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Far-Fetched Friday: Brighton Qualify for Europa League in the 2021-22 Season
By: Jake Lofgren
Despite being in 17th place with 26 points, Brighton has been one of the more entertaining teams to watch this season. Usually, a smaller club like Brighton would enter the league and try to avoid relegation by playing defensive football, but Brighton is the exact opposite. Brighton usually plays three in the back and does not follow the same boring tactics that clubs like West Brom or Burnley tend to employ. Relegation is still very much a possibility for Brighton, who is having one of the most unfortunate seasons the Premier League has seen.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at a team that insists on getting nothing for their hardwork.
Brighton has been absolutely dominant in expected stats. The two stats we will take a look at are expected goals and expected points. xGs measure how likely a player is to score in a goal-scoring opportunity. This season Brighton has created 41.73 expected goals, yet they have only scored 27. It shows that Brighton have been creating the chances to be a top side but lack the quality finishing. An expected goals stat of 41.73 ranks seventh in the league, but they rank 15th in actual goals scored.
Expected points are the number of points each team should have gotten based on goal-scoring opportunities and goal-scoring chances they gave up. Brighton's expected points this season is an unbelievable 45.5. This puts them at fifth in the league in expected points, two points away from Manchester United in fourth.
All this to explain that Brighton are underachieving by nearly 20 points, and instead of qualifying for Europe, they are fighting to avoid being a second division team next season.
The only thing that can really describe Brighton's season is just how wasteful they have been. They are a team that lacks a real finishing threat capable of putting away the chances that they have no issues creating. Neal Maupay is their leading goal scorer and main option when they need goals. Maupay has scored seven goals this season but has been expected to score 11.3. One of the signs of a top striker is when they find a way to outscore their expected goals. Although, not all the blame should be on Maupay. The club has no other player that can take the pressure off of him.
Their next leading goal scorer is Lewis Dunk with three, who plays center back, while most other players have either 1 or 2 goals for the club. Brighton have the right players in the right roles.
All they are missing is a talented goal poacher that can finish off the beautiful chances they create each game.
Brighton's manager, Graham Potter, is the genius behind this all. Finding a way to play attractive football with a small club and a low budget while dominating statistically is a crazy sight to see. He is rightfully linked to bigger jobs like Tottenham or the English national team. A club like Tottenham's eyes should water at the thought of implementing a guy like Potter into a club with top players and a bigger budget. I could see Potter sticking around for one more season, but if not, Potter has had two assistants since his days at Ostersunds FK in Sweden. These two are Billy Reid and Bjorn Hamberg, and if Potter leaves, I would highly recommend Brighton hire in-house with one of these two to try and keep building on the project Potter has begun.
To me, Brighton are the Oakland Athletics of the footballing world that can have their own Moneyball story. A small club with a low budget that has to get creative to find ways to compete. Brighton has some fantastic players like Tariq Lamptey, Ben White, and Yves Bissouma. These players will not be Brighton players their entire careers, similar to Jason Giambi or Johnny Damon that the Athletics lost. Losing big players like this is just inevitable for these two clubs who simply cannot afford to sign them when payday comes around, but that does not mean that Brighton could not use analytical statistics to find solid replacements to fill the void.
The Oakland Athletics may not be the New York Yankees or LA Dodgers that are competing for World Series titles year in and year out, but that does not mean they haven't found their own niche to stay competitive with these bigger clubs yearly.
Brighton could be the same story; it all starts with avoiding relegation and bringing in the right pieces this summer.
For a club like Brighton, qualifying for Europa League is far-fetched enough, let alone winning a Premier League or domestic cup.
For Brighton fans being able to watch their club play football of this style is something that they can all take pleasure in, and if they stay up, next season could become the best season in their club's history.
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