Already off to a 2-0 start in the English Premier League, Brighton & Hove Albion is a team to watch out for during the 2021/22 campaign. Do I expect the Seagulls to contend for a top four spot and the Champions League next season? No I don't. But they should easily eclipse the oddsmakers’ projection of 46.5 points. Having taken the full six (points) after two matches, they are well on their way to going Over that number.
Consider that Brighton finished with 41 points last year and that was with some incredibly poor luck.
Though they ended up in 16th place, Brighton was a shocking fifth in expected goal difference (+16.2) last season. The only four clubs to finish above them in that metric were the actual top four in the table (standings): Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. For those that may be unfamiliar, expected goals (or xG for short) measures the probability that a shot will result in a goal based on the characteristics of that shot and the events leading up to it.
Brighton had the fourth best shot differential in the Premier League last season (+129), however they were somehow outscored 46-40. Their actual goal differential was still better than four teams who finished directly above them. Even though the actual goal differential was not as good as it “should have been,” Brighton clearly should have had a mid-table finish. Crystal Palace (14th place) had a -25 goal differential while Southampton (15th) had a -21 GD. Both Newcastle (12th) and Wolverhampton (13th) were -16. It can easily be argued that Brighton played better football than any of those four teams last season. It just didn’t show in the standings.
Per xG, the Seagulls “should” have scored 12 more goals while also conceding 10 fewer than they actually did. Now some of this has to do with the fact Brighton was typically down and looking for equalizers at the end of the match. But there can be no denying that this was the most snakebitten side in the entire Premier League last year.
Brighton were the “kings of the draw” last season, a distinction you really don’t want. They had 14 draws in 2020/21. Only four other teams had at least 10. Turn some of those draws into wins and all of a sudden you’re moving right up the table. On the flip side, only nine teams suffered fewer losses.
Again, a top four finish for Brighton is too lofty to project for even the biggest believer in analytics. They may not even end up qualifying for the Europa League. But this is definitely a lock to be the most improved EPL side and just maybe the most improved side in all of Europe.