Brighton were right to sack Chris Hughton despite Premier League survival


Brighton have sacked manager Chris Hughton after the former Tottenham player steered the club to survival. On the face of it keeping the club up should have assured Hughton his job, but they were right to sack him as the tell tale signs were there for all to see.

Brighton actually started the season well and were propping up in the top 10 even in December. They were being compared to both Wolves and Watford who are two teams this season that really have punched above their weight and did so well. Wolves finished 7th in a best of the rest position and Watford not only finished close behind but are also in the FA Cup final where they will play Manchester City next Saturday.

As for Brighton it all started to go wrong when 2018 said goodbye and the New Year greeted us with 2019. From the last 20 games, that’s 60 points Brighton won 15, that was good enough not to finish 17th where they did but to finish in 19th position and relegation. Again it is their form at the beginning of the season which saved the club.

From those 20 matches they have won just 3 and scored 15 times conceding 34. The club finished their dismal form at home losing 4 of their last 5 games and the other match ended in a draw. In the end they survived in the league by just two points over Cardiff, who if it wasn’t for some bad luck in games easily would have finished above them.

But it was also Hughton’s approach to survival. Once he knew the club were in danger they ended up approaching games to scared to lose, and so would defend deep in numbers, fans like to call this ‘parking the bus’ and that was the club all over. It made for some poor displays and negative football and no football fan wants to pay to see that even if it rarely grinds out a point.

The majority of Brighton’s transfers were undisclosed which was unfortunate but some sources have suggested that the club spent £70m last summer recruiting players. That’s all well and good but the season before they managed 40 points meaning that they spent all that extra money to finish with 4 points fewer.

Chris Hughton is a great guy and a credit to the game and a real footballing man. For many reasons mostly known to him, the heart was not there in the team and there was no real fight in the second half of the season. He will move on from this and so will Brighton.

So on the face of it it can look harsh to sack a manager when the club have just stayed up, but the truth is that they have actually slipped backwards and just got lucky that Cardiff had a mix of bad luck and at times were poor themselves.

Hughton will be back and Brighton will be hoping that their next manager takes them back in the right direction. Hughton in the end saved the ship from drowning, but now it needs a new captain.

EPL Best XI – Week 37


The curtain is almost down. The business is almost done. With just a single round of games remaining in the Premier League, the relegation battle is finished but the title race remains very much alive. With the final game of the season being the time that this year’s Premier League champions will be identified, there is still plenty to play for at the summit of England’s top flight. With that said, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this week and see which players performed the best for their clubs this past weekend.

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Brighton’s balancing act could see a cup win, survival or relegation from the Premier League


What a season it has been for Brighton, but despite some bright points, pardon the pun there has been a lot of low ones and as the season wraps up Brighton still do not know how their season could end. At least it has been an interesting one for the fans, but this rollercoaster may not have a happy ending.

The season got off very well and included a series of home matches where Brighton looked unbeatable, they even beat Manchester United and did it convincingly. But then came 2019- and Brighton simply could not get wins, defeat after defeat even at their home could not lift the gloom and all of a sudden from being talked about claiming the last Europa League place, they slipped to mid table and then they slipped to 16th place. All of a sudden there was the chance of relegation.

The one shining light for Chris Hughton’s side is that they have won back to back games coming into this weekend and that has given them a boost but again there is just 5 points in it to 18th placed Cardiff. Let’s take a look at Brighton’s remaining fixtures.

This weekend they will face Southampton a team just below them in a massive game and if they were to win that they would take a massive step to securing their Premier League status. But with fixtures still to come against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City it is those type of games, the clubs around them that are must wins.

Their matches in April against Bournemouth and Cardiff which are both at home could be their make or break games, and while the club should be safe this season all it will take is a repeat of their bad form of the past 3 months to send them down. If they do survive this season it should be a lesson to the club that the key is consistency in the league if you are going to stay up.

But it isn’t just the league that is a concern as Brighton have fantastically made it into the FA Cup semi finals. Brighton have not been in an FA Cup final since 1983 and have never won the competition. Could they make it again? The likelihood looks slim given that their semi finals opponents are Manchester City, but then again you never know.

That match takes place at the beginning of April at Wembley and it should be a memorable one. As for this season despite some of the lows the fans should have little to moan about, if anything we are coming into April and the club are still fighting on all fronts good and bad, which is better than nothing.

