Albion Analytics: Comparing the last two seasons

Liam Tharme takes a deep dive and provides some favourable comparisons between our last two Premier League campaigns.

By Liam Tharme • 12 June 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk celebrates with Danny Welbeck after putting the Albion in front against Aston Villa.

Albion finished the last two Premier League seasons with an identical points tally (41), though a deeper dive into results and statistics provides interesting comparisons.

The Seagulls were the only side to record the same points total in the 2019/20 and 20/21 campaigns, with 11 clubs bettering their 19/20 total in 20/21 and five recording worse totals, evidence as to the improving quality of the top flight.

Context is important in both seasons, too. Brighton spent – according to Transfermarkt – over £67m in the 19/20 summer window, but less than half (£25.5m) in the 20/21 equivalent.

This past season saw a more youthful Albion side than in the 19/20 campaign, with 12 players aged under 24 at the start of the season playing a collective 15,756 minutes across the 20/21 campaign – those figures were six players accumulating 7,411 minutes in the 19/20 season, around half compared to last season’s figures.

Not only did Albion record identical points totals in the two seasons, but identical results patterns, too – nine wins, 14 draws and 15 defeats. No team drew more than Brighton in either season.

Opta’s play style data shows serious improvements for the Albion in terms of expansivity and pressing. Brighton recorded more 10+ pass sequences in open play in 20/21 (426) versus 19/20 (377), even with a marginally lower possession share last season than in Graham Potter’s first campaign.

Brighton were better in producing end product with possession too. In 19/20 they had 72 build-up attacks (10+ pass sequences leading to a shot/touch in opposition box), with less than 20% of the 10+ open-play pass sequences ending in a shot or touch in the opposition box.

Comparatively, in the 2020/21 season, the Seagulls recorded an improved 94 build-up attacks, with over 22% of 10+ open-play pass sequences ending in a shot or touch in the opposition box.

Out of possession, Brighton were markedly better in 20/21 than 19/20. The Seagulls recorded 134 high turnovers (possessions that start within 40 metres of the opposition goal) in Potter’s first season, with just 21 ending in shots – those outputs were only bettered by four and three non-big six sides respectively.

Comparatively, in 20/21 the Seagulls more than doubled their numbers for high turnovers and high turnovers leading to shots, even boasting a better percentage of high turnovers leading to shots in 20/21 (18%) compared to 19/20 (15.6%). In a season that saw league-wide drops in pressing and intensity, these defensive performance improvements are more impressive.

Despite identical result patterns and points, Potter’s side did set club records for the most goals scored (40 – 39 in 19/20) and fewest goals conceded (46 – 54 in 19/20) by a Brighton side in any Premier League season. This is reflective of underlying Expected Goals metrics, with Brighton’s Expected Goals for totals better in 20/21 (53.8) than in 19/20 (47.4), whilst they also created more big chances (65 in 20/21, 62 in 19/20) and ranked higher for big chances created (joint 10th in 20/21, joint 15th in 19/20).

Defensively, the Seagulls shipped fewer Expected Goals against last season (39.9) versus Graham Potter’s first Premier League campaign (60.4). In fact, the Albion ranked 15th in the Expected Goals against table two seasons ago, soaring all the way up to third in the 20/21 campaign, with only Manchester City (30.6) and Chelsea (30.9) conceding fewer. The Seagulls kept 13 clean sheets last season, well clear of the nine they managed in 19/20. Robert Sanchez and Albion’s defenders shut out opponents nine times in 22 games in 2021.

Perhaps the most frustrating finding is that Brighton regressed from their 19/20 ability to see out winning scenarios and recover in games. Two seasons ago, Brighton won nine of the 16 games that they led in, dropping 16 points from winning positions. Whilst that total is still not desirable, it is significantly better than the 25 Brighton dropped over the course of the 20/21 season, winning less than half (9/19) games they led in.

On top of this, the Seagulls won just the fourth fewest points after falling behind (7) in the Premier League in 20/21, having ranked tenth in this metric (12 points won after falling behind) in the season prior.

Lewis Dunk is Brighton’s most played player – in terms of minutes on the field – in the last two seasons, clocking up over 6,100 minutes. The skipper had a better campaign than in 19/20 in terms of goals scored (5 v 3), progressive dribbles (88 v 76) and long pass accuracy (77.5% v 70.1%).

Neal Maupay (5,278) is the only under-24 Brighton player (at the start of each of the last two seasons) to have recorded more minutes than Malian midfield maestro Yves Bissouma (4,370), with Bissoma bettering his 19/20 match averages in 20/21 in terms of passes, pass accuracy, shot-creating actions, press success rate, dribble success rate and interceptions.

Maupay (21) is also the only Brighton player to have recorded more goal involvements over the last two seasons than Leandro Trossard (18 – 10 goals, eight assists). The Belgian had a better season in 20/21 than in 19/20 when looking at shots on target (23 v 10), open play passes plus crosses completed into the box (79 v 38) and shot-creating actions (100 v 79).