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Albion Analytics Debrief: Watford

A deep dive into the numbers behind Albion's 2-0 win over Watford.

By Liam Tharme • 23 August 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion sit third in the Premier League after winning back-to-back games.

Saturday's 2-0 win over Watford gave Albion wins in the opening two games of the season for the first time in a top-flight campaign.

In fact, it was the first time since the Albion won at Newcastle last season – 38 Premier League games ago – that they scored twice in the first half. Of Brighton’s 38 total wins in the competition, this was only the 13th that has been by more than one goal.

Having finished last season five games unbeaten at the Amex, this win took the tally to six consecutive home games without defeat – Brighton’s best run since they managed as many home matches unbeaten in late 2017. Across the unbeaten run, the Albion have won four times and kept as many clean sheets, beating opponents by an aggregate score of 11-3.

After being accused of lacking a cutting edge at times last season, Graham Potter’s team have well and truly found their shooting boots. Brighton netted with two of their first three shots in the first half, and in the opening two games have hit the target with a third of their attempts. Admittedly the league table is at an early stage and fluctuating, but this shot accuracy (33%) ranks eighth best in the competition and is comfortably above the 27% that Potter’s side managed last season – a league low.

Impressively, both Yves Bissouma and Neal Maupay have been involved in all three of Brighton’s open-play goals scored thus far, with the Frenchman netting twice from just five shots to become only the second Albion player (after Glenn Murray) to score 20 times in the Premier League. This season, Maupay has been directly involved in nine shots so far, having recorded four shot-creating actions, evidence of his ability to operate as a creator as well as a converter. On average, Maupay is involved in a shot every 15 minutes so far this season, slightly more efficient than his still impressive 17.2 minutes-per-shot-involvement last season.

In fact, Brighton’s conversion rate of 15% puts them among the top five Premier League sides and is over double what they managed last campaign. Following the win over Watford, where 12 of the Premier League sides have played two games, the Seagulls ranked fourth in the league for Expected Goals (xG – 2.7) and have outperformed this total, netting four times. Their next Premier League opponents Everton sit third, having accumulated 4.5xG and scored five times.

Potter will undoubtedly be impressed with the Albion's ability to hurt teams in a variety of ways so far this season; they rank among the top six sides in the league for set-piece shots (11), shots from open-play sequences of 10+ passes (7) and high turnovers (14).

Having impressed on his return to the side at Burnley, Shane Duffy followed up with another stellar display. He netted his first goal in Albion colours since 2019 (versus Norwich at the Amex), heading home from Pascal Gross' corner. It is only the second time under Potter that Brighton have scored from an in-swinging corner (the first being by Dunk at Old Trafford in 2019), and that assist was Gross' second of the campaign in as many games, and his tenth since the start of last season – no non big-six player has more in that time period, and Harry Kane, Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes are the only Premier League players to boast better assist returns.

Robert Sanchez and the Brighton defence picked up their tenth clean sheet of the calendar year, limiting Watford to just three shots on target. As of Saturday night, Brighton (5) had conceded fewer shots on target in their opening two games than nine of the 11 sides to have also played twice. In 2021, only Manchester City and Chelsea (both 13) have shut out opponents on more occasions than the Albion.

The Seagulls are sitting a pretty 10th in the annual Premier League table – measuring points won from 1st January 2021 up until now. In 24 games, the Albion have nine wins and 34 points, with a positive goal different (+4) and the third best defence in terms of fewest goals conceded (22). Over a full Premier League season – 38 games – that form (1.41 points per game) returns almost 54 points, which would have been good enough to finish 12th last season.

Brighton’s next opponents, Everton, have an almost identical record in 2021, with 34 points from 25 games, though they have shipped 10 more goals than the Albion, despite the sides having matching goals scored tallies (26 goals). Perhaps this is strong evidence as to the relative quality of the Albion’s defence. Both sides go into the fixture unbeaten, with Everton taking four points from their opening two fixtures, despite having been behind in both games. They ranked second in the league on Saturday night for shots on target (13).

A win for the Albion would make it a hat-trick of Premier League wins for the first time under Graham Potter. Nine points is Brighton's best-ever Premier League return from their opening eight games, and a win against Everton would match that with five games to go.