Manchester City are back in action after a much-needed break, and since they lost for the first time this term in the last match, they will be eager to get back on the pitch. Brighton & Hove Albion are the opponents this time around.
In preparation for the match, I connected with Scott McCarthy of BHA site wearebrighton.com. Scott answered a few questions for me and gave his prediction for Saturday.
CITYZENDuck: After finishing 9th in the table last term, Brighton are currently 8th. Will a mid-table place be considered a success for new manager Roberto De Zerbi?
Scott McCarthy: Anything in the top 10 would be a huge success. Not only did Potter go, but he ripped six members of the first team coaching staff and a recruitment specialist with him. And he did it seven days after a transfer window shut in which he insisted he could work with Danny Welbeck as his only proven top flight striker after selling Neal Maupay, the Albion’s top scorer for the past three seasons and signing no replacement.
De Zerbi has a really hard job on his hands. He is an attack-minded manager inheriting a squad which has not had a single goal this season scored by a centre-forward. He has an entirely new coaching team and is trying to introduce a slightly different style of play to Potter, all in the pressure cooker of the Premier League.
CD: Since scoring 8 goals against Leicester City and Liverpool, the Seagulls have been unable to find the net in three successive matches. What needs to change for the Seagulls to rediscover their goal-scoring touch?
SM: Whether Brighton score or not tends to be dependent on the approach of the opposition. Against teams who want to attack, the Albion are fine. There is space for them to exploit playing on the counter and they do that very well. Hence why they can to Anfield and score three times. Or stick five past Leicester. Or beat Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford and 4-0 at the Amex. Or win at Arsenal and Spurs on back-to-back weekends.
The problem comes against opponents who sit back and defend. Brighton just have no idea how to break teams like that down. Forest did it on Tuesday night and left the Amex with a 0-0 draw. Brentford did it last weekend and beat the Albion 2-0. Bizarrely, Antonio Conte did it at the Amex and again Brighton lost. This is not a De Zerbi thing either. Under Potter, Brighton failed to beat Burnley, Norwich, Watford, Sheffield United, Fulham and West Brom at the Amex in the season all those clubs were relegated.
Bizarrely, I actually think the Albion have more chance of scoring against City this weekend than they did against Forest in midweek.
CD: Kevin De Bruyne is one of the top players in the world, having just finished third in the Ballon d’Or voting. Brighton have a Belgian midfielder of their own. Leonardo Trossard has made 110 appearances for the Seagulls. What should City fans who are unfamiliar with him know about Brighton’s top scorer?
SM: He has come alive since April and a positional switch instigated by Potter. Previously, Brighton used him through the middle in contrast to Belgium, who played him out wide. Potter decided to copy Roberto Martinez and play Trossard at left wing-back for the trip to Arsenal on Grand National Day and since then there has been no looking back with goals and assists galore.
The only question mark over him is consistency. Every now and again, he will have a two or three game spell where he goes missing. That is the only thing that could potentially put off some of the biggest clubs in the world from trying to sign him. Time will tell on that front - he is out of contract in the summer of 2024 and so unless the Albion can tie him down to a new deal soon, chances are he will be sold in one of the next two transfer windows.
CD: And finally, what is your prediction for Saturday’s trip to the Etihad?
SM: The Etihad and Stamford Bridge are now the only two grounds of the European Super League Elite Six clubs that Brighton have not won at since winning promotion in 2017. Unfortunately, I cannot see that changing as City will be smarting from defeat against Liverpool. Not exactly a good time to be playing you guys... an Albion goal would be nice in what will probably be 3-1 defeat.
There you have it Cityzens. Thanks again to Scott and everyone at We Are Brighton. You can keep up with all things Brighton & Hove Albion by following @wearebrighton.