“We are sitting eighth in the Premier League but maybe I need a history lesson on this club,” an exasperated Graham Potter said in an interview after Brighton earnt a goalless draw with Leeds United. The sound of booing from the home support at the Amex Stadium might have still be ringing in the 46-year-old’s ears.
Potter’s bemusement was understandable. After all, Brighton are a club that found itself languishing around the English lower leagues not so long ago. They were only promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history as recently as 2017 with Potter not only keeping them there last season but lifting them into the top eight this.
The victory over Leicester City in mid-September had the Seagulls soaring in third place. Their form has dipped rather dramatically since then, but Potter’s side are still on course for a successful season. Brighton will be one of the success stories of the 2021/22 campaign if Graham Potter can make their place in the top half stick.
It’s not just that Brighton are competing in the top half of the Premier League, it’s that they are playing an attractive brand of football too. Potter, who was linked with the Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur vacancies, is widely considered one of the best English coaches in the game at this moment in time with Pep Guardiola recently speaking in glowing terms about the Seagulls boss.
All this suggests that Graham Potter could become a victim of his own success at Brighton. Expectations have clearly been raised at the Amex Stadium to such an extent that a goalless draw against Leeds United is no longer considered acceptable. If Brighton’s winless run doesn’t end any time soon, Potter could be judged by the standards he raised himself.
Brendan Rodgers is currently experiencing what it’s like to be a victim of your own success with the Northern Irishman under pressure following a below par start to the season at Leicester City. However, this is only because the Foxes have enjoyed such success under Rodgers, coming close to finishing in the top four in each of the last two seasons.
This isn’t to say that Brighton and their supporters shouldn’t be ambitious. The south coast club have the potential to follow the precedent set by Leicester City and if Graham Potter can’t achieve progress it’s entirely reasonable that his position at Brighton might be at risk. However, Brighton’s progress this season is there for all to see.
“Nothing has really changed from my perspective,” Potter said after the draw against Leeds United. “There are emotions after games, people when they reflect back they might think that they got caught up in stuff. The reaction was a bit confusing from my perspective, but it wasn’t all of our supporters, it was just a few of them. As disappointing as it, you have to accept it because that’s the world we live in and people are entitled to their opinions.”
While it’s certainly true that Brighton could do with scoring more goals, Graham Potter has put in place a structure that should keep them consistent at Premier League level. The Seagulls might not have a top-tier number nine, but there is still scope for them to find one in the January transfer window or next summer. They are close to taking another step forward, and it could be a big step.
Premier League history is full of cases of clubs that didn’t realise what they had until it was gone. Brighton are on an upward trajectory with Potter in charge and it will take more than a few underwhelming results for that to change. The boos heard at the Amex Stadium aren’t reflective of the progress the Seagulls are making.
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