• Brighton's safety all but confirmed as attention turns to next season

    After the final game of the Premier League before lockdown finished on March 9, Brighton & Hove Albion were hovering dangerously above the relegation zone, just two points above the drop and without a win in 2020.

    Fast forward four months, and only four games, and the Seagulls are seemingly completely out of trouble. The 1-0 triumph at Norwich was the most important result of Graham Potterís tenure, and after 33 games his team sits on 36 points, which is what their total tally was for 2018-19.

    Whether or not Potterís first campaign in charge can be deemed a success may divide opinion among Brighton fans, but what cannot be denied is that the former ÷stersunds FK boss has implemented a more attractive style of play at the Amex Stadium which has seen possession and passing stats significantly increase, and an influx of more technically gifted players into the side.

    Of course, staying in the Premier League is always the priority, and playing nice football doesnít always guarantee that, as Norwich City fans will attest. But the fact that Potter has shown that he can make Albion easy on the eye, as well as demonstrating the ability to do what is necessary to get out of a relegation scrap, should offer encouragement among supporters.

    The three-month break across English football benefitted few teams more than Brighton. When the season was postponed, the betting odds on relegation for the south coast outfit were 5/2. A look at some of the top bookmakers on MyBettingsites shows that they are now priced as big as 250/1 for the drop, so another campaign in the top flight surely beckons.

    In many ways, the lockdown period may have brought out the best in Potter. The 45-year-old has a Masterís in leadership and emotional intelligence and has always placed a heavy emphasis on off-the-pitch activity.

    Creativity would have been required during the period in which regular training session routines werenít an option, and not many managers are better placed to ensure that playersí mindsets and focus remain on point during testing times.

    It remains to be seen what next season will look like in terms of scheduling and attendances, but whatever happens, big challenges lie ahead for Brighton. Given that Potter was handed a new six-year deal just six months into his reign, Albion fans have every right to expect further progress throughout 2020-21.

    The replacement of Chris Hughton with Potter was a decision made based on the latterís ability to take the club forward. Simply surviving again next season wonít be enough, regardless of how pretty the football is.

    In Albionís first Premier League campaign, they finished 15th with 40 points. They may end up better off than that this term, but 2021 must perhaps represent a leap towards the top half.

    Big money signings Leandro Trossard, Adam Webster and Neal Maupay have all had a year to settle in, and they can help form the foundations for the next phase of the teamís development.

    Youngsters Alexis Mac Allister and Tariq Lamptey can also be expected to impose themselves more on the team, giving cause for optimism for the years ahead.
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