Albion Analytics: How Albion rank among 'The Other 14'

A statistical look at how Albion are fairing against sides outside the 'big six'.

By Liam Tharme • 04 December 2021

By James Boardman
Albion sit ninth in the Premier League ahead of their match at Southampton on Saturday.

Brighton took their points tally to 19 with a late fightback for a point at West Ham on Wednesday.

While it is impressive that Albion have more points (19) at this stage of the season (14 games) than in any previous Premier League campaign, it is their performance and subsequent ranking among non ‘big-six’ sides that has rightly earned plaudits.

Those six sides refer to the Manchester clubs, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, whom have budgets considerably greater than the rest of the league, and typically receive substantially more TV revenue each season. Excluding them allows for more meaningful comparisons of Brighton performances and outputs.

Of course, the results-driven nature of football mandates points and league position as the most important indicators of performance. At full time on Wednesday only West Ham (24) and Wolves (21) have more points, with the Albion losing the fewest games (3) of any side.

Looking at points earned by the 14 ‘other’ sides in games against each other this season, the Seagulls sit pretty in third (17 points), boasting the strongest defence (just 9 goals conceded) and a points per match average (1.55) that would equate to 40 points over a total season (26 games played against these opponents).

When you consider how close that points total is to the club record, and Brighton’s ability to take points off the big-six sides (two in three games this season), this form is clearly progression on previous seasons.

A penchant for late goals has ensured Brighton’s points tally continues to tick over, even in the absence of wins. Albion have scored five in the final 15 minutes of games, taking 34 shots worth 3.9xG in that time – no side can better all three of those metrics – and a conversion rate of 14.7% is close to double what the Seagulls managed in the closing stages of games last season (8%).

Impressively, Brighton have gone behind on seven occasions this season, and they have achieved a positive result four times – one win, three draws - more times than they have faced defeat.

Stylistically, the Seagulls are undoubtedly the best of the rest in progressing the ball into the opposition box, having completed the most open play passes (126) into the penalty area, whilst only Leeds (57.4%) have averaged a greater share of possession than Albion (57.2%).

Brighton top the charts for open-play sequences of ten or more passes (204), and they have the highest number of such sequences leading to a shot/touch in the opposition box (38). Captain Lewis Dunk has attempted (1006) and completed (917) the most passes of any non-big six player (third highest if you include those players), and Dunk has passed the ball the equivalent of over 50 lengths of the Amex pitch (5,747 yards – over 3.2 miles).

Perhaps interestingly, Brighton’s use of crosses has dropped from last season. They rank ninth among non-big six sides this season for open-play crosses completed into the box (26 – 1.85 per game), having been third in this metric last campaign (91 – 2.39 per game).

That said, Albion still possess a threat from wide areas, ranking inside the top five sides for chances created from crosses (39) and the most created from corners (19). In total, the Albion have 7 goals from crosses/free kicks/corners this season across all competitions.

Neal Maupay is one of just ten non-big six players to have scored more than five goals this season, and only four have outscored him; among the group, his xG per shot (an indicator of how high quality the shooting positions are) is the third best, and he has taken the third fewest shots of that group – his conversion rate (18%) places him inside the top 20% of all Premier League strikers this season.

Without the ball, Brighton have been very good. They have faced the fewest shots on target (117) and rank inside the top five for lowest xG conceded (15.7, excluding penalties). Only Wolves (12) have conceded fewer, whilst Albion have shut opponents out in six out of 14 games this season – this current rate of clean sheets would see them achieve a club record of over 13 across a full season.

A big part of this is their ability to keep opponents out of the danger zone in the first place. Opponents have only recorded fewer touches in the Brentford (311), Wolves (312) and Southampton (320) boxes this season, with Brighton allowing opponents 324 touches in the penalty area – 39 fewer than they have managed themselves, with Southampton the only of those three teams to also have outperformed opponents in this metric.

Opta have Brighton recording a defensive action once every 10.7 passes, with only Leeds (one action every 8.8 opposition passes) defending more intensely. Only Wolves (173) have won more tackles than the Albion (172).

And finally, it seems imperative to highlight that Brighton are achieving this with a statistically younger-than-average squad (26.1yrs – sixth youngest in the league). Graham Potter has already given minutes to ten different players who started the season aged under 24, including a recent debut to Jeremy Sarmiento who also earned his first senior Ecuador cap recently.