• Patience is Needed with Potter's work in Progress

    Firstly, I wanted to avoid the term “Potterball”. Well, apart from just then. Sorry. For the purposes of this article I will use the longer terms “our style of football” or “Graham Potter’s style of football” even though they are longer, and therefore harder to type, because they are slightly less cringy and cannot be used ironically. Right, so now that’s out of the way what has Graham Potter’s style of football done for us?

    At the halfway point of the season we sit in 15th with 20 points. Last season we were 13th with 22 points from six wins, four draws and nine defeats. For me, however, the division is much tougher this season than last. The traditional top six are struggling (with the obvious exception of Liverpool) . The promoted teams are better. The league is tighter. And it would be folly to speculate what would have happened under Hughton because it’s simply not possible to know. It’s like speculating on what would have happened in the world of geo-politics had Donald Trump been kidnapped by aliens back in June.

    So let’s talk about Brighton, Graham Potter and Graham Potter’s style of football. How has it been? What are the positives, the negatives and the so-so? What can be improved on, and what can we expect in the rest of the season?

    Potter echoed Hughton’s discipline of never getting too depressed after a defeat or too carried away after a win with his comments after Sheffield United. Things are never as good or bad as they can seem. This is measured but perhaps the reason for the comments is the reaction to him here has been, for me, bi-polar. When we are losing it’s a tragedy. When we win we are brilliant. Has The Amex warmed to Potter the way Bloom did, extending his contract early on? Not so far. Why is this?

    For me it’s because our new style shows up our strengths and weaknesses far more that last season. Anyone good enough to play Premier League football should be able to maintain a defensive shape and sit in it, at least in theory. But retain possession, pass sharply, move into unusual positions, finish your chances and still not concede? Not so easy. Sometimes it goes right, others it is “less good”.

    This can be both between games and in different disciplines within the game. In the “going right” column were our entire games at home to Spurs and away to Arsenal. Six points, five goals and dominant performances from start to finish. In the “less good”, Chelsea away and Sheffield United at home. Whilst (and this is what I mean about different disciplines) our all round play against Newcastle and Palace away was outstanding but our finishing was not. One goal and two points all we have to show for two games that were the proverbial stopped boxing matches.

    And then there was Spurs away. For me a very good away performance in the first half, a slight let down in the second, but not one to lose your head over. They have Harry Kane. We have Aaron Connolly. That was the difference. The latter arrived on the scene against Spurs at home and put away two quite beautiful goals, but we were already one up from a very early strike which also took Lloris out of the game with a horror injury. On Boxing Day, had Connolly put away a very similar change to the one Maupay scored from against Arsenal, we’d have won that game. But he is young and raw with bags of potential and Kane is the finished article. Kane and Ali took their chances. We didn’t. It happens. But maybe the fact we are creating these chances is actually leading to a disappointed reaction from some?

    The big difference for me is that the sense of expectation around the club has increased. We are playing better football against the better teams, therefore results should be better. Right? Wrong. You get nothing in this league for pretty football. It needs to produce results, but before it does it inevitably produces expectation. Yes, we can beat Spurs at home and Arsenal away. We can toy with Palace like a cat with a mouse. We can give Liverpool a game at Anfield. Potter must have transformed us right? Tony Bloom talked about top ten, about not settling for just surviving. We must be capable of that?

    Except, of course, we are a very short while into the Potter experiment. We do not have the players or budget to transform immediately. This is a work in progress and like all works in progress there are times when it looks like no more than a few foundations and a pile of mud. One week the contractors bring the wrong bricks or the specialist fitter turns up three days late. The next? You take another look at the completed contract for the sale of the land or the magnificent plans or you realise you can fit that swimming pool in after all. None of these things are a disaster, none are an actual triumph. But every now and again you remember that this time last year you had a fully functioning house and now you’re visiting something half built from your temporary accommodation.

    Teams have now sussed our strengths and weaknesses. Our players cannot rely on tactics alone. Our passing has become a little slower, when it should be slick. Our finishing isn’t great. We should score more from set pieces (though the free kick goal against Spurs was a big tick in that column). We have very little width. Is Dan Burn a left back? Not for me. Teams know that Trossard must be kept quiet when he plays. They’ve tried that on Mooy too, but he is still often too good.

    Making Mooy permanent must be our first bit of business in January. A striker would be nice. And a little more pace, for we lack that as well as width. We may not get all of it in a notoriously difficult market.

    And us fans? We need to remember we are just another small-ish team in a really difficult and competitive league. We may be able to pass rings round teams that we sat back against last season but we shouldn’t expect to go to places like Spurs and win. We need to back Potter and his style of football. And we need to accept that the gradual evolution of the squad should mean that our proverbial house should have some walls by the end of the season but the pool, fixtures and fittings will still not all be there.
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Dorset Seagull's Avatar
      Dorset Seagull -
      Good read and think it probably sums up where most of us are on the project
    1. Perkino's Avatar
      Perkino -
      We cannot expect a win against Spurs but the other 14 when at the Amex is where we must expect a few more wins
    1. Harry Wilson's tackle's Avatar
      Harry Wilson's tackle -
      Yeah, brilliant post. Thanks for taking the time
    1. Lindfield by the Pond's Avatar
      Lindfield by the Pond -
      Good summary with which I am mostly in agreement, apart from Potterball - think its a great phrase, that irritates many ;)
    1. Dick Head's Avatar
      Dick Head -
      But I want Champions League football NOW!
    1. Uh_huh_him's Avatar
      Uh_huh_him -
      Spot on.

      I'm very happy with the direction we are heading in.

      In 5 months we have transformed the way we play.
      Early signs are positive and with the focus on continuous improvement, we will only get better and better.
    1. HBoi's Avatar
      HBoi -
      Nicely summed up - it's a difficult balance between function and looks.
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