When you support a football club which is owned by a multi millionaire who made a vast amount of his wealth as a professional gambler, then you have to accept that he’s going to take risks.
Tony Bloom’s decision to replace Chris Hughton with Graham Potter is easily the biggest gamble so far of his 10 years at the helm of Brighton and Hove Albion.
To much of the outside world, it appears a stupid decision.
Indeed, there have been supporters of other clubs who have said that they are actively hoping that the Albion get relegated this season. It will teach us a lesson for sacking a guy who has taken us to the Premier League and kept us there, apparently.
While it’s true that Hughton did everything asked of him in terms of securing top flight survival, those of us who watched Brighton week in, week out last season hold a slightly different view to the general public. Nobody was happy to see Hughton sacked but by the end of the season, it had become sadly inevitable.
Let me take you back to the final throes of December 2018.
Brighton were 12 points clear of the relegation zone and all was well. The talk was of how high we could finish, rather than worrying about what Cardiff City, Fulham and Huddersfield were doing.
Christ, we even thought we could finish in the top 10.
It was at this point that Hughton decided to dispense with the 4-4-1-1 formation that had been the bedrock of our success in favour of 4-3-3. The result was disastrous as we won just two more Premier League games all season and ended up relying on Crystal Palace of all teams to beat Cardiff and keep us up.
Anybody who watched the Albion in the second half of the season could see that 4-3-3 wasn’t working, yet Hughton doggedly persisted with it for four months.
In that time, we lost at the Amex against Burnley, Southampton, Cardiff and suffered our heaviest home defeat in 46 years when Bournemouth left Sussex with a 5-0 victory.
There aren’t many football clubs who would stick with a manager after that.
Throw in the fact that we’d spent over £50m on underperforming players like Jurgen Locadia (one Premier League goal, no assists) and Alireza Jahanbakhsh (no Premier League goals, no assists) and we’d won a grand total of five away games in two years and you’ve got a strong case that, sadly, Hughton’s race was run.
Will Potter have the magic touch?
Graham Potter is an intriguing appointment but it isn’t hard to see why he was Bloom’s number one target. He is meant to play a brand of attractive football far removed from the sterile stuff Hughton often served up at times.
He isn’t afraid to give young players a chance which means that some of our Under 23s who finished third in Premier League 2 last season might get an opportunity and his track record at both Ostersunds and Swansea suggests that he is able to get the best out of players who haven’t delivered on their potential.
Is Dunk on his way to Leicester? Will Potter be playing 3 at the back? Or is Webster just that good to justify spending £20m on?
— We Are Brighton (@wearebrighton) August 1, 2019
Judging by our transfer business so far, that last attribute looks like it will make or break Potter’s reign.
The Albion have signed just one player to bolster a squad who have won just twice in 2019, with winger Leandro Trossard arriving for £15m from Genk.
Clearly, Bloom is banking on Potter extracting more from last summer’s big money signings than what Hughton could get out of them. Nearly everything we’ve seen of Jahanbakhsh and Locadia suggests that it was the players who were substandard rather than the manager, so it’s a huge ask of Potter to turn them into individuals capable of delivering week in, week out in the Premier League.
Will it work? Nobody really knows.
Potter is a man who’s taken the Swedish equivalent of Crawley Town from League Two to winning the FA Cup and beating Arsenal in the Europa League in just seven years.
He’s clearly talented, but he’s got a big job on his hands in arguably the highest pressurised league in the world.
We could end up playing breathtaking attacking football and cracking the top eight. Or the same squad who won two games out of 18 in the second half of last season could carry on where they left off and we’ll be stone cold bottom.
All we can do is hope that Bloom has got his gamble right.
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