The first Premier League action of 2018 takes us to East Sussex as we prepare for Brighton and Bournemouth to face off in a bid for South Coast supremacy at The AMEX. Chris Hughton’s men continue to keep their heads just above water while Eddie Howe’s men have revitalised their fortunes after a positive result at the weekend.
For Seagulls boss Chris Hughton there was not the ideal return to St James’ Park on Saturday as he witnessed his Brighton side have to make do with a draw against fellow promoted side Newcastle. Although in fairness it is a point that keeps a comfortable buffer between themselves and the bottom three.
That buffer currently stands at four points with Brighton in the relatively safety of 12th in the Premier League table going into this encounter, their current standing may well point to all things being well but their lack of goals this season will no doubt be something of a concern.
They have scored just 15 goals this season, the joint second lowest in the division this season with only West Brom (15) and Swansea (13) scoring less. Both the other two teams mentioned currently find themselves in the bottom three at present.
Therefore Brighton must get some credit for being the team that has conceded the least goals in the bottom half of the Premier League table, with 25 goals against at this point of the campaign. That is arguably the metric that is keeping them so high in the table.
With the transfer window now open, Chris Hughton will undoubtedly be looking for the firepower that keeps them clear of the relegation zone. The rumour that Celtic’s Moussa Dembele was due to join the club for £18m turned out to be exactly that with the young forward staying put in Glasgow. So the search continues with money ready to be spent.
Bournemouth are another team that have struggled from an apparent lack of goals this season, with the Cherries averaging less than a goal a game in the Premier League this season (20 goals from 21 matches) and 10 percent of their goal tally was scored at the weekend.
Those two goals came at home to Everton as Eddie Howe served Sam Allardyce his first defeat since taking charge of the Toffees. Ryan Fraser was the hero of the hour as his brace would prove to be the difference with his second goal coming just two minutes from time to snatch all three points.
There is no doubting the magnitude of Bournemouth’s win on Saturday as it took them out of the drop zone, not only that though it shot them up the table from 18th to 13th place, although they subsequently dropped to 14th a few hours later after Southampton’s draw at Old Trafford.
But to profit that many places from a solitary win has not only changed their outlook for 2018 in an instant, it also shows just how tight the bottom of the table currently is, just two points separate Bournemouth in 14th and West Ham in 18th.
The bottom eight teams seem to be in a constant state of flux this season with their fortunes changing from one week to week, quite simply no-one can get the form required to steer themselves clear with everyone taking points off of each other and creating the free for all that we currently see.
You could make a realistic case for any of the bottom eight teams to still be relegated at the end of the season, absolutely no one safe and by the same token neither are Brighton at this point as they need to make sure they are not looking over their shoulder.
Should they lose today they could begin to be dragged into the mire at the start of this year and I think that lack of goals could work against them, however with Bournemouth not the most ruthless team in front of goal this season, I think this one will end in a draw.