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Albion Analytics: How have Albion fared so far?

A closer look at the numbers behind Albion's start to the Premier League campaign.

By Liam Tharme • 08 September 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Alexis Mac Allister is joint-third in the Premier League for total successful pressures after three games, alongside Yves Bissouma.

Albion return from the international break to face an unbeaten, newly promoted Brentford side who have already put up some impressive numbers.

From a bigger picture perspective, six points from the opening three fixtures is Brighton’s best return at this stage of a Premier League season, and the underlying numbers show such performance to be sustainable. Of course, a critical lens on this would consider the opposition faced. In Brighton’s first eight fixtures (Burnley away, Championship runners-up home, Everton home, Championship play-off winners away, Leicester home, Crystal Palace away, Arsenal home and the Championship winners at home) their points returns over the last two seasons were eight in 2020/21 and 13 in 19/20.

In addition to winning the cumulative xG battle thus far, Brighton have outshot opponents by 41 shots to 36 and have better shot on target (12 to 9) and shot accuracy (29% to 25%) totals. The Seagulls rank seventh in the league for touches in the opposition box (76), third among non-big six sides, limiting opponents to just 55 in comparison – only three teams (Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool) have kept opponents out of their box more. Not only are they outperforming opponents, but their old selves. Albion’s 2021/22 totals for shot per game, shot accuracy and shot conversion rate are all higher than last season.

The Seagulls have continued to excel in the press this season. They sit second only to Manchester City for the proportion of pressures leading to a turnover inside five seconds (32.9%) – Saturday’s opponents Brentford rank third (32.6%) - and sit third in the league for total pressures applied (487). Excluding the Everton game, August's Performance of the Month winner Yves Bissouma had been responsible for around 15% of Brighton’s high turnovers (possession wins within 40 metres of the opposition goal) since the start of last season.

The Malian and Alexis Mac Allister (both 25) are joint-third in the Premier League for total successful pressures after three games. Brighton are not reliant on those two to press though, with nine different players having made a tackle in the final third, and six having 10+ pressures in that zone.

Comparatively, less than a quarter of opposition pressures have led to Brighton turning over the ball inside five seconds (third best in the league), showing the Seagulls are as strong in playing through a press as they are in applying one themselves. Albion’s 61 open-play sequences of 10+ passes are again second to only Manchester City, and close to double what Brighton were averaging per three games last season, with the Seagulls having the highest possession share of any non-big six side.

Despite attempting (26) and completing (19) the fewest dribbles in the league, the Seagulls are the most successful side when they do choose to dribble, boasting success rates of almost a quarter. Only two sides (Wolves and Watford) can better Brighton’s five dribbles leading to shots so far this season, so while Albion may be sparing in their use of such ball carries, they are more than capable of using them as a chance creation tool. Leandro Trossard (3) leads the way for Albion players in this metric. Opta data has it that the Belgian is currently dribbling the ball the longest of any player in the league, moving the ball almost 13 metres closer to the opposition goal every dribble.

Onto Brentford. As a Premier League team, Brighton have only won six times in 22 games against newly promoted sides and have been outscored in those fixtures. That said, they are unbeaten in nine of their last 12 against such opponents, keeping clean sheets in half of those fixtures, boasting a positive goal difference in that time too.

 

Brentford will provide a serious challenge to improving that record, as after three games they have shipped just 2.7 Expected Goals against, the second lowest total in the league to Manchester City. Brentford’s David Raya is currently boasting a save percentage of over 90% and has prevented over one additional goal already.

Only Southampton (161) have made more successful pressures than the busy Bees (159) in the first three Premier League games, and the Londoners rank third for tackles plus interceptions (112), showing a desire to press teams as well as try to regain the ball high, rather than perhaps just force launched passes. They rank one place below Albion in the high turnovers table, with 24, and their five high turnovers ending in a shot is a league third-best.

Spaniard Sergi Canos – scorer of Brentford’s first ever Premier League goal – has been their standout attacker so far, topping the club charts for penalty area entries (10), progressive dribbles (14), and tackles plus interceptions (20). He leads the way in the Premier League for pressures (81) and tackles (16) attempted.