex I’m guessing Everton fans won’t feel too sorry for him).

Contrastingly, where are you weakest?

Definitely the main concern is putting away the chances we create. Our chance conversion was the worst in the league last year. Hitting the woodwork five times vs Utd is extreme bad luck but you could be mean and say that they were still missed chances. And despite having three excellent centre backs, White is still very new to the Premier League and so could be tested. And like I said, our defending of set pieces is for some reason quite poor.

Who is the danger man Everton should be most wary of this weekend?

The good thing is that the danger can come from so many different areas across the pitch. But, because I haven’t mentioned him yet, I’ll go with Leandro Trossard. His form was patchy last year, partly due to injuries, but he’s started this season brilliantly and, after a hat-trick of shots off the woodwork last week, hopefully his luck will change this week.

What Everton player do you wish you could sign for Brighton?

Good question! I guess that, at the top of his form, pretty much any team in the world would want James. And I would love Digne as left back. But Calvert-Lewin is exactly the profile of striker that we don’t have and that we really need.

What is your opinion on Graham Potter? Interestingly, would you rather someone like a Potter type or would you rather Brighton had a ‘firefighter’ type of manager?

Potter all day long! I love his positive attitude, I love his emphasis on good spirit and mentality, I love the football he promotes and that he is giving the youngsters a chance. Although Chris Hughton is a club legend, the football was not great and no kids were given opportunities. To be honest, without lockdown I think we might have been relegated last year, but Potter used the time off to look after the squad on and off the pitch and they came back stronger for it. It definitely feels like we’re going in the right direction.

Also what is your opinion on Carlo Ancelotti? 

How can you not love him? A great record almost everywhere he has been and clearly a fantastic guy with a great lust for life. And don’t get me started on the eyebrow! I was slightly concerned when he took the job as he has generally done well with galactico-level teams and always struck me as more of a man-manager who just lets the brilliant players that he has to get on with it. But what he has done so far this season has been brilliant and I hope that it keeps going – but only after this weekend

How do you see this weeks match panning out and the final score?

I’m a born pessimist, we never seem to get anything from Goodison and after last week and getting nothing out of a game where we played brilliantly, I’m pretty disheartened right now. Richarlison always seems to run us ragged too. I’ll go for a reverse of the Amex score last year and a 3-2 win for you.

After the match against West Ham, I’m sure Evertonians everywhere are hoping Richarlison is fit enough to run at that defence! I won’t hold my breath…

I’d like to thank Jeremy for his help with this, if you are interested in french football, or want to follow a genuinely sound football fan, you can find him at @jeremysmith98

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