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Brighton & Hove Albion 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result

:Headline: Brighton & Hove Albion 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result:
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look back at Brighton & Hove Albion's 2021-22 season, which saw the Seagulls register the highest league finish in the club's history.
Sports Mole

After finishing in the bottom six of the Premier League table for the fourth consecutive season, many Brighton & Hove Albion fans entered the 2021-22 campaign expecting more of the same.

However, their side surpassed those expectations by establishing themselves as a mid-table Premier League team, highlighted by their highest ever league finish in the club's history.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look back at Brighton's impressive 2021-22 campaign.



SEASON OVERVIEW

Final league position: 9th

EFL Cup: Fourth round

FA Cup: Fourth round

Top scorer: Neal Maupay (9)

Most assists: Enock Mwepu (5)

Graham Potter began his third full season in charge of the Seagulls, looking to improve on 15th and 16th-placed finishes in his previous two seasons at the helm.

With the Brighton boss desiring an improvement, his side could not have wished for a better start to their campaign with four of their opening five matches resulting in maximum points.

Those four victories over Burnley, Watford, Brentford and Leicester City propelled the Seagulls into the lofty heights of fourth position in the early knockings of the Premier League season.

However, after flying out of the blocks, they began to struggle as they went from September 19 to December 26 without a league win.

The 11-game winless league run included eight draws, but it was not all bad news for Potter's side, who held Arsenal and Liverpool, with Enock Mwepu scoring a goal of the season contender in the 2-2 draw at Anfield.

Despite competing against two members of the Premier League top six, a barren spell in terms of victories irked a section of the Brighton faithful, with the goalless draw against Leeds United in November met with a chorus of boos from a number of supporters.

As the year drifted towards its conclusion, Potter received a much-needed Christmas gift as goals from Maupay and Leandro Trossard proved enough to sink Brentford on Boxing Day, ending the long wait for a win.

The Brentford victory sparked a run of positive results, but a six-game unbeaten run was brought crashing to a halt by Manchester United, who ousted the Seagulls via a 2-0 scoreline at Old Trafford.

With Brighton tending to experience bouts of positive results and winless runs, it was perhaps unsurprising that the February defeat to the Red Devils caused the Seagulls to sink from a peak into the depths of a trough.

A seven-game winless run ensued - including six consecutive defeats - but as was the case in December, Brighton battled their way back, ending their poor spell of form with an impressive 2-1 win against Arsenal at the Emirates.

Three points against the Gunners were quickly followed by a last-gasp victory over Tottenham Hotspur, and though Brighton were thumped 3-0 by Manchester City, they raced to the finish line with a five-game unbeaten streak that featured an emphatic 4-0 home win over Man United.

Europa League semi-finalists West Ham United were then swept aside on the final day of the season, with goals from Joel Veltman, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck lifting the Seagulls into ninth position - their highest league position in their 121-year-history.



PREMIER LEAGUE STATS

Wins: 12 (13th)
Draws: 15 (1st)
Losses: 11 (16th)
Goals scored: 42 (15th)
Goals conceded: 44 (15th)
Yellow cards: 73 (6th)
Red cards: 2 (9th)
Passes: 18,835 (6th)
Shots: 489 (7th)
Big chances missed: 40 (8th)
Saves: 104 (13th)
Tackles: 668 (5th)
Own goals: 1 (13th)
Hit woodwork: 12 (9th)
Clearances: 684 (13th)



HOW DID IT COMPARE TO LAST SEASON?

Brighton have considerably improved on last season's 16th-placed finish, highlighting the progress the Seagulls made in the 2021-22 campaign.

In terms of points, the win over West Ham on the final day of the campaign helped the Seagulls break the 50-point barrier, leaving them with 51 points to their name compared to the 41 they managed to collect last term.

Despite a vast improvement in terms of points, not much has changed for the Seagulls in the final third, as they found the net on just two more occasions.

Perhaps surprisingly, Brighton saw little change in the defensive third as well, conceding only three goals fewer, while they actually clinched one more clean sheet in the 2020-21 season.

They would have also been disappointed by their home record, with their 19 home league games yielding only one more point compared to last term.

However, away from the Amex Stadium is where Brighton have made strides forward, with their away points tally improving drastically by nine, while only three teams lost fewer away league games than the Seagulls.

