Albion Analytics preview: Newport County

Albion Analytics takes a closer look at our Emirates FA Cup opponents, Newport County.

By Liam Tharme • 10 January 2021

By Bennett Dean
Albion will be looking for a place in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup when they face Newport County tonight.

Brighton travel to Wales in the Emirates FA Cup third round on Sunday to face a Newport side who, despite being 52 places below them in the pyramid, reached the fourth round in 2017-18 and went one better by making it to round five two years ago. During those two years they have knocked out Leeds and Leicester and taken Spurs to a replay.

This season, Michael Flynn's side sit second in League Two, one point off top spot with a game in hand. Only Carlisle (25) have won more points at home this season than Newport (22), with the Exiles winning seven out of nine at Rodney Parade.

The Albion boast an impressive cup record themselves in recent years. They were quarter finalists in 2018 and reached the semi-final for the first time since 1983 a year later. Albion's next domestic opponents, Manchester City, eliminated both Brighton and Newport in 2019, en route to beating Watford 6-0 in the final.

Albion reached the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup in the 2018/19 season.

Since moving to the Amex, Brighton are unbeaten in 13 of the 17 matches against Welsh opposition, winning six and drawing on seven occasions. Across those fixtures, the Seagulls have scored 20 and kept six clean sheets, conceding 17.

However, Albion have lost both fixtures against Newport since moving to the Amex. In December 2019, the under-21s lost on penalties in the EFL Trophy while back in 2013 they won 3-1 in Newport's first League Cup fixture for 25 years following the club's reformation in 1989.

Graham Potter's side face Welsh opposition in the FA Cup for the first time since 2012, when the Seagulls saw off Wrexham on penalties. A 20-year-old Lewis Dunk started that day and captained Brighton in the semi-final in 2019.

Ben White has been a regular feature alongside Dunk in Brighton's back line this season, starting 16 of 17 Premier League games this season. The academy graduate spent the 2017-18 season – Brighton's debut Premier League campaign – on loan at Sunday's hosts.

Ben White spent the 2017/18 season on loan with the Exiles.

Across all competitions, White clocked close to 5,000 minutes for the Exiles, starting in the FA Cup home wins against Walsall and Leeds and both ties against Tottenham.

White's ability to blend defensive diligence and a potent ball-playing style was even evident at Newport. Per 90 minutes in the 2017-18 season, he averaged 5.7 interceptions, two ball carries, 3.3 clearances and 6.8 passes to the final third. He assisted in seven goals, three from crosses and twice from through passes in behind.

The 23-year-old has completed 13 passes into the penalty area and recorded three goal-creating actions this season, with Tariq Lamptey the only defender to better him in either metric (4 goal-creating actions). Steven Alzate averages close to three shot-creating actions per game this season, an increase from his 2.2 per match last campaign.

The Colombia international was directly involved in two goals against Newport in 2017, scoring once and winning a penalty to help Orient win 4-0 at Rodney Parade.

Scott Twine leads the Welsh outfit in both goals (6) and assists (7) this season, with only two players bettering his 13 goal involvements in League Two. But the 21-year-old is one of five players recalled by their parent club, with 19-year-old Owen Windsor brought in on loan from West Brom to offset their departures. Windsor has nine goals in 18 appearances across all competitions this season, including four in four in Premier League 2.

Padraig Amond is Newport's main threat. The Irishman has nine goal involvements (8 goals, 1 assist) this season and has scored in all four competitions he has played in. He averages a direct goal involvement every 156 minutes.

Amond is an FA Cup veteran, appearing 29 times, scoring 12 and assisting twice with half of his goals match winners. He ranks 33rd in the all-time FA Cup goalscorers list, having netted the same number of goals as Harry Kane.

Danny Welbeck won the competition with Arsenal on two occasions.

Danny Welbeck (8 goals, 2 assists) and Adam Lallana (6 goals, 4 assists) each have 10 goal involvements in the FA Cup, with Welbeck part of the Arsenal side to lift the trophy in 2015 and 2017. Seven of Welbeck's eight FA Cup goals have come on the road, and both he and Lallana having netted three winners in the competition. 

Newport have not played since drawing 1-1 at Crawley Town on Boxing Day. The biggest challenge for Potter will be the playing surface and their set piece threat. Rodney Parade also hosts two rugby clubs with a game scheduled there at 5.15pm on Saturday.

Conditions could make it tough for Albion to play the high-possession style they have become renowned for under Potter. Last season only Crawley (36) recorded fewer open play passing sequences comprising of ten or more passes than Newport, who only managed 37 across their 46 games, whereas Brighton recorded 377. Only Arsenal bettered this for sides who finished outside the top six in the Premier League.

What Newport lack in expansive football they make up for in set piece threat and chance creation. Only Exeter (51) have created more big chances than Newport (48), who sit second for shots taken per game (11.8) and lead the League Two charts in penalties won (8) and scored (7). Albion have seen 11 penalties awarded in their 17 Premier League games, the most of any side in the division.

Newport County last played at the Amex in the EFL Trophy in the 2019/20 campaign.

Last season, Newport were chart toppers in the fourth tier for set piece shots (190), whilst they sit second for Expected Goals from set pieces (17.9), with 42% of their overall Expected Goals created from such situations. The 13 set piece goals they scored was among the top five in the division and they are already on 14 this season, though seven of those have been from the penalty spot.

Penalties included, Albion have conceded as many set piece goals (including penalties) as Newport have scored this season. So, while Albion go into Sunday as favourites, it is clear the Exiles have the tools to cause an upset. That said, the eight goals Brighton have conceded from corners and free kicks come from an Expected Goals conceded of 5.2, based on shot quality, suggesting opponents were clinical in their finishing.

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