EPL Weekend Picks – Week 28

shawThis weekend’s Premier League fixture list promises another round of tension, goals, celebration and despair. Proceedings get underway Saturday lunchtime with the north London derby, Spurs welcoming Arsenal as their guests at Wembley. We also have a relegation clash as Brighton host bottom side Huddersfield, while on Sunday we have a west London derby – Fulham vs Chelsea – and the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Manchester City look to continue their bid to retain the Premier League crown when they travel to Bournemouth 24 hours before Liverpool’s trip across Stanley Park, and with both of those fixtures proving potentially slippery for the top two this weekend could well start to shape the landscape as the domestic season rolls on.

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Manchester United 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning streak continues


As the Manchester United supporters and the Old Trafford faithful enjoy the rollercoaster of a ride they are currently experiencing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the side’s next league game was against Brighton & Hove Albion at home, a team that have picked up more points at home than away so far this season. With Arsenal and Chelsea facing one another in the evening fixture, it was more than crucial that the Red Devils picked up the much need three points and also in a comfortable manner.

Overall, United had a perfect first half performance, where they managed to take a healthy lead into the half-time break with the important goals coming from Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba. Though, the last 30 minutes of the game should be seen as a reality check for the manager and the players, as the visitors pulled back a goal through Pascal Gross and a couple of chances to get the equaliser too.

Here are the three factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

Marcus Rashford comes up with the goods again

Since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Marcus Rashford has been one of the few players within the squad that has benefitted from the 45-year-old Norwegian international’s presence as the club’s caretaker manager. The instant progress has been more than obvious over the last couple of weeks, where the forward has managed to become more clinical and proactive in the final third of the pitch.

Rashford is currently on five goals and one assist in his last six league appearances, and he has more or less been the main reason to why Romelu Lukaku has been experiencing a lot of time on the bench. If the rising star from Wythenshawe continues to develop and improve to a consistent level, he could potentially become the 20-goal-a-season striker that the current United side badly needs.

Ander Herrera came up with a Man of the Match performance

Ander Herrera is one of those types of midfielders that gets the job done without any complaints or any excuses at all. From intercepting play and tackling the opposition to moving the ball at a quick level, he produced another top notch performance on both sides of the pitch. With how he is playing at the moment, there is no chance that he will be leaving the club in the summer on a free transfer.

Focusing back onto the last 30 minutes of the game, Herrera’s role quickly became into a defensive and safe minded one, which allowed the team to survive some tough moments in their own half until the final whistle. Time and time again, the dominant displays that the former Athletic Club player produces must make one truly think he has been playing in England for his whole life.

The second half was a huge lesson for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer personally

Although the hosts dominated possession and created a couple of chances in the second half, they did not do enough in taking their shots and it led the visitors to grown in more confidence as they began to have more space and time on the ball. In the 72nd minute, Brighton created a chance out of nothing, which was calmly taken Pascal Gross, who placed it perfectly into the top corner of the net.

On top of that, the Seagulls had a chance or two in the final moments to seize a crucial point away from home, but the end product was not there when it was needed the most. With how relieved the Manchester United players and the manager himself were once the game to an end, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to improve his in-game management as well as his ability to quickly react to the ever so growing and rising threat that is offered by the opposition in the late stages of the game.

Michail Antonio is having a brilliant start to 2019


When Michail Antonio gets going with the ball at his feet he’s pretty hard to stop. His powerful running combined with quick thinking mean he can bulldoze his way through the opposition or jink his way past. The West Ham man had struggled to have an impact at the beginning of the season, however, he’s looking to be back towards his best based on recent performances, especially those coming since the turn of the New Year.

This week has been the epitome of what the Hammers’ number 30 is great at. Having played the full 90 minutes three games in a row, Manuel Pellegrini had opted to leave Antonio on the bench for Wednesday’s home match against Brighton & Hove Albion. He was eventually substituted on for Robert Snodgrass in the 63rd minute with his side 2-0 down, due to goals from Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy.

Mark Noble –who’d come on at the same time as Antonio- had set up Marko Arnautovic to make it 2-1 just five minutes after the pair had been introduced to play. Just two minutes later it was the winger who announced himself. With Jürgen Locadia and Bernardo doubling up on him, he kept them guessing until he was ready to make his move. He then pushed the ball past the Brazilian full back, barged him away and just kept the ball in play, cutting it back to Arnautovic. The Austrian took a touch and poked it into the net off the underside of the crossbar.

With Antonio wreaking havoc down the right hand side, West Ham were able to make other opportunities in the game, putting the Seagulls under sustained and intense pressure. Brighton stood strong though and held on for the draw, but nothing can be taken away from the impact Antonio and Noble had.

Three days later and he was starting at right back in the FA Cup against Birmingham City. He has displayed a disdain for playing at full back in the past, when continuously played there by Slaven Bilic. However, with Ryan Fredericks injured and Pablo Zabaleta ill, Antonio has had to fill in there at times in the last month, putting in stellar performances.

