After briefly topping the table earlier in the season, Brighton & Hove Albion are currently level on points with Nottingham Forest. We Are Brighton tell us what to expect from the home side.
After a solid season back in the Championship, what are your expectations for 2012-13?
After finishing 10th last year I think the general feeling is that this year we should really be pushing for the play-offs, especially now we’ve improved in most of the positions that let us down last year. Tomasz Kuszczak (we still have to Google his name for the correct spelling!) has been a revelation in goal in particular, while Wayne Bridge has been performing so well that it’s hard to believe he isn’t playing in the Premier League. However, our flying start (we were top until the end of September) raised fans expectations, perhaps a little too high in some cases, and there’s been a fair bit of negativity sweep in in recent weeks.
What’s the fans’ general opinion of Gus Poyet?
Generally we love him. He’s been a revelation, and it’s madness when you think about how quickly we’ve gone from watching dire football at Withdean to Poyet’s brand of pass-and-move football at the Amex. He’s a real character too, which most fans enjoy. Having said that, the doubts are beginning to creep in, largely down to the frustration at our lack of firepower causing us to drop points in recent games that we’ve dominated. Poyet spent heavily on Craig Mackail-Smith, who works hard but hasn’t been as clinical as some would have liked. It’s not helped that our ex-forward Glenn Murray is now banging them in for our arch-rivals [Crystal Palace] to top the division’s scoring charts, while 18 months after his departure we still lack a presence up front – Murray has more goals than all four of our strikers put together. Poyet tried to calm down the fans the other week that explaining Murray’s departure was because we couldn’t afford him (he left on a Bosman), despite our current strikeforce costing about £4 million combined! But as long as we’re in or around the play-off places, he’s going to remain a very popular guy on the South Coast.
Have there been many changes since last season?
Our defence is in theory a lot stronger, although there’s been a few niggling injuries recently and we’ve been conceding more goals as a result. Hopefully that won’t be the case on Saturday. Other than that, don’t expect too many changes as we’re virtually the same team, although it may just feel that way to us as our two main summer signings in midfield are previous Albion captains Andrew Crofts and Dean Hammond.
What can we expect tactically?
A lot of Albion possession and missed chances if recent games are anything to go by. Poyet focuses on ‘control’, he’d rather win a game 1-0 than 4-2. He wants us to dominate games with our passing across all areas of the pitch. At the Amex though, we seem to struggle if the away team nick something to hang on to, and with Forest’s impressive looking strikeforce you’ve probably got a decent chance of a result on Saturday.
Who are the key players to watch out for?
Will Buckley’s once again been the star man so far on the wing for us. Dan Harding has previous history of being destroyed in games against the Albion, and Buckley’s explosive pace caused him all kinds of problems last year for Saints, resulting in him being subbed before half-time! Other than Will, Craig Mackail-Smith will stand out with his long hair and tireless running, but watch out for Liam Bridcutt dominating the game in the middle of the park. He may be tiny, but he’s the one that makes us tick.
What’s going to happen on Saturday?
We’re struggling to win at home this season although, as we’ve mentioned, we have a tendancy to miss lots of chances. The defence has looked a little shakey in recent, so we’ll go for a repeat of our result last Saturday – two each.
Image: By James Boyes from UK (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons