Can Brighton continue progress as so many key players leave this summer?
A top half finish was what Brighton deserved for their efforts in the Premier League last season. There was even a point of the campaign at which it appeared Graham Potter’s team would challenge for European football such was the strength of their form. Under the 47-year-old’s stewardship, the Seagulls have taken flight.
Many associated with Brighton now hope the club can take the next step in its development, but how likely is that when so many of their best players have either left this summer or are on their way out? Potter has become the victim of his own, and his team’s success. At this rate, it will be difficult to merely match last season’s ninth-place finish.
Central midfielder Yves Bissouma has been sold to Tottenham Hotspur with Brighton collecting just £25m for their prize asset due to the Malian entering the final 12 months of his contract. This comes after centre back Ben White was sold to another North London club, Arsenal, last summer for a far greater fee of £50m.
It’s possible, maybe even likely, that others will depart the Amex Stadium before this summer’s transfer window closes. Marc Cucurella is a target for Manchester City with Pep Guardiola keen to strengthen at left back while Leandro Trossard has been linked with Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle United.
Tariq Lamptey is believed to be on Tottenham Hotspur’s radar while Robert Sanchez’s name has been mentioned more than once in the transfer gossip column this summer. The Brighton team that starts the 2022/23 season might be very different to the one that ended the 2021/22 campaign. Significant overhaul might be unavoidable.
On top of this, Dan Ashworth has left Brighton, leaving a gaping hole in the Seagulls’ front office. Ashworth was credited with turning Brighton into one of the most modern, forward-thinking clubs in England. He was the one who identified and recruited many of the players now being picked off by bigger clubs and he was the one who hired Potter.
Potter himself could be a target next time a big job comes up in the Premier League. The 47-year-old has even been mentioned as a potential England manager. If Gareth Southgate suffers a disappointing World Cup campaign later this year, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Potter could be in place at Wembley by 2023. He would be the favourite to take over.
“It wasn’t so long back that I was getting criticism and, if you’d gone on some local fan sites, I bet I wasn’t flavour of the month a few weeks ago, so things change pretty quickly,” Potter said when asked about his own trajectory as Brighton boss. “Let’s not forget that. But I’ve always had the support of Tony, the board and people around it. They’ve given me the chance to work. I’m happy about that and I’m grateful for that. I enjoy it here.”
There could be a benefit to Brighton selling so many of their key players in that this might make it easier for the club to attract promising youngsters in the future. Potter has proved he can harness young talent, give it a platform and provide a springboard to even bigger things. That is a powerful sales pitch to prospective signings.
Over two seasons, Potter has put in place a series of footballing principles that could keep Brighton moving forward. The club must trust in the process that got them to this point in the first place. However, the Seagulls might have to consolidate what they already have before they can build something more again.