Yesterday’s 2-0 win was another of those great showings, as he assisted West Ham’s second goal of the game for the second match in a row. This time, the Hammers had gone up within two minutes and had been in danger of letting their lead slip. It was in the 91st minute that Antonio helped secure West Ham’s progression to the fourth round. He received the ball from Robert Snodgrass and took a touch out of his feet. He then sent a perfectly weighted cross towards Andy Carroll who rose above the defender to head in his first goal since returning from injury.

Aside from that moment, Antonio’s link up play with 20-year-old Grady Diangana was tantalising. The pair put together some brilliant combinations to great effect, taunting the Birmingham defence for the entirety of the game. Diangana was arguably the standout player for the Hammers, but his performance was certainly helped by the overlapping runs and slip balls that Antonio provided him with.

Antonio will be hoping to keep his impressive run of form in 2019 going when Arsenal visit the London Stadium on Saturday. The Gunners have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last four league matches, so Antonio and his team mates will look to exploit any defensive frailties they may meet.


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Can Newcastle deal with different pressure against Brighton?


Finally, the fixture list appears to be looking a little more kindly on Newcastle United. For all their problems both on and off the pitch this season, the fact they have played five of last year’s top six in their opening eight games cannot be ignored. As Rafael Benitez and his side prepare to welcome Brighton and Hove Albion, a team much more suited to their own level, on Saturday, the pressure is changing.

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West Ham’s unbeaten run comes to an end

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West Ham’s unbeaten run of four games came to an end last night against Brighton and Hove Albion. Glenn Murray’s 25th minute goal from inside the six-yard box was the only goal of the game as the Hammers lost 1-0 at the Amex.

The result was disappointing for West Ham, but the performance was even more so considering previous showings from the Hammers. Despite having plenty of the ball and 16 shots on goal the Hammers were unable to get on the score sheet, with Fabian Balbuena and Marko Arnautovic missing clear chances.

During the first half the side looked lethargic and unmotivated. The side didn’t threaten often enough going forward, taking far too long on the ball. Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko, who had been so effective in recent weeks, were on the fringes throughout the game and failed to create much real danger.

They were also poor defensively, as was epitomised by Murray’s goal. A simple ball to Beram Kayal had been enough to send him down the wing. Balbuena wasn’t decisive enough regarding whether to shut down the Israeli or defend in the box and was consequentially caught in no man’s land. Issa Diop attempted to sort out the mess as he shuffled across and instructed Arthur Masuaku to come over and mark Murray. The left back didn’t do that though, leaving the Englishman to convert with ease without any pressure being put on him.

The performance did improve in the second half, but the Hammers were unable to carve out a goal. There was a real lack of cutting edge from the men in claret and blue, something which Manuel Pellegrini clearly attempted to address with his substitutions. The Chilean brought Michail Antonio, Lucas Perez and Robert Snodgrass on for Pedro Obiang, Yarmolenko and Mark Noble at different points in the second half.

With five attacking minded players on the pitch it would have been expected that the away side could score, especially considering the amount of the ball they were seeing and how deep Brighton had dropped. However, there was still a lack of fluidity in their play at points and there was nobody who was able to show the quality needed to bring the sides level. If anything, the number of players in the attacking areas were more of a hindrance, as Perez was ineffective after coming on, while Antonio’s decision making was poor and he failed to make a positive impact.

Overall, it was a frustrating night for the Hammers and one that they’ll want to put behind them quickly. They’ll have to wait for their chance to put things right though, due to the upcoming international break. Their first game after the break is at home against Tottenham Hotspur, the perfect game in which to put things right.

West Ham have dropped into 15th following this result ahead of the Premier League fixtures to be played over the weekend, with Southampton and Fulham the only sides who can overtake them. This result may have been disappointing, but having gone into the last international table bottom without a single point to their name, being out of the relegation zone reminds supporters the club has been in worse positions this season.


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West Ham looking to continue their unbeaten run


Having lost their first four league games, West Ham are now on a four match unbeaten run. This is impressive in itself, but factor in that two of those results came during visits from Chelsea and Manchester United and it becomes an even more notable achievement. More importantly though, this run has given the Hammers some much needed stability following that turbulent start to the campaign.

There had been worries after those early season defeats that the Hammers could be going into Friday night’s match against Brighton & Hove Albion with no points. However, following wins against Everton and Manchester United as well as the draw against Chelsea, they go into the fixture with seven points and have climbed to 14th in the league- one place above their upcoming opponents.

