Brighton is perhaps the most ambitious Premier League team towards the bottom of the table. How did the head to head go for Chelsea last season?
Given Chelsea is actually (dare it be said?) stable for a second season, head to head results are a little easier to draw lessons out of. Frank Lampard and Graham Potter are both returning for year two so what was the difference between the two last season? What went right? What went wrong?
First of all, that preseason match will not really be analyzed here. It gave the Blues an important insight into fitness and partnerships, but overall a preseason game (especially that early) is all about fitness.
Lampard’s Chelsea first played Potter’s Brighton almost a year ago now. The Blues left the game as 2-0 victors, the team’s first home win in the Premier League under Lampard and a rare clean sheet. Brighton created next to nothing against a fluid Chelsea midfield that still showed too many gaps in front of defense. But it was early days and it was clear Lampard and Potter were still feeling things out.
The second match between the two was a turgid 1-1 New Year’s Day affair. Kepa Arrizabalaga actually made saves that earned the Blues a point so it was clear it was a weird day. The game collapsed on the Blues when Mason Mount came off plus Mateo Kovacic coming on and having a truly terrible performance. They lost the press and penetration and Brighton gained the momentum that got them a goal. Of course, a New Year’s Day match comes at the end of a crazy schedule so strange things are bound to happen.
So what can really be gained from a game with two new managers and then one at the end of a slog? It appears clear that the team that got to play their game had control of the fixture. With two newer managers, Chelsea was going to have that control in the first fixture. The second match collapsed when control was lost with the Mount-Kovacic swap (something that is going to remain highly unusual).
Potter is ambitious and he has a habit of taking no name players and getting them to play a convincing and exciting style. That style lives off momentum and can easily be knocked off the edge with the right push. That preseason match is only about fitness, but as soon as the subs got heavy the Blues lost momentum and the Seagulls took advantage like they did on New Year’s.
Chelsea has a bit of an injury crisis (already), a suspension (Kovacic from a truly shameful referee), and a swath of new players to incorporate. Brighton is more settled but player to player is the lesser team. The Blues need to start on the front foot and stay on the front foot to keep them at bay. Otherwise that momentum shift seems to favor the Seagulls and the Blues may be leaving the American Express Community Stadium (yes for real) with blushes.