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Brighton: BTSport.com's Premier League 2019/20 season preview

After finishing fourth-bottom with some dreary football last season, Seagulls fans are hoping for more excitement of the right kind this campaign under new boss Graham Potter.

Last season's Premier League finish: 17th - (W9 D9 L20 - F35 A60 - Pts 36)

Last season's top scorer: Glenn Murray - 13 (15 in all competitions)

To be relegated*: 15/8

First five fixtures: Watford (A), West Ham (H), Southampton (H), Man City (A), Burnley (H) 

Predicted finish (BTSport.com writers' combined prediction): 18th

Predicted finish by The Script: 16th

Transfers in: Leandro Trossard - Genk (£18m), Matt Clarke - Portsmouth (£5m), Adam Webster - Bristol City (£19m), Neal Maupay - Brentford (£18m), Taylor Richards - Man City (£2.5m), Aaron Mooy - Huddersfield (loan), Romaric Yapi - Paris Saint-Germain (undiclosed)

Transfers out: Alexis MacAllister - Boca Juniors (loan), Richie Towell - Salford (free), Ales Mateju - Brescia (undisclosed), Percy Tau - Club Brugge (loan), Bruno - retired, Will Collar - Hamilton (undisclosed), Ben White - Leeds (loan), Ben Barclay - Accrington (free), Leo Ostigard - St Pauli (loan), Beram Kayal - Charlton (loan), Matthew Weaire - Colchester (free), Anthony Knockaert - Fulham (loan), Christian Walton - Blackburn (loan), Jayson Mulumby - Millwall (loan), Billy Arce - Barcelona SC (loan), Jan Mlakar - QPR (loan), Robert Sanchez - Rochdale (loan), Viktor Gyokeres - St Pauli (loan), Markus Suttner - Fortuna Dusseldorf (£2m), Billy Arce - Barcelona SC (loan), Matt Clarke - Derby (loan)

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Reasons to be optimistic

Brighton chairman Tony Bloom made his millions in online gambling and as a professional poker player. And by sacking Chris Hughton and bringing in Graham Potter, the local businessman has opted to twist rather than stick.

The football Hughton's Seagulls served up last season was dreadful and completely devoid of ambition at times and it made for some thoroughly depressing displays at the Amex.

The most notable example was April’s home clash with Newcastle, a game they needed a result in. Brighton set up to concede possession to the Magpies, showing little interest in committing men forward even after falling a goal behind. They eventually rallied to secure a vital point in their battle against relegation.

Yet Brighton boast a squad packed with attacking potential. Forwards and wingers such as Florin Andone, Jose Izquierdo, Jurgen Locadia and Solly March were either denied game time or deployed as auxiliary full-backs. Winger Leandro Trossard, newly-arrived from Genk, only joined under assurances that the football would improve this season.

Iran international Alireza Jahanbakhsh scored 22 times and provided 14 assists in the Eredivisie in 2017/18 but failed to score or assist in his debut season on the south coast. WeAreBrighton.com point to a heat map which shows the right winger spending the vast majority of his time on the pitch inside his own half during the campaign.

After starring in the Championship, Anthony Knockaert struggled in the Premier League under Hughton and has been loaned to Fulham. Pascal Gross is undoubtedly a talented creative force but suffered during an injury-hit campaign last season.

The hope is that these forwards were criminally misused and under Potter will be given license to get forward and express themselves on the front foot. The signing of striker Neil Maupay from Brentford further eases the burden on veteran forward Glenn Murray - who scored a higher proportion of his team's goals than any other player in the division.

Reasons to be fearful ​

That’s the ‘glass half full’ view - but now here’s the worst-case scenario. Hughton’s football may not have been sexy but it secured survival in the past two seasons.

With the Irishman's sacking, that stability has now gone and is replaced by a coach with no experience of the Premier League and just one season in English football.

It seems conservative to berate Brighton for swapping Hughton for an attack-minded coach like Potter. But the compromise between exciting football and defensive stability can often be a sliding scale. Fulham showed willingness to attack last season but were undermined by a disastrous defence and were relegated.