Improvements have been visible all over the pitch as new signings begin to settle into the club. Andriy Yarmolenko has grown into an integral figure in the side having not started any of the first four league matches, while Felipe Anderson has truly kicked on, scoring his first goal for the club on the weekend. Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena have built a trustworthy partnership at centre back. Lukasz Fabianski has been a consistent performer for the club from the start, even when those around him haven’t been. While Lucas Perez and Ryan Fredericks both opened their accounts for the club in the Carabao Cup after their early struggles. Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez have both picked up injuries, but all the other signings look as though they will have a part to play in the coming weeks.

All of this has helped to ease the pressure which had begun to build on Manuel Pellegrini. There had been questions over the Chilean’s tactics and recruitment after the stalling start to his first season in the West Ham hot seat. However, an inspired tactical change has ended that talk. Since he moved to the three-man midfield –usually fielding Declan Rice, Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang- the Hammers have been much more balanced, with the trio quickly becoming the base for the team’s upturn in form.

If there is one thing this whole episode has shown, it’s that people shouldn’t get too carried away in either a positive or negative sense. Losing four games at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean you’ll go down; equally, going undefeated in the next four in all competitions doesn’t mean you’ll be conquering Europe next season. One thing that West Ham have lacked since moving to the London Stadium is consistency and any real sense of normality. There have been numerous protests, a failed attempt at a European run, relegation battles and everything in between in the short time the club have spent there.

It is great to see the focus returning to what is happening on the pitch rather than having attention turning towards the stands. This run should act as the launch pad for the club to excel this season. There has been investment in talented players, managerial staff and people working behind the scenes, so it is brilliant to see this taking its effect. Tonight’s encounter at the Amex is a brilliant opportunity to keep the positive run going.


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Felipe Anderson showing his talent after slow start


Felipe Anderson’s arrival in East London this summer was met with plenty of excitement. His move to West Ham made him the club’s record signing, as he joined from Lazio in a deal worth £42 million. He may have endured a slow start, like the majority of the team, but he has began to come into his own in recent weeks. His latest accomplishment showing the improvement he’s making is his first goal for the club, which came against Manchester United last weekend.

The Brazilian opened his account with the Hammers in style. In just the fifth minute of the match against struggling United he latched onto Pablo Zabaleta’s low ball, flicking it with his back leg past David de Gea and into the bottom corner. As the winger let out a wide smile while wiping his shoulder in celebration, it seems as though he had wiped away the main criticism anybody could say about his time at West Ham: he hadn’t scored yet.

There have been criticisms aplenty outside of this aspect, especially at the beginning. He didn’t work hard enough. He wasn’t creating enough. He wasn’t getting in the right areas of the pitch. He wasn’t contributing enough to the team. He has dispelled all of these in recent matches -some arguably weren’t correct in the first place- and shown that he can be a real asset to the side. In the match against Man United alone he made three key passes and seven tackles, as well as getting that goal, highlighting how incredibly effective he was.

This wasn’t the first time he’s shown his quality in a West Ham shirt either. Against Chelsea he helped Arthur Masuaku deal with the likes of Eden Hazard when required while also offering an out-ball to ensure the Hammers didn’t get pinned back, making an undeniable contribution to the side getting a draw. In the game prior to that he showed how dangerous he can be to opposition defences. Up against Jonjoe Kenny at Goodison Park the Brazilian wreaked havoc. Everton’s young right back looked outclassed and really struggled to deal with Anderson, who took him on and beat him with the ball at every opportunity. Anderson was the only member of the front three not to score during West Ham’s first league win of the season, but his speed and skill certainly played their part in earning West Ham victory.

One thing that shows his mental resilience is that all of this came immediately after he was heavily criticised following the 1-0 defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers. He had been called out for many of the aforementioned criticisms, with the aspect being mentioned most prominently being laziness. He’s worked hard to put things right though and it’s paid off with results for both the individual and team.

Anderson’s time in East London is possibly the greatest reflection of his new club’s season to date. In the opener against Liverpool he was hugely underwhelming, failing to threaten the opposition as much as expected. He was still far from his best in the following few games, then he flashed into life following the international break and has begun to show his true worth. His price tag has been mentioned a lot when his performances have been under par, there will still likely be plenty of talk about whether his is living up to that high summer valuation. It is of course much too early to tell whether he is now, however, it is clear to see that he is now showing how much of an asset he can be.

The Hammers face Brighton & Hove Albion away tomorrow night, as they look to extend their four match unbeaten run in all competitions. Felipe Anderson will be seeing this as an opportunity to impress again and maintain his own upturn in form.


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