Brighton's 2017/18 season reviewed and graded

Lewis Dunk celebrates scoring against Arsenal. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Lewis Dunk celebrates scoring against Arsenal. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

A successful first season for Albion in the Premier League has drawn to a close.

After promotion from the Championship last year, the Seagulls finished 15th in the top flight and will again compete against the very best next season.

Albion players celebrate Pascal Gross's goal against Manchester United. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Albion players celebrate Pascal Gross's goal against Manchester United. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

We look back at the highs and favourite moments and view where Brighton need to strengthen ahead of the 2018/19 season getting underway in August.

HOW DO YOU GRADE THE SEASON?

Steve Bailey (Sussex Newspapers chief football writer): “B. It was an outstanding season but it still could have been better and that is why I haven’t given an A. There is room to improve and things to build on for next season, which is what Chris Hughton and the Seagulls players will want.

“There were several matches where Brighton missed out on picking up extra points. Games at home to Everton, Bournemouth, Leicester and Huddersfield spring to mind.

Jose Izquierdo scores at Stoke. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Jose Izquierdo scores at Stoke. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

“Just ten away goals – and the failure to score in 12 matches on the road – will also be something Albion will look to improve on next year. However, for a first season in the Premier League, Albion more than held their own and it will be a season Seagulls fans remember fondly.”

Ollie Berry (Brighton & Hove Albion writer): “It’s a mission accomplished A.

“Staying in the Premier League was all that would have been wanted from the management, players, board and fans at the start of the campaign

“Whether that be by scraping a point on the final day or by an odd goal in goal difference, it would not have mattered – safety was paramount, shown by the fans in great voice despite the scoreline at Liverpool.

Pascal Gross and Anthony Knockaert celebrate the former's goal against Manchester United. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Pascal Gross and Anthony Knockaert celebrate the former's goal against Manchester United. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

“There were some great moments along the way and, despite some lows, the final crucial outcome was achieved.”

Ian Hine (Albion fan and Nostalgia columnist – www.seagullsprogrammes.co.uk): “B. Survival was always going to be the aim and we achieved that. As good as the wins against United and Arsenal were, we let ourselves down in some games (West Brom away, Huddersfield away and Leicester at home for example).”

Sam Wilson (Sussex Newspapers community reporter): “A-. We knew this season would be tough; it’s a big step up.

“Once we got the first win the players looked more confident that they belonged and that started to show.

“It was a struggle to pick up wins but by the second half of the season we looked like a Premier League side, organised at the back and dangerous on the break.

“There were points dropped unnecessarily against the likes of Everton but to be safe with two games to spare was a great achievement.”

Craig Peters (Albion fan and personal trainer – www.theburpeeguy.co.uk): “It has to be an A. The objective was always to stay up in the club’s first season and the mission was accomplished with games to spare. The run-in was made all the more difficult when the Man City away fixture was rearranged so to get top flight status confirmed before then was crucial.”

Bradley Stratton: (Juice FM sports reporter): “Considering staying in the Premier League was the goal this season, it seems only right to give Chris Hughton and his players an A for a job well done.

“They proved all of the critics who’d written them off before a ball was kicked wrong by sticking to what got them to the top flight – hard work, discipline and a wonderful team spirit throughout the squad.”

Adam Stenning (Albion fan and University of Brighton student): “A. The target was to stay up and anything else was a bonus. Finishing a good few points above the relegation zone was the bonus, plus the victories over Arsenal and Manchester United at home.”

HIGHLIGHT OF THE SEASON?

Ollie Berry: “For me, beating Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at home. If not only for beating Manchester United, it was a victory that secured Premier League survival.

“Does it get much better than that on your first season back at this level? Especially as Albion were tipped not to take a point from their final six games. The win saw them take their fifth point from the first three.

“Securing safety at home, in front of your own fans, in your final home game of the season, against United – magical.”

Craig Peters: “The home game against Arsenal. There was a certain vibe about the place, similar to that of when we beat Palace at home 3-0 back in 2013. The buzz about the place before, during, and after the game was immense.”

Steve Bailey: “You can’t look past the victory at home to Manchester United which sealed Premier League survival. Albion had been written off by several people because of their hard run-in but the draws with Tottenham and Burnley meant they went into the game with Jose Mourinho’s side full of confidence. United barely had a chance and the Amex was rocking, especially after Pascal Gross scored the only goal. As Tony Bloom said afterwards, it will be a day no Albion supporter will ever forget.”

Ian Hine: “As a team, the first half against Arsenal.”

Adam Stenning: “Beating Manchester United at home. The atmosphere from the crowd throughout the game and the faultless performance of all the players made it one of the best performances at the Amex this season – and for a little while.”

Sam Wilson: “Jose Izqueirdo’s personal goal of the season contest. The driving run and strike away at West Ham, the curler into the top corner at home to West Ham and the tippy-tappy team move away at Stoke would all have been worthy winners.”

Bradley Stratton: “The unbeaten run we put together from the end of January to the start of March was the most enjoyable period of the season. I was adamant at the time that how we performed in those games could make-or-break our season and the team raised their game when it mattered most.”

YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT?

Craig Peters: “When referee Craig Pawson signalled that Gross’ header had crossed the line. The hairs on my arm actually stand on end just thinking about it. I sit in the West Stand towards the north end and the noise coming immediately after that goal was confirmed and witnessing the scenes of everyone celebrating like that will live long in the memory. The crowd played their part that night. They were quite literally the 12th man.”

