Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Wolves 0

When Kenny Jackett had amassed 15 points from the opening 13 games of last season on a shoestring budget, the natives were restless.


Yet after an extraordinary summer of shenanigans and a storyline of Sky Dream Team proportions, here we sit, a solitary point better off under Walter Zenga, with two paltry wins since August 20.

While money can’t buy success, it’s about time it purchased a bit of accountability before this season – so full of promise – lurches into the laughing stock.

For 11 of our 13 results (Reading home, Newcastle away), Wolves haven’t bothered showing up for the first 45 minutes, in a maddening trend exploited this time by Brighton.

And of the 13 hastily assembled summer signings, only three were on the pitch when we kicked off (Costa, Saiss and Oniangue) to suggest there are more problems behind the scenes that many fans want to give credit for.

What became of Ola John, a wide player whose stating berth is filled by central midfielder Prince? Or Paul Gladon, who can’t even make our goal shy squad which only has two recognised strikers to its name?

Rather than heads being scratched and questions being asked, a devil-may-care attitude seems to pervade, with Fosun’s megabucks cushioning any questions that would otherwise be asked in any other given season.

Mine, were a chance to ever be offered to Walter Zenga, would be along the lines of:

· What do your teamtalks consist of in content and delivery? And at what point will you adopt a different tack to ensure we actually participate in games of football for the first 45 minutes?

· Why do you play a 4-3-3 formation, with players out of position, when it patently doesn’t work?

· Do you not rate Texeira or Caveleiro when neither can command a regular place in your side? (The latter a supposed match-winner worth £7 million who looks inferior to James Henry.)

· Come to think of it, did you have a single say on any of our summer signings when you are so reticent to play any of them? IE Do Ola John and Paul Gladon exist?

· Should we send Stearman back?

Thomas commented last night that he wasn’t surprised at this start, given the type of players we’ve accrued and the head coach in charge of them. Personally, I am staggered. I thought the days of Steven Mouyokolo and Tomasz Frankowski were a thing of the past, not to mention the penniless Birmingham City outperforming us once more.

After last night’s no-show, give or take a final few frantic pushes, we are what we are…

…Low on inspiration, high on squad numbers and two points above Aston Villa.

Brighton & Hove Albion Vs Wolves Preview

There’s been some tough away fixtures in the first quarter of the season.

After tonight we’ll have played Brighton, Villa, Newcastle, Blues and Huddersfield.

Assuming this match follows a similar pattern to those other fixtures, we’ll have been competitive with everyone, which must give Walter Zenga belief.

Wolves seem to be able to find a rhythm away from Molineux and an intensity that teams struggle to contain.

Long may that continue. If it does, results will certainly improve.

Brighton

1024px-Brighton_&_Hove_Albion_logo.svgThe Seagulls overachieved last season, amassing a whopping 89 points and missing out on automatic promotion by a goal difference of just 2.

It was little surprise they were a spent force in the play-offs, going out to Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final.

But they’ve hit the ground running again this year and look a decent bet to go close once more.

Chris Hughton has bolstered his squad with experience in the shape of Steve Sidwell and Glenn Murray as well as highly rated Reading midfielder Oliver Norwood.

They dropped points at home over the weekend thanks to Preston’s last minute equaliser so will be keen to get back to winning ways. They’re unbeaten in their last six.

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Wolves

Walter Zenga says he’d rather by lucky than good at the moment and I can sort of see where he’s coming from.

team-for-brighton

The team were good against Villa but didn’t get much luck. Personally, I’d stick with the same eleven or something very close to it.

When we’ve played really well (Blues, Newcastle and Villa come to mind), it’s because the balance of the team has been right.

Games like Wigan, Norwich and Barnsley slipped away because the composition of the team wasn’t quite there. We need that combination of ability and physical power.

Although many weren’t a fan of Oninangue out wide, I thought he gave us more of a foothold in the game and with Coady bolstering the middle of the park, Costa had license to do as he pleased. It worked well.

Iorfa’s pace and power going forward also gave the team something extra, with Hause competent on his return and Doherty much better down the left.

Teixeira, Cavaleiro and possibly even Dicko could be likely starters if Zenga chooses to move some of the pieces around.

Walter Zenga

Predictions

A lot went into that performance at Villa so repeating the trick down on the coast will be very difficult.

And make no mistake about it, Brighton are a much better team than Villa. They won’t just wilt and die after 45 minutes.

