Brighton will be hoping to replicate last year’s fantastic Premier League campaign as they prepare for their first ever tilt at European football.
The journey from League One football to the Europa League in just 12 years is a remarkable one, and the style of play they have adopted is equally impressive.
We’ve taken a look the chances of Roberto De Zerbi’s side heading into the new campaign…
Stadium: American Express Community Stadium
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi
Captain: Lewis Dunk
Top league scorer last season: Alexis Mac Allister – 10
Last season’s position: 6th
To Finish in Top 4 – 11/2
To Finish in Top 6 – 13/8
To Finish in Top Half – 1/4
To Finish in Bottom Half – 11/4
Sitting in fourth place after six games following a superb 5-2 victory over Leicester, Graham Potter opted to leave the Seagulls to join Todd Boehly’s revolution at Chelsea.
While Potter would last less than seven months at Stamford Bridge, new manager Roberto De Zerbi picked up the baton and guided Brighton to the highest league finish in the club’s history.
There were question marks over the Italian initially, as despite a thrilling a 3-3 draw at Anfield in his first game, he failed to register a victory in his first five league matches.
A 4-1 victory over Potter’s Chelsea followed to kickstart De Zerbi’s reign, with the team pushing on after the World Cup to maintain their European charge.
A run of one defeat from 11 games between January and April even propelled Brighton into the reckoning for an unlikely Champions League spot.
They would settle for an exceptional 6th place in the end to signal the start of a European adventure.
The biggest challenge for Brighton ahead of the new season is whether they can deal with the challenge of playing in the Europa League on Thursday nights.
The travelling will increase, they will have quick turnarounds before Premier League games and an inexperienced squad at that level will be stretched more than before.
World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister has left to join Liverpool, while Moises Caicedo is unlikely to remain at the club after the transfer window, but Brighton have proved in recent years that they can adapt to the sale of star players.
Leandro Trossard, Marc Cucurella and Yves Bissouma have all departed and been replaced more than adequately in recent times, proving that the club’s recruitment strategy is one to be admired.
They continue to invest in young players for relatively small fees and make profit on the majority of them, giving the club sustainability for years to come.
Another couple of gems appear to have been unearthed in Paraguay starlet Julio Enciso and Argentinian teenager Facundo Buonanotte, while Kaoru Mitoma has the potential to build on his breakthrough campaign, as does promising Republic of Ireland striker Evan Ferguson.
Throw in the big-money signing of Joao Pedro from Watford plus the free transfers of midfielders James Milner and Mahmoud Dahoud, and Brighton look sufficiently equipped to enjoy another fine season.
Just as the Italian passionately informed Tottenham caretaker boss Cristian Stellini ahead of a fiery contest last season, this is his team.
His compatriot had suggested that De Zerbi had been fortuitous in taking over a squad that Potter had put together.
In a sense he had, there was undoubted quality at his disposal, but De Zerbi has more than put his stamp on this squad and he has taken the team to a new level since taking over.
Only Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool found the net more times than Brighton last season, with their free-flowing attacking style of play attracting many admirers.
The combination of De Zerbi’s possession-based football and the desire to press high worked wonders in his first season on the South Coast.
His style of football and success have already seen him linked with roles at Chelsea and Tottenham, and a big club may come calling if he continues in the same vein this season.
Brighton’s captain made his debut for the club back in the 2009-10 season, when Brighton were playing League One football under Gus Poyet.
He has since been a mainstay of the side in three different divisions, winning the Players’ Player of the Season award in 2018-19 and 2020-21, as well as the club’s overall Player of the Year award in 2019-20.
Dunk has thrived in the contrasting styles of Chris Hughton and the likes of De Zerbi and Potter, and whilst he is more than adept with the ball at his feet, he is also a commanding leader at the heart of defence.
He has surprisingly only made one England appearance, in a 2018 friendly against USA, and his form in recent years suggests he should be given more opportunities.
With doubts surrounding Harry Maguire, Eric Dier’s loss of form, Conor Coady dropping down to the Championship and inconsistencies amongst other defensive candidates, Dunk surely deserves a chance to partner Jon Stones in Gareth Southgate’s backline.
The 18-year-old striker scored 10 goals in all competitions last season, as he stepped up to the lead the line in the absence of Danny Welbeck.
Ferguson has already featured six times for Republic of Ireland and, even at this stage of his career, he looks a certainty to be his country’s main goal threat for the next decade.
Dubbed the ‘next Alan Shearer’, Ferguson has the capability to link up play but can also play on the shoulder of the last defender.
His finishing ability was evident last season, but he is also powerful and is able to hold the ball up for the likes of Mitoma and Enciso to play around him.
If De Zerbi’s side continue to create the amount of chances as they did last season, Ferguson’s stature could soar in 2023/24, with big clubs likely to come knocking next summer.
(4-2-3-1): Verbruggen, Veltman, Dunk (c), Julio, Estupinan, Dahoud, Groß, March, Enciso, Mitoma, Ferguson.
Brighton's opening six Premier League fixtures are as follows:
Odds correct at time of publishing and subject to change.