Ollie Berry: “I’ve already lauded the Manchester United win – other than that for particular moments, there have been plenty. Maty Ryan running the length of the pitch to celebrate with his team-mates, the first Premier League point, the win at West Ham and Jose Izquerido’s stunning goal. Victory against Arsenal at home, celebrating another season in the top flight, there are so many.”

Steve Bailey: “It’s hard to pick out just one. There’s Jose Izquierdo’s stunning goals, Mathew Ryan’s penalty save at Stoke, the wins over Arsenal and Manchester United and the first Premier League victory against West Brom. If pushed, I’d say the win at West Ham. That was the night where you sensed the players believed they really belonged in the Premier League.”

Adam Stenning: “Jose Izquierdo’s goal at home to West Ham. Just when it came out to him, there were shouts of shoot and my goodness he did. It was one of those moments where you where like ‘did that actually just happen?’.”

Bradley Stratton: “I wasn’t fortunate enough to be at the Amex for what I imagine most people will say for this – the win over Manchester United – however being there for the win over Arsenal was something special. To see the team I’ve grown up watching comfortably beat one of the biggest teams in the world was amazing. If there was any need to prove to the rest of football that we had every right to be in the Premier League, that was the result that showed we belonged.”

Sam Wilson: “If you’re going to secure Premier League safety, a deserved win at home against Man United is a great way to do it.

“We’d already beaten Arsenal at home but, given Arsenal’s stuttering form over the last few years, they aren’t a top four team any more. United gave us the big win over a footballing giant at just the right time.”

Ian Hine: “Maty Ryan’s penalty save at Stoke and the follow-up tackle from Lewis Dunk were pivotal in the season.”

WHO WAS YOUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR?

Sam Wilson: “It’s hard to look past Pascal Gross. For a first season in the Premier League to see such a healthy return is a stellar way to introduce himself to English football.

“The club found the bargain of the season when they bought him for £3m; he’s probably worth ten times that now.

“Davy Propper and Maty Ryan have also established themselves as key players while Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray have both stepped up with aplomb.”

Ian Hine: “Pascal Gross by a mile. Probably the bargain of last summer’s signings, not just for us, but in the league as a whole.”

Craig Peters: “Dunk. Without a shadow of a doubt. How he’s missed out on an international call-up by now is beyond me. But his time will come.”

Steve Bailey: “Lewis Dunk just pips Pascal Gross but both were pivotal in staying up. Seven goals and eight assists was an outstanding return for Gross, while Dunk seamlessly stepped up into the top flight and enjoyed a stand-out season.”

Adam Stenning: “It has to be Mathew Ryan. He played every Premier League game and, considering he was relatively unknown, he is now one of the best keepers in the league. He saved us four or five points and we wouldn’t be where we are without him.”

Bradley Stratton: “While there are so many standout names I could pick, for me it’s Maty Ryan. He shrugged off any early concerns fans had and has grown to be a key cog in the Albion machine.

“His late penalty save at Stoke was a crucial moment in the five-game unbeaten run. His enthusiastic celebrations when Albion score and his engagement with supporters after games have made him an endearing player to all.”

Ollie Berry: “Pascal Gross edges it for me. If only because how many times do we see foreign players take time to get up to speed in the Premier League.

“His goals have been crucial and Albion are a far better team when he plays – he was one of the bargains of the summer as well with his price tag.

“Ryan has to be up there, after early criticism, he stood up and stood out. Passionate, level-headed, and honest to boot, he’s quickly becoming a fans’ favourite.”

WHERE DO ALBION NEED TO STRENGTHEN FOR NEXT SEASON?

Ollie Berry: “All over the pitch. What has been achieved this season has been fantastic, but this division takes no prisoners.

“Two departures already – and expect a few more – shows work is already ongoing. Sidwell in particular needs to be replaced with an experienced head as it is well-documented he offers a lot off the pitch. I’d like to see improvements at full-back, along with additions in central midfield and up front, with Murray being another year older ”

Ian Hine: “Where to start!

“Full-back – Bruno can’t go on forever and Bong and Schelotto are a bit ‘hit and miss’. Midfield – we need more goals from central midfield.

“Strikers – I hope Locadia pushes on but we need someone to score 15/20. Andone from Deportivo?

“The above assumes we manage to hold on to Dunk and Duffy.”

Sam Wilson: “We already know Hunemeier, Sidwell and Rosenior are going and presumably the likes of Hemed and Baldock might be on the way out too.

“An extra centre-half, a centre midfielder, a versatile full-back, a striker and potentially an extra winger.”

Steve Bailey: You can’t afford to stand still in the Premier League – as proved by West Brom and Stoke’s failure this season.

“You constantly have to look to evolve and improve.

“No doubt work is already going on behind the scenes to improve the squad.

“A central defender, central midfielder, winger and striker will be on the wish list to add to the competition for places in the squad and ensure standards don’t drop.

“And I’d be surprised if another full-back does not arrive before the start of next season too.”

Craig Peters: “Two full-backs, a creative attacking midfielder, and another striker. We may also require another centre back given Huenemeier is set to leave.”

Bradley Stratton: “It wouldn’t surprise me to see Albion dip into the market for a full-back and we need to add depth at centre-back with Hunemeier’s departure and again if Dunk gets snapped up by a bigger club.

“I’d also like to see us add an attacking midfielder to take some of the workload off Pascal Gross and, with Tomer Hemed and Sam Baldock probably on their way out, at least two new strikers to provide competition for Glenn Murray and Jurgen Locadia.”

Adam Stenning: “The only area I can think of is up front. Glenn Murray will struggle to score as many goals as he has this season but I think Jurgen Locadia could be a good option going forward. We could do with a big striker to go alongside him.”