'A key period coming up and Brighton & Hove Albion will want to keep up with the pace'

The start has been tough and there is no doubt that the next nine or so fixtures will be key for Brighton and Hove Albion in their bid to stay in the Premier League for a third season, writes Johnny Cantor.

Thursday, 4th October 2018, 7:30 pm
Updated Friday, 5th October 2018, 2:33 am
Jose Izquierdo is back available for Albion after injury. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

So, can we assess the start of the campaign just yet? Most pundits say you need to wait until after the tenth match to really get a view on how the team is performing.

Well so far the Seagulls have played three of the top four. They have five points from the first seven games. Last season they had seven. They had played, and lost to, Man City and Arsenal. I think it is a little early to pass judgment but there are a few developments that have been noted by a fair few onlookers. Only three teams have conceded more goals than the Seagulls and Chris Hughton’s side are yet to keep a clean sheet.

Is that an indication of a change in performance or the quality of the opposition they have faced? There is no obvious difference in my view and I expect some solid defensive performances soon.

What about at the other end of the pitch? The team has scored eight goals but three of those were penalties. It clearly doesn’t matter how they go in but the reliance on Glenn Murray is a concern. Already the manager has been denied the services of Pascal Gross and Dale Stephens, if something happened to the 35-year-old striker I think concern would grow significantly.

It’s encouraging to see Shane Duffy contributing in front of goal and hopefully Lewis Dunk can follow suit. There is no doubt the return of Jose Izquierdo should raise hopes of more goals. Travelling supporters to the London Stadium last season will have fond memories of the Colombian’s sweet strike.

Chris Hughton described that match as a game of ‘moments’ and the Hammers were a little unlucky to go behind but at the time it did feel like a watershed moment, a watershed win.

All supporters were delighted with the win over Manchester United earlier this campaign but as time moves on the frailties of Jose Mourinho’s team are becoming clearer. All it needs is a few strong performances, several deserved wins and you think the Seagulls will really be up and running. The international breaks don’t help in my view but it is the same for everyone.

They say it’s a marathon, not a sprint but you don’t want to have too much ground to make up. Last season it was Crystal Palace who recovered from a dismal start, this year you could say this week’s opponents West Ham United have shown resilience to recover from four straight defeats.

Last season after ten matches Albion had 12 points so would need two wins and a draw from home games against West Ham and Wolves and the trip to Newcastle to equal that tally. Eminently possible, highly desirable.

For reference, after 20 matches last season they had 21 points, after 30 they had 34. Yes it is a marathon but you have to keep up with the pace.

Follow all the action, home or away, on BBC Sussex Sport or Twitter: @BBCSussexSport or @johnnycburgerTo read more by Johnny Cantor, visit www.johnnycantor.comAlbion Unlimited podcast is available to download via BBC iPlayer & iTunes