The ‘Opposition Opinion‘ returns for another round of Premier League football, and this week we’ve been getting some thoughts from the South Coast ahead of today’s clash with Brighton at St James’ Park.
Here we are looking to bring you a view from ‘the other side’ before each game, chatting to an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own side and their thoughts on our upcoming match.
Here’s our chat with Scott from @WeAreBrighton in the build up to today’s game:
Q1 – Firstly, what have you made of new manager Graham Potter & your form 5 games into the new season? Keen to know what sort of shape this new-look Brighton are in coming into this one..
“It’s about as far removed from Chris Hughton’s Brighton as you can get. Gone are the bank of four and bank of five and the determination to grind out 1-0 wins and in its place we’ve got an attacking 3-4-3. From the first 20 minutes of the opening day at Watford, it was obvious that we are in for a very different approach and that was born out by the result that day as we won 3-0. Last season, we only scored 16 goals away from home all year. Netting three in one game was unheard of.
“There is a but though – as there always is with Brighton – and it’s that we haven’t won since. There are excuses for that – VAR and the brilliance of Lukasz Fabianski meant we drew with West Ham. Florin Andone committing GBH on a Southampton player left us to play for over an hour against them with 10 men which ultimately cost us the game. And Burnley had one shot on goal at the Amex last week which arrived in the 91st minute which lost us another two points.
“So, with a little more luck we could have nine or 10 points. But instead we’re stuck on five. That’s a bit of a worry as there’s no point playing this nice football if it doesn’t deliver results. My suspicion is that it will, but we can’t really afford to be waiting too much longer for it to do so.”
Q2 – What are Brighton’s strengths and weaknesses as a team?
“We create a lot of chances, which is another one of the aspects of Potter’s football that is the polar opposite of Hughton’s. You guys probably don’t need reminding of how we won 1-0 at St James’ last year with one deflected shot on goal afternoon.
This season, we’re averaging something like 10 shots a game. Even at Manchester City, we looked a threat and with a little more composure, we could have scored twice at the Etihad.
“And that’s probably our greatest weakness. We’re nowhere clinical enough. Four out of five of those shots we take don’t go on target and we’ve produced some outstanding misses already this year; Jurgen Locadia has hit a post with an open goal from six yards, Neal Maupay has put one wide when front and centre on the penalty spot and Davy Propper somehow sent a completely free header over the bar last week against Burnley.”
Q3 – What’s the Brighton XI (and formation) likely to start on Saturday? And could you give us any star players to watch out for and, at the other end of the spectrum, any weak links we could exploit?
“It will be 3-4-3, but I couldn’t tell you the personnel.
“Potter loves to change things up and spring surprises – last week, he started four centre backs with one of those, Adam Webster, playing at right wing back. He’s turned Solly March from a forward into a left wing back, Pascal Gross has been used as a striker and Big Dan Burn – who didn’t play a minute of league football under Hughton last year – has come from absolutely nowhere to be our best defender ahead of both Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.
“The only players you can say with some certainty that will start are Maty Ryan, Burn, Dunk and the midfield two of Dale Stephens and Davy Propper. Other than that, God knows what we’ll see.”
Q4 – What do you make of this Newcastle side and which players do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in our team?
“This probably won’t be a popular opinion on Tyneside, but I actually like Steve Bruce as manager.
“Clearly, he isn’t a patch on Rafa the Gaffer but given some of Mike Ashley’s more obscure choices you could have ended up with a lot worse.
“Given the fact we don’t take anywhere near enough of our chances, I don’t fancy us to find too many ways past Martin Dubravka who is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the league.
“Matt Ritchie seems to look like a Balon d’Or candidate every time we’ve faced him so I’m happy to see he hasn’t featured for a couple of weeks.”
Q5 – What sort of game do you think it’ll be and how do you see it panning out? Give us a prediction..
It’s hard to know really. Our two away games so far have been with sides at contrasting ends of the spectrum.
“City were City and Watford, although we were excellent, were themselves dreadful. So really, we haven’t actually taken on a team similar to us in an away game yet under Potter.
“I think we’ll be difficult to play against as we’ll want to go for it and that should at least make it much more entertaining than last year’s game.
“A 1-1 draw is probably where I’d stick my money.”
Q6 – Which 3 sides do you see going down this season and why? Do you see both clubs being dragged into a relegation battle?
“It could be three of about 13!
“Before the start of the season, I’d have said Norwich as it seemed suicidal to carry on playing the way they did in the Championship in the Premier League but then they go and beat City so hey, what do I know? I can see Villa being this year’s Fulham having tried to buy an entire new team and Sheffield United probably haven’t done enough.
“There’s every chance we could both be down there. The one thing I would say about the Albion is that if we aren’t virtually safe by the end of March, I think we’ll be in a world of troubles. Three of our four April fixtures are against City, United and Liverpool so we need to be somewhere near the 38 points mark by then.”
Q7– If you could sign one player from NUFC, who would you like to see Potter go for?
“Maty Ryan has faced 17 shots on target this season and let in eight of them.
“Now I really like Ryan but something is clearly up there, so if we could borrow Dubravka until he sorts himself out that would be very much appreciated.”
Q8 – Finally, if you had our two squads to choose from and were asked to pick the best possible side, what would you starting 11 be?
“Sticking with Potter’s 3-4-3; Dubravka, a big three of Burn, Duffy and Jamaal Lascelles. Propper and Jonjo Shelvey in the middle, March one side and Ritchie the other and Glenn Murray, Maupay and Joelinton as a front three.”
A big thanks to Scott for answering our questions ahead of this weekend’s big game at St James’ Park.
Next time we’ll be speaking to a Foxes fan ahead of our trip to the Leicester City Stadium next week.