Potter will seek to remove the shackles placed on Brighton’s attacking players but cannot sacrifice the structure his predecessor set in place. Even under Hughton Brighton conceded 583 shots, the third-most in the league. With less defensive protection in place, that number could rise even higher. Of course the hope is that more of the ball will mean fewer chances for the opposition.

Brighton survived on 36 points in 17th place, kept up only by the incompetence of the three teams below them. A quick glance at the squads of this year's newly-promoted teams suggests they are potentially all superior to Huddersfield, Fulham and Cardiff, so the Seagulls must get their own house in order if they are to secure a fourth straight season in the Premier League.

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Key man: Shane Duffy

Brighton supporters will be hoping for more expansive football and less last-gasp defending after the club swapped Hughton for Potter.

But while the new man in charge promises entertainment, Potter must recognise what Brighton do well. A solid defence has laid the foundations for survival over the past two seasons and Shane Duffy has been fundamental to that rearguard action alongside his centre-back partner Lewis Dunk.

The Irishman put his body on the line repeatedly to keep opposition forwards at bay as Brighton continuously found themselves under fire, recording 243 clearances and 43 blocks to help batten down the hatches at the Amex.

Duffy has missed just four games in two seasons since Brighton's promotion from the Championship and is a stalwart of the  backline in front of goalkeeper Mat Ryan. The 27-year-old even weighed in with five Premier League goals last campaign, including crucial strikes in wins over Huddersfield and Manchester United.

Potter wants Brighton to play more attractive football but the new coach will need a compact defensive platform to build upon. Once again Duffy will be crucial to that.

The manager: Graham Potter

There is much intrigue surrounding Potter’s first season in the Premier League after the former Southampton player took an extremely unorthodox path to the top.

Potter worked wonders at Swedish side Ostersund, lifting them from the fourth tier to the top division, to domestic cup glory and eventually to the Europa League, where they secured a famous second-leg victory away at Arsenal in an eventual round of 32 exit. All those milestones were achieved while playing slick, passing football.

The 44-year-old redeployed those methods at Swansea last season, securing a respectable mid-table Championship finish despite ongoing turmoil at the club. Potter’s men won hearts and minds when the Swans raced into a two-goal lead in an FA Cup quarter-final clash against the mighty Manchester City before eventually succumbing to defeat.

Self-awareness, empathy, responsibility, motivation and relationship-building are the five pillars of leadership according to Potter. His approach to team bonding at Ostersund included putting on ballet productions and lectures in reindeer history for his squad.

Expect Brighton to be unrecognisable this season, breaking out of Hughton’s rigid 4-4-1-1 and into Potter’s fluid, tactically flexible system. Potter’s approach saw Swansea deploy ten different formations last campaign. The long ball will be a thing of the past, too. No team in the Championship played fewer last season than Potter’s Swansea.

There will be sceptics and a snobbery at Potter’s achievements in a domestic league as weak as the Swedish Allsvenskan. But Bloom knows he’s rolled the dice and Brighton fans will at the very least be in for some more excitement in 2019/20.

Fans' view - Scott McCarthy - WeAreBrighton

"It’s tough on Hughton but sadly he did have to go – you can’t win two games in 18 and keep your job no matter how well you’ve done in the past.

"Bloom has made his money in gambling and it looks like he’s taken a calculated risk. I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision was made as soon as we lost 5-0 at home to Bournemouth [on April 13th]. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction.

"Potter is a bit of a gamble but the main criticism of Hughton was that he was too defensive and not giving younger players an opportunity. Potter is the opposite.

"It’s difficult to know what we can expect from some of the attacking players just because we were so restrained under Hughton they looked like donkeys.

"A good season is improving on finishing 17th and getting more points on the board. Anything higher than 15th and 16th and playing some better football would constitute a successful season.

"A lot of fans started supporting when they were younger - when we moved from the Withdean to the new stadium - so because they’ve only seen success they think we have a divine right to play attacking football.

"Potter must meet those expectations half way. He has to keep Hughton’s pragmatism but he needs to play more expansive against the teams we can beat.

"Apart from Manchester City we have a relatively kind start and we have a lot of winnable home games. So he’s got a good chance of starting well - nine easy home games we need to pick up points from.

"In April we’ve got Liverpool, Manchester United and Man City. If we aren’t comfortable by then, we could be in trouble."

*All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing

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