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.
5 - Only Manchester United (6) have drawn more Premier League matches 0-0 than Brighton (5) this season, while this was Everton’s first goalless draw of the campaign, leaving Sheffield United as the only side still yet to play out a 0-0 draw. Stalemate. #BHAEVE pic.twitter.com/sfncXLGYrn— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 12, 2021
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.
Excluding the top-six teams, last season Brighton had the:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) August 18, 2020
• Most 10+ passing sequences (377)
• Second-most build-up attacks (72)
• Second-highest average possession length (9.47 seconds)
• Second-highest average passes per possession (3.52)
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).
Brighton in the Premier League in 2021:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) May 20, 2021
2nd for fewest goals against (19)
3rd for fewest xG conceded (20.3)
=3rd for clean sheets (9)
4th for deep completions (200)
7th for PPDA (10.2)
11th for points won (28)
Form. 📈#BHAFC pic.twitter.com/DZC6yFOt63
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%).
Lewis Dunk’s season by numbers - ranked against Brighton players:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) May 28, 2021
🥇 1,935 passes completed
🥇 408 ball recoveries
🥇 126 clearances
🥈 24 shot blocks
🥉 116 passes to final third
🥉 69/109 aerial duels won
Captain. ©️#BHAFC pic.twitter.com/pUPo5gwj4T
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.
In consecutive Premier League seasons (19/20 + 20/21) Yves Bissouma has recorded:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) June 1, 2021
150+ ball recoveries
80+ progressive dribbles
70+ tackles + interceptions
60%+ aerial duels won
60%+ dribble success
Evolved. 🇲🇱 #BHAFC pic.twitter.com/QN90Ka6jBt
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).