Lady Luck smiles when she wants, frowns when she wants. At times you do everything you can, yet she doesn’t smile back. She hasn’t been smiling at Brighton lately.
Burnley’s latest win against Wolves dragged Brighton further down to 17th place, only two points above an inform Fulham who managed six points in their last five games.
Watching Graham Potter’s side gives you the feelling of a well structured passing team that knows what they are doing, while also being tactically flexible. They create numerous chances each game but don’t always convert them. According to FBref.com, they rank 9th in the league in terms of xG, ahead of both Tottenham and Southampton.
However, in terms of goal scored against the xG, they are underperforming by 4 goals. Second worst in the league after Sheffield United who are underperforming the xG by 5.7 goals, scoring only 8 goals from an xG of 13.7.
The number of chances created by Brighton and the quality of these chances as seen in the xG figures might provide Brighton fans hope that they will regress to the mean, and actually score these chances.
But is that the case? Is it just them being only unlucky?
According to David Sumpter, author of Soccermatics, we are currently in the part of the season that requires a case study. 14 games played is within the interval that Sumpter states that goals are becoming a more reasonable measurement of performance. The xG numbers contradicting the goals scored at that time should raise a flag for further investigation.
“Brighton should have won” is a statement that have been echoed around lately, but with the statement itself repeatedly said week after week, the question asks itself. Should they?
The divorce with Lady Luck all started in the game against Manchester United. A game where hitting the post from a chance like this….
….then hitting the bar from a chance like this, is just pure unluckiness.
As was the case on Sunday when Neal Maupay’s shot towards the far post was intercepted by a well positioned Chris Basham. Had Basham not been there, there was a high probability of it going in and giving Brighton the lead.
Then late on in the game with barely a minute to go, Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s free header struck the bar denying Brighton three massive points.
In these situations Brighton were unlucky, especially when taking into consideration the game state. Any of these chances going in would have altered the game state, from a draw to a lead or from a losing position to a draw.
Yet in other situations they simply faced a good goal-keeper. Sam Johnstone’s trailing leg here saved Maupay’s far corner finish.
Against Burnley, Nick Pope’s quick reflex save with his left leg turned Danny Welbeck’s chance into a corner.
And finally, Emiliano Martinez’s excellent reading of the game decreased Maupay’s chance of doubling Brighton’s lead despite them eventually winning the game against Aston Villa.
In a league where every team has a top tier goalkeeper, the three aforementioned situations are normal. Hitting the woodwork and facing good goal-keeping could classify as being unlucky, and the case study for now doesn’t show a significant danger for Brighton sitting 17th in the table.
Which leads us to the third act. The misses.
It all starts on a Monday night at the Amex, Solly March and Tariq Lamptey’s width is causing Chelsea’s back four problems out wide and from an inch perfect cross, Lamptey finds Maupay.
Maupay misjudges the cross and shoulders the ball instead of heading it.
Then early in the second half, March plays an excellent cross for Aaron Connolly….
….who gets too close to the ball and fumbles it wide off target. Here, Connolly should have probably slowed his run to meet the ball at the correct time.
The last chance against Chelsea in this study is Lewis Dunk’s free header from a set piece. Under no pressure, he headed the ball out wide. Not even on target.
A similar chance also originated from a crossing opportunity against Sheffield United with the Seagulls a goal down. Jahanbakhsh’s cross was played into a dangerous zone centrally….
….and with Aaron Ramsdale punching thin air, the ball fell to Connolly against an empty net. He headed the ball from beneath it rather than striking it from the center, resulting in the ball going over the bar.
Brighton were unlucky in the Manchester United game for sure, but Leandro Trossard’s chance here could have altered the game. Brighton’s waves of pressure meant that they probably could have scored the third. Instead, The Belgian international struck the ball straight at David de Gea.
The Trossard chance against Manchester United was under huge pressure, as was this one with Welbeck’s low cross coming towards Lamptey at pace. The young defender skied it over the bar, but regardless of the pressure, better finishing could have meant a different outcome in both situations.
Even when moving away from situations where the striker isn’t in control of the ball coming towards him to situations where the striker has the ball at his feet, Brighton were still underwhelming. Connolly missed from here against a poor Liverpool defensive line in the first half.
Then ten minutes after, Maupay’s penalty went wide of the left post. Again, not on target.
The icing on the cake is Welbeck’s chance in the first ten minutes away to Leicester City. Jahanbakhsh’s perfectly weighted pass found Welbeck behind the Leicester City defensive line.
Only for Welbeck to take a clumsy first touch….
….which decreased his shooting angle, but still enough for him to score. He didn’t as Kasper Schmeichel managed to save it with his left foot. Schmeichel deserves credit for the save, but Welbeck only made it harder for himself and despite that still had the whole goal to shoot at.
In all of those missed chances a goal would have changed the game state. Brighton miss chances when they need them the most, leaving them in an unfavorable position down the table.
The third act had a plot twist, Brighton are missing easy chances which is leaving them vulnerable against the gravitational force of the relegation zone. Taking into consideration the xG numbers, number of matches played, number of goals scored and the classification of Brighton’s chances, Brighton aren’t only unlucky. Their poor finishing is affecting the situation as well.
Lady Luck could smile again at Brighton, but they will need their finishing boots to meet her.