• A tale of two strikers - well, their repacements anyway

    When the curtain went up on the latest Championship season Brighton and Hove Albion and today’s opponent’s, Bournemouth, looked to be in relatively similar situations.

    True, the Cherries are unable to boast the same level of crowds as the Albion, but, unlike other sides in this division, neither found their wallets boosted by parachute payments and neither are in a position to splash the sort of cash as the likes of Nottingham Forest.

    Both, also, were preparing for lives without their leading lights from the previous campaign.

    Just as the Albion had sold Leo Ulloa, so to had Bournemouth cashed in on the services of their own talismanic forward, with Lewis Grabban leaving for Norwich City.

    Ulloa has proven tough to replace

    Grabban had previously looked like joining the Seagulls only for a deal to collapse before it had really got going. The chances were he was always likely to leave Bournemouth sooner or later.

    The same cannot necessarily be said of Ulloa. There had been interest in the centre forward from higher up the football pyramid, but considering his importance to the Albion team it wasn’t clear whether any team would be willing to part with the sort of funds Brighton would need to convince them to let him go.

    Leicester City, however, were determined in their pursuit of the Argentinian and when they offered in excess of £8 million, it was virtually impossible for the Albion’s decision-makers to say no. And nobody blamed them.

    For a club which posted annual losses of approaching £15 million in their last set of accounts, that sort of fee was always going to be too good to turn down. Fans were pretty much unanimous in their support of the sale. It was sad to see him go, of course, but for that amount of money - and with the player no doubt keen on a move – a deal simply had to be struck.

    But where the two sides differ is in their fortunes since Grabban and Ulloa left.

    Bournemouth sit comfortably in the play-off places and go into tonight’s game on the back of a League Cup win over Premier League opposition and an 8-0 win last time out in the league.

    Brighton, however, are struggling, sit 21st in the division and are on a winless streak in the league which stretches back to late August.

    The Seagulls have not actually been losing many games - just five of their 14 outings so far. That is only one more defeat than today's high-flying opponents.

    They have though struggled to turn draws into wins. Seven draws is the division’s joint-highest total, and when combined with just two victories ,equals a poor return from their first 14 games.

    And the reason for poor that run of form? Well, there are plenty of contributing factors. Sami Hyypia’s apparent reluctance to adapt his favoured system to fit the players at his disposal is certainly one. A number of inspired performances from opposition goalies hasn’t helped either.

    But the simple fact of the matter is that Brighton and Hove Albion have not scored enough goals. Nowhere near enough in fact - just 13 from 14 league fixtures to date.

    Of those, the overwhelming majority (eight) have been scored by defenders, with Lewis Dunk topping the club’s goalscoring charts.

    The Seagulls have, however, averaged more shots on goal than almost every club in the Championship. Brighton’s 17.1 is second only to Norwich’s 18.1.

    Look deeper though and you can begin to see why the Seagulls may be struggling to score. While their average shots is second highest, their shots on target average is just 14th, with 4.2 shots on target per game. Who is the division’s leading club in that category? Bournemouth, with 5.9.

    And so we return to the tale of two strikers and their replacements.

    While the players expected to fill Ulloa’s sizeable scoring boots - Adrian Colunga, Sam Baldock, Chris O’Grady and Craig Mackail-Smith - have yet to hit top form, Bournemouth boast one of the division’s most potent marksman.

    Baldock: yet to open his account

    The three strikers added to the Albion roster this summer have yet to score a league goal between them. Mackail-Smith has one. Callum Wilson - the man signed to replace Grabban - has nine league goals to his name already.

    Wilson was signed on the back of an impressive season in League One last term during which he scored 22 goals in 41 games - quite a strike rate.

    Wilson: prolific

    His goals were not enough though to claim the division’s golden boot. That distinction went to Sam Baldock who has yet to find the net in his 544 league minutes for the Seagulls.

    Against Rotherham Baldock showed glimpses of his undoubted ability despite playing the majority of the game in a wider position on the right hand side of Brighton’s three players who operate behind the loan striker.

    He would surely be more comfortable – and threatening – if deployed in a more central, traditional centre forward role.
    However, it isn’t ALL down to the strikers.

    Matt Ritchie is leading the division’s assists chart with eight already this season. Brighton’s highest setter-upper is Kazenga Lua Lua with two.

    That side of things could be about to improve with the Seagulls in talks to sign former fans’ favourite Elliott Bennett on a short-term loan deal. Bennett, fans will remember, was king of the assists during his time at the Albion and would certainly add something to the side’s attacking creativity.

    So far though this season for Bournemouth and Brighton has been one of contrasting fortunes. Both lost their main strikers but, as of yet, only one is managing without them.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Bournemouth v Albion preview

    League One golden boot winner Sam Baldock in action

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. TrickyOne's Avatar
      TrickyOne -
      H's anyone shown this clip to the gaffer? ? Only a fort like??
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