Daily Mail



Brighton’s success story is nothing short of a minor miracle and their fairytale ending would be to finish in the top four and crash the Champions League party. no matter who departs the club — whether graham Potter as manager a month into the season or Leandro trossard or Yves Bissouma or Marc Cucurella — they refuse to make the expectatio­ns that they will drop like a stone a reality. With tony Bloom as owner, David Weir as technical director, and roberto De Zerbi as manager, this is one of the bestrun clubs in the country. to understand how difficult it is to face Brighton, you only needed to listen to Declan rice’s incredibly honest interview after West ham’s 4-0 defeat last weekend. rice said they were played off the pitch at the Amex stadium, describing Brighton as ‘unique’ and saying he found it a ‘demoralisi­ng’ afternoon.

‘i never want to feel that way again in a football match,’ the hammers captain said. the Brighton front five of Evan Ferguson, solly March, Alexis Mac Allister, Kaoru Mitoma and Pascal gross make for a formidable attacking force. But it is the movement of Brighton’s full backs that is absolutely key to developing their play through the compartmen­ts of the team. When either Joel Veltman or Pervis Estupinan move into midfield, that is the trigger for gross to fly forward. he will leave his position next to Moises Caicedo to push towards the right wing or join the front man. this makes for a subtle change of formation and increases the number of players in the final third, going from a back four to a three and giving them five

attackers, sometimes six, if the remaining full back flies up their wing in tow. Mac allister and March can pick up the pockets behind the opposing midfield and go to work. Mitoma tends to stay fixed towards the left, but he can also move across the front line to join in with Brighton’s slick interchang­ing of passes and movement.

It isn’t dissimilar to what arsenal or Manchester city do with their full backs, and West ham simply could not cope last weekend. Mitoma’s goal perfectly exemplifie­d this recurring routine of movement by Brighton. It starts with right back Veltman, having moved into midfield, playing a one-two with Gross. Veltman then punches a forward pass into ferguson, who lays it off for March. his movement inside from the right wing gives Gross time and space to secure his wide-right position. March, travelling infield, takes two players with him before playing a reverse pass into Gross’s path. Gross then slides the ball to the back post for a tap-in for Mitoma, who’s patiently held his position on the left. this whole move was a thing of beauty and a goal perfected in practice.

It is important to remember none of this would have been possible if Brighton

KAORU MITOMA is excelling on and off the ball. Using data from DELPHLYX, the above graph shows his key stats per 90 — compared to other players in his position in the Premier League. The wider the stat, the better he is. He is averaging 4.35 progressiv­e runs per game and 0.25 expected assists (xA), which is better than most in the league.

didn’t have a full back giving them the extra man in midfield. Mitoma, Mac allister and March have 21 goals between them this season. all three are producing eyecatchin­g performanc­es. March is in the best form of his career and has never stood a better chance of an england call-up. It isn’t only about the attackers, though. Brighton benefit from having adam Webster and Lewis Dunk in defence. they are like two bouncers, perfectly happy to

mind the back door while everybody else wanders forward, and are comfortabl­e in possession and outstandin­g in the air.

De Zerbi will know how Leeds love to press high up the pitch and that battle will decide who wins today’s game. When West ham attempted to press they couldn’t get close. the Brighton boss has taken this group to another level and he will be targeting this game as one to win to keep alive their top-four dreams.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Influentia­l: Kaoru Mitoma is a key figure for Brighton
GETTY IMAGES Influentia­l: Kaoru Mitoma is a key figure for Brighton
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