Burnley vs Brighton: Why Premier League kick-off may arrive too soon for Graham Potter and transfer targets
Brighton kick-off their Premier League campaign at Burnley - but are Albion players ready for for their first encounter of the season at Turf Moor?
Graham Potter said last season that at times he felt like he was trying to the fix the plane while it was up in the air.
Well, despite some turbulence on the way, Potter airways landed safely at their destination as they secured a fifth consecutive season in the Premier League – even if they did look a touch jet-lagged towards the end.
Tomorrow, Brighton are at the departure gates once more, heading for Burnley as the 2021-22 season gets under way.
Double-jabbed fans, with their Covid passports, will strap themselves in at Turf Moor and check for signs of progress following last season’s 16th placed finish. There is reason for optimism too.
Brighton should really have finished far higher up the table than they did. Albion are a talented team, they receive plenty of praise and have that important blend of experience and youth, plus a very good manager.
Yes they play good football but they can also battle when they need to. Few teams outran Brighton last season and all of that will be required on day one against Sean Dyche’s team, who are sometimes slow starters but know what it takes to stay in the top flight.
Potter however could well be in for some in-flight maintenance once more as in their final pre-season friendly against Getafe, Albion looked seriously under-cooked.
Departure time has come around too soon. Injuries, Euros, Olympics, Copa America, self isolation and pings have all interrupted preparations. Striker Danny Welbeck will miss the start with a hamstring problem, as will wing back Tariq Lamptey who has not played since last December.
Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly will likely provide the attacking thrust at Turf Moor.
Dan Burn will also miss Burnley after getting his studs caught in the turf in a friendly at Luton, while Moises Cacedio returned from the Copa America with a knee problem.
Defenders Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster gained some vital minutes against Getafe but Albion’s key defensive duo are not yet operating at full tilt. This week’s training will be vital as they look to build up their match fitness.
There was however positive news for Leo Trossard. The Belgian, who featured for his country at the Euros, had a delayed return to training after a period of self-isolation but looked sharp as he played the second half in a feisty friendly loss against Getafe.
Alexis Mac Allister was also back in an Albion shirt having been away most of the summer with Argentina at the Olympics. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder played the first half last Saturday and will look to start the season well. He said he has now settled in at Brighton and fans will hope to see the best from him.
So far the transfer window has been fairly kind. Ben White departed to Arsenal with everyone’s best wishes and Albion banked a very healthy £50m for a player they picked up for free and developed superbly through their academy. Maty Ryan, Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Davy Propper also moved on.
White’s exit is a clear blow – he was one of Albion’s best players last season – but it’s a loss they should be able to cope with, thanks mainly to the ever-reliable Netherlands international Joel Veltman.
It also appears at this stage that midfielder Yves Bissouma will remain, for the time being at least. The Mali international would likely fetch a similar fee to White but losing both this summer would have seen Potter reaching for the mayday button.
The fact that new signing Enock Mwepu – who joined for £20m from Red Bull Salzburg last month – can play with Bissouma rather than replace him is a bonus.
Albion still need a striker and they continue to be linked with Getafe’s £15m rated left-back Marc Cucurella, who just won Olympic silver with Spain.
Both would be welcome additions but it looks increasingly likely Brighton will start the season with neither.
With three winnable matches against Burnley, Watford and Brentford from their first four fixtures, Potter’s team will need to reach cruising speed as quickly as possible, even if departure feels a little premature.