The ability to squeeze out points from matches this term ensured that Brighton lost only 11 league encounters, while in the 2020-21 campaign they finished on the losing side on 15 occasions.

In fact, only Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool lost fewer Premier League matches than Potter's charges this term, further demonstrating the fine job that the Brighton boss is currently doing.

Despite faring well in the league, their impressive form failed to translate into the cup competitions, with their FA Cup journey ending in the fourth round following a 3-1 defeat to Spurs, falling one round short of last season's performance.

Meanwhile, there was a sense of deja-vu in the League Cup as the Seagulls fell out of the competition at the fourth round stage for the second season running.



PLAYER OF THE SEASON - MARC CUCURELLA

Marc Cucurella caught the eye of the Seagulls after spending two seasons at Getafe, appearing 86 times for the Azulones across loan and permanent spells.

The 23-year-old may have swapped La Liga football for the Premier League, but a change of surroundings has not hampered the Spaniard's performance.

Since making his debut in a 1-0 win over Brentford on September 11, Cucurella has not missed a league game for the Seagulls, highlighting how important the full-back has become for Potter's side.

Only goalkeeper Robert Sanchez has played more Premier League minutes than the Spanish international this term, demonstrating the trust the Brighton boss has in his full-back.

Lewis Dunk is the only Brighton player to have played more passes in league games than Cucurella, while the former Barcelona academy player has topped the charts for the Seagulls in Premier League touches and tackles.

The consistently high-quality performances has not only impressed the Brighton faithful, but other clubs around the country, with the likes of Manchester City reportedly showing an interest.



STANDOUT RESULT

There can only be one winner here, with Brighton's comprehensive 4-0 home victory over Manchester United rising head and shoulders above any other result across a long but successful season.

Brighton entered the contest against the Red Devils with an air of confidence following a comfortable 3-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but not many people predicted the demolition job they completed at the Amex Stadium against United.

Moises Caicedo opened the scoring in the 15th minute to give Brighton a slender advantage at half time, however, rather than a Manchester United comeback materialising after the restart, the Seagulls made sure of the three points in 11 dramatic second half minutes.

Cucurella grabbed his first goal as a Brighton player before Gross and Trossard both netted a goal apiece, sparking scenes of jubilation in the Amex Stadium.

> Click here for a full list of Brighton & Hove Albion's results from the 2021-22 season



BEST MOMENT

Mwepu's stunning first Premier League goal against Liverpool was certainly a candidate for the best moment of the season, with the summer signing whipping the ball with impressive accuracy over the head of Alison Becker, igniting a comeback from two goals down at Anfield to claim a 2-2 draw.

There also has to be an honourable mention for Welbeck's stoppage-time equaliser at Stamford Bridge, helping Brighton hold Thomas Tuchel's side to a 1-1.

However, Brighton's best moment of the campaign has to be another last-minute goal, but on this particular occasion, it proved to be a winner.

Brighton's April contest at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium looked destined to be heading towards a draw when the clock ticked over into the 90th minute, but Trossard had other ideas.

The 27-year-old took control of the ball inside the Spurs' penalty area before beating Hugo Lloris with a precise finish from the outside of his right foot, sending the away fans into delirium as they celebrated their first away win at Tottenham in 41 years.



TOP PRIORITY FOR SUMMER

With no Brighton player hitting double figures for league goals, the Seagulls may be surveying the transfer market for a new striker that could take the South Coast side to the next level.

Even if Welbeck signs a new contract to remain on the South Coast beyond the summer, adding strength in depth to the final third should be one of Brighton's main priorities for their summer business.

While they may be keen to add a high-quality forward, Brighton will also be desperate to keep hold of their star player Cucurella, which could prove to be a tricky task if one of the Premier League's biggest clubs comes knocking.

There has also been reported interest in Cucurella's Spanish teammate Robert Sanchez, but keeping their first-choice goalkeeper will also be key for the Seagulls after Sanchez kept 11 clean sheets in 37 Premier League appearance this term.



FINAL VERDICT

Despite experiencing a couple of elongated winless runs in the season, Brighton have surpassed expectations with a top-half finish.

As Potter and his staff reflect on the campaign, they would feel that they have squeezed everything possible from their 38 league games, demonstrated by the squad achieving Brighton's highest ever league finish.

An improvement in the cup competitions will be desired for next term, but the foundations laid by a solid league performance could help the Seagulls make a challenge for the European places in the 2022-23 campaign.



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