The Seagulls are flying

The Seagulls are flying — and Brighton could be perched on top of the table with victory over Crystal Palace tonight.

Graham Potter’s men have enjoyed their best-ever start to a top-flight campaign, winning four of their opening five games and climbing to sixth place ahead of this evening’s fixture.

So, what has changed on the South Coast and can Brighton maintain their assault on the Premier League’s upper echelons this season?

Ahead of the M23 derby, here is why the Seagulls can continue making a splash in 2021-22.

Expected goals
If you mention the words expected goals to a Brighton supporter, expect a roll of the eyes in return.

It was a narrative that dominated the Sussex side’s 2020-21 season after they significantly underperformed in the opposition penalty area.

Potter’s Seagulls were not exactly feeding off scraps last term with an xG of 51.6 but only managed to score 40 times.

Just ten teams had a better expected goals record than Brighton, who were in the bottom six for actually finding the net.

However, Brighton have outperformed their xG this campaign with seven league goals versus an xG of 5.4, suggesting that they have become more clinical in the final third.

One-goal margins
Potter’s men have certainly developed a way to edge tight games this season, with three of their four victories coming by a one-goal margin.

The Seagulls drew 14 Premier League games in 2020-21 and dropped more points than any other side (25) from winning positions.

In contrast, Brighton are yet to drop a single point after going ahead during the current campaign and have developed a mental fortitude that is allowing them to successfully see out games.

Menacing Maupay

Brighton were searching for a new striker all summer but Neal Maupay has been one of their standout performers this season.

The Frenchman has scored three times in his opening five matches and is already closing in on the eight league goals he struck last term.

Maupay, 25, has received plenty of praise — including from compatriot and Palace manager Patrick Vieira.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s game, he said: “He is a really clinical number nine — he has a lot of energy and is a really good finisher.”

Wing-back width

The Seagulls’ most effective attacking outlets are their wing-backs — Solly March and new signing Marc Cucurella.

Since Potter’s arrival at the Amex Stadium, Brighton have become synonymous with setting up in a 3-4-3 formation.

Cucurella, 23, has impressed since joining from Getafe this summer and was an effective presence in last week’s victory over Leicester, as he completed two of his four take-ons and one of his two attempted through-balls.

There is more positive news for Brighton, as first-choice right-back Tariq Lamptey is returning to full fitness.

Attack, attack, attack
They say that attack is the best form of defence — and that has certainly rung true in Sussex this season.

The Seagulls had one of the strongest defences in the division in 2020-21, with only six sides conceding less goals than their 46.

But the £50million departure of Ben White to Arsenal has significantly weakened Brighton’s backline.

Potter has counteracted that loss by implementing a more attacking approach — and it appears to be paying dividends.

Another victory against Crystal Palace this evening and Brighton supporters will be starting to dream of a push for Europe and a season to remember on the South Coast.

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