Brighton season preview: Chris Hughton aiming to build on survival
Seagulls preparing for second Premier League season
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 06/08/18 12:00pm
In our Brighton season preview, we pick out the challenges facing boss Chris Hughton and get an expert view on their chances...
Last season: 15th
Title odds: 1000/1
Relegation odds: 9/4
Major ins: Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Leon Balogun, Florin Andone, Jason Steele, Bernardo Fernandes, David Button, Yves Bissouma, Percy Tau
Major outs: Steve Sidwell, Jamie Murphy, Bailey Vose, Tim Krul, Liam Rosenior, Jiri Skalak, Connor Goldson, Tom Dallison, Uwe Hunemeier, Niki Maenpaa, Sam Baldock
Key player: Alireza Jahanbakhsh
Brighton's maiden season in the Premier League will live long in the memories of supporters. The Seagulls were widely tipped to drop straight back down to the Championship, but they eventually finished seven points clear of danger in 15th place. Along the way, there were unforgettable wins over heavyweights Arsenal and Manchester United.
Brighton proved their doubters wrong, but the level-headed Chris Hughton will be aware that there is no room for complacency as they prepare for the new campaign. The 59-year-old signed a new three-year contract at the Amex in May and he knows there is plenty of hard work ahead if Brighton are to extend their stay in the top flight further.
They were helped by smart recruitment last season, with Pascal Gross, Mat Ryan, Davy Propper and Jose Izquierdo all impressing, and they will hope for similarly useful contributions from this summer's arrivals.
The most exciting of them is Iran international Alirez Jahanbakhsh, a club-record £17m signing from AZ Alkmaar. The 24-year-old, who featured for his country at the World Cup, scored 21 goals in the Eredivisie last season and should take some of the scoring burden off Glenn Murray.
Supporters will also hope to see more of Jurgen Locadia, another addition from Holland. Locadia completed his £14m move from PSV Eindhoven in January, but only started three Premier League games in the second half of the campaign, with Hughton admitting he needed time to adapt to the intensity of the English game.
Those signings reflect Brighton's lofty ambitions, but establishing themselves in the Premier League will not be easy. They would surely settle for another 15th-placed finish in 2018/19.
Paul Merson's verdict
They'll be alright, but the problem is goalscoring. They brought in Locadia, but the lad up front Glenn Murray got a lot of goals last season, and they need someone to match that or they're going to be in trouble. I like the way they play, I'm a massive fan of Chris Hughton, and I think they'll just about be alright.
Hughton is a good manager, he's calm, he doesn't panic or make silly decisions. Anthony Knockaert has been there another year, I think people will be targeting him and he'll have to step up - but when he's hot, he's hot.
Last season, Dunk and Duffy were throwing themselves in front of everything and let's hope it's not like Leicester, who were doing that when they won the league but then weren't in front of anything the next year. But they're two good leaders and I'm surprised they've managed to keep hold of both.
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