Survival was all that was asked of Brighton last season and Chris Hughton delivered it.
This made the 60-year-old’s sacking at the end of the 2018/19 campaign all the more surprising. The Premier League has witnessed many cases of clubs, usually lower down the ladder, getting ahead of their station through an unnecessary gamble. Many thought Brighton had made this mistake.
On the basis of their performance on opening weekend, though, those conclusions might turn out to be some way wide of the mark.
Brighton dismantled Watford, sticking three unanswered goals past last season’s FA Cup finalists away from home, getting them off to the best possible start.
“I thought the players were fantastic,” new manager Graham Potter said after the 3-0 victory on opening weekend of the new season. “They tried their best to do what we asked them to do. We weren’t perfect. I wouldn’t expect that. But it was probably a reward for all the work the guys have done for the past few weeks.”
Potter is not your archetypal Premier League manager.
The 44-year-old played at a decent level, even turning out for England’s Under-21 side on one occasion, but he was never a star. But his former manager Alan Pardew’s own admission, he was “technically not very good” and had to look further afield to get his start in management.
In Sweden, Potter turned Ostersunds from lower league fodder to a Europa League outfit and did so by embracing new methods and ideas that included having his players put on plays and performing rap battles.
He might not have carried this to English football, first with Swansea City and now with Brighton, but this illustrates how Potter is willing to consider all techniques.
He is a modern sort of coach and that was evident in Brighton’s play at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon. While Hughton did an admirable job with Brighton, the Seagulls were a distinctly old fashioned team under his charge.
They weren’t at Stoke City levels of physicality, but there was a rough edge to their play.
Glenn Murray, for instance, has been key to Brighton’s success in the Premier League these past two seasons, but it’s difficult to envisage that he will be as central to Potter’s team. The 35-year-old played from the start against Watford and went well, but in time Potter will almost certainly opt for a more mobile figure to lead the line.
What we saw on Saturday is not the finished article of Potter’s overhaul.
The former Ostersunds and Swansea boss has been smart enough to make incremental change in the early days of his tenure at the AMEX Stadium, but the team that finishes the season will surely be very different from the one that started it this weekend.
Brighton’s appointment of Potter could modernise the club in the same way fellow South coast rivals Southampton’s appointment of Mauricio Pochettino did to the St Mary’s Stadium outfit six years ago. Nigel Adkins had established the Saints back in the top flight and his dismissal, at the time, seemed harsh.
Pochettino, however, took Southampton to a new level, a level that was beyond Adkins. Brighton will be hoping for the same sort of impact from Potter, although to predict that the 44-year-old will follow the path set by Pochettino might be going somewhat over the top after just one Premier League match as a manager.
The signs are positive, though. Everywhere else, Brighton are a modern club.
Their stadium is among the best in the Premier League.
Their training facility is also comparable to that of any other club in the league. Now, that might just have a manager who can modernise the team on the pitch as well.