I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I am getting ahead of myself. But it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

Brighton and Hove Albion currently sit in fourth place in the Premier League table, with 15 points from 8 games so far. 4 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws, which included ‘that’ moment against Crystal Palace. Now, those looking at the table without context may say, “Brighton have fluked that”. And that would be a fair assumption. However, those within the Brighton community will argue this. And again, this is fair.

The football Brighton have played in the 8 games so far this season is representative of their league position. There, I said it. The Albion’s biggest criticism last season was their ability (or lack of) to finish the multitude of big chances their style of football created. Most notably the away game to Palace in February last season, where Christian Benteke’s last minute winner capped off a lackluster performance by Brighton’s attacking players. Albion had 25 shots, with only 20% of those (5) on target. In comparison, Palace had 3, scoring 2 and taking all 3 points. 

However, this season there seems to have been a shift in the attack. Neal Maupay has 4 goals in 8 games, and is playing with the confidence and, dare I say, arrogance required at the highest level. Previously, he looked shaky in front of goal, taking multiple touches and killing any momentum the attack had gained. In contrast, this season Neal has been far more clinical and composed, with the examples being his touch and finish when 1 on 1 against Watford back in August, and that goal against Palace a month ago. The confidence the players have in their strikers is paramount to the success of any side, and the apparent trust the team have in Neal Maupay currently is clear to see. 

Of course, a team’s success cannot be attributed to the development of a single player, but the development of the entire team. Across the entire pitch, Brighton have gone to a new level this year, increasing their effectiveness in defence, midfield and attack. The 2020/21 is widely regarded as Brighton’s greatest season in the Premier League; with the team matching their highest ever points total, in conjunction with an attractive style of football. However, the current 21/22 season has exceeded even those standards set last year, in a number of statistics.

Below is a comparison of a number of key statistics between the last Premier League season (20/21) and this current season (21/22). Bear in mind that this season is a far smaller sample so far than the last season (8 games in contrast to 38), so comparisons, on the whole, will not be a definitive measure of improvement, but easily enough to infer a strong development of the squad.

Shooting Accuracy:

20/21 – 29%

21/22 – 31%

Passes per match (average):

20/21 – 478.6

21/22 – 520.5

Pass Accuracy:

20/21 – 81%

21/22 – 83%

Cross Accuracy:

20/21 – 24%

21/22 – 29%

Clean Sheets:

20/21 (38 games) – 12

21/22 (8 games) – 4

Goals conceded (after 8 games):

20/21 – 14

21/22 – 5

Tackle Success:

20/21 – 53%

21/22 – 60%

Yellow Cards:

20/21 (38 games) – 46

21/22 (8 games) – 22

Other than the yellow card stat, which I promise I’ll explain the relevance of, the statistics are self-explanatory. Defensively, Brighton have looked far more assured this season. Despite having an excellent defensive season last year, only conceding 46 from 38 games, it appears as though Graham Potter has worked hard to sure the back 3 up even further. In the middle third, Brighton are completing, on average, an extra 42 passes a game, with a 2% increase in pass accuracy. Gaining control of the midfield is a key feature of Potter’s tactical setup, and to see the midfield being even more dominant than last year is fantastic to see. In the final third, the stats back up my point that the side have become far more clinical this year, with a 2% increase in shooting accuracy. 

Oh yes, the yellow card stat. Brighton have already tallied up almost half of the yellow cards they received in the entirety of last season. This statistic could be interpreted in one of two ways; they’ve lost their discipline, or they’ve become smarter. I’m going for the later. The use of professional fouls seems to be a new feature of Potter’s Brighton, having received 22 yellow cards from only 39 fouls, a huge ‘foul to yellow’ percentage of 56%. This shows that Brighton are extremely disciplined, having conceded less than 5 fouls a game on average, but are becoming far smarter on when to foul their opponents, which is a potential factor to their excellent defensive record so far this year.

So, are Brighton going on a European holiday?

The answer is, potentially. 

As a club who have been in and around the relegation zone since our promotion in 2017, the thought of Europe seems extraordinarily farfetched. With a tough run of fixtures, including Manchester City and Liverpool, it is fathomable that the Albion will start to slip down to a more expected league position. However, I’m sure I don’t have to remind supporters what happened the last time City visited the Amex, or what happened the last time we visited Anfield. 

But for old times’ sake, I will. We won. Both games.

The next few fixtures will answer the question of a European holiday. Brighton supporters will either be on Cloud 9, having got results out of the incumbent Premier League champions, and the Champions League winners of 2019, and Premier League winners of 2020, or provide a humbling reality check that a European holiday is slightly above our pay grade.

Either way, this season could be a defining moment in the history of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club.