Brighton and Hove Albion finished in a lowly 20th spot last season but their start to this season have made the Seagulls’ faithful forget at as it seemed a blip on their progression as a club. Key to this season has been expert and well-scouted recruitment with integral players returning to fitness under the stewardship of vastly experienced manager Chris Hughton.
Hughton has employed a wing-heavy 4-4-2 formation focused on a strong team ethic in both defence and attack with two players of unique importance. The likes of Tomer Hemed and Kazenga LuaLua will definitely grab the headlines with their goals but the midfield partnership of Beram Kayal and Dale Stephens influence games heavily. Their involvement in 7 of the Seagulls’ 14 goals this season speaks volumes of their importance for the Brighton-based side.
Naturally a double-pivot of two box-to-box midfielders, they have managed to share their responsibilities in defence and attack, with one staying deep while the other advances forward while keeping heavily involved in play. They provide the balance of midfield stability and industry which was sometimes lacking for Brighton last season. Stephens was out with a long-term injury at the beginning of last season while Kayal was only signed from Celtic in January as this season they have proved to be the ying to eachothers yang at the heart of the Brighton’s midfield.
Stephens is a keen passer with the spacial awareness to always remain available for a pass as he nuances and tunes Albion’s game but can also make driving runs forward to score and create goals. Kayal is a ball-carrier who is rigid defensively while being able to charge forward and give Albion an extra option in the final third while also having an aura of unpredictability to his game which aids Albion in their attacking phase. Both have found harmony in Brighton’s midfield as their team sits atop the SkyBet Championship 2 points ahead of the rest of the league.
Their sense of games and decision making are immense as they both know when to hold their positions, especially when Albion are without the ball and are looking to press while they are able to cover for each other to negate the vulnerability in front of Albion’s defence. Banding them together seems a masterstroke on the part of Hughton as Albion are well-stocked in central midfield with the likes of Rohan Ince and Danny Holla while Andrew Crofts is continuing his return from long-term injury by regaining game fitness with their U21 side.
The Seagulls remain unbeaten in the Championship and although a slew of draws have signalled a lack of defensive concentration due to a back four that has been forced to make changes to their preferred centre-back duo and an attack that may lack penetration and drive due to the suspension of Kazenga LuaLua on the left-wing, the team has still bined together as it is a hope that after the International break, this trend of draws can be arrested.