Chris Hughton was very complimentary in his pre-match amble about Wolves so he’ll also know exactly what to expect.

But I saw enough at the weekend to suggest we’ll give as good as we get.

1-1.

Up The Wolves!

Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Wolves 1

You would have got generous odds on Wolves racking up three consecutive cleansheets prior to this festive purple patch.

Brighton Wolves celebrate

The very notion of a shut out seemed far fetched after conceding seven goals in three days against Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday.

But well done Wolves and well done Kenny Jackett for discovering some much needed defensive resolve.

An enforced change in personnel looks to have helped with Connor Coady going from strength to strength after a spell on the sidelines.

Coady, along with midfield mainstay Kevin McDonald and the ever willing Dave Edwards have plugged those dangerous pockets of space in front of our inexperienced back four.

That’s taken some of the heat off Batth and Ebanks-Landell and shown they can be an effective partnership when adequately shielded.

Matt Doherty has also impressed on his return to the side, winning headers and generally showcasing physicality the head coach obviously feels Scott Golbourne is lacking.

Carl Ikeme looks back to his best, no doubt benefiting from a sustained run in a side many would say he should never have been out of in the first place.

But whether it’s a change of shape, a change of lineup, a confident goalkeeper or all of the above, the end product is the best run of results the team have enjoyed all season.

So what now?

Keeping Benik Afobe would be handy. His selfless running and hold up play have been a feature of late.

Even today up against the highly impressive Lewis Dunk, he protected the ball effectively and on occasion caused Brighton problems.

Hopefully the injury that forced Jordan Graham off late in the day doesn’t prove serious as his dancing feet have been decisive in each of our last four goals.

There was an element of fortune today, but his cross into that well known ‘corridor of uncertainty’ drew the all important error.

Keeping Graham fit and protecting his burgeoning talent are no doubt high on the head coach’s agenda.

Finding one or two more bodies to improve the team should also be right up there and may prove decisive over the final stretch.

There are a ruck of players coming back from loan spells, one new signing already waiting in the wings and the possibility of more to come.

And who could have foreseen Bjorn Sigurdarson’s resurgence? He impressed in a short cameo and could be the season’s bonus ball.

A turbulent January off the pitch seems inevitable, but with three winnable home fixtures to attack could things get even better?

With this Jekyll and Hyde, anything can happen team, it’s safe to say all bets are off.

Brighton & Hove Albion Vs Wolves Preview

You probably shouldn’t feel overly confident when you’re about to play a team that have only lost twice all season.

Wolves Brighton

Furthermore our current record against sides in the top six currently reads drawn four, lost two.

But after successive victories and with a ‘nothing to lose’ approach, you just wonder whether Wolves can cause an upset on the south coast?

Wins over Reading and Charlton dug us out of trouble but a positive result against the early season pacesetters would feel infinitely more significant.

Brighton

1024px-Brighton_&_Hove_Albion_logo.svgAfter that lightning start the Seagulls have only managed three wins in their last 10 league matches and are now back in the play-off pack.

Having now lost a couple of matches and suffered some injuries, it will be interesting to see if they can last the pace.

I wasn’t overly impressed when they came to Molineux earlier in the season. They were solid but didn’t look like world beaters, even when Wolves were reduced to ten.

That said, teams don’t put long undefeated runs together in the Championship if they haven’t discovered the right formula.

Rajiv van La Parra has been helping them out with a few goals, but he’ll sit this one out to further test the depth of Chris Hughton’s squad.

Wolves

Given that Kenny Jackett didn’t make any changes for Charlton, it seems unlikely he’ll move things around for this one.

Wolves team for Brighton

Grant Holt has departed so that frees up space on the bench for someone to move up the ladder. Whether or not new signing Michal Zyro is eligible on New Year’s day, I’m not sure.

Speaking of the winger, it seems likely one of our wide men will disappear in January to accommodate the Pole. Will van La Parra be sold? Will Ojo be sent back? Both?

Either way, our attacking players have consistently produced of late, which means we’re carrying requisite threat to win matches.

Predictions

It’s definitely a good time to be playing Brighton. They’re wobbling and we should be feeling good about life again after a decent Christmas.

But prior to losing their last two home matches, they’d won eight and drawn two, so it’s still fair to describe the Amex as a fortress.

A draw would complete a solid period of form, but I think we could do even better.

2-1.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 0

Goalless draws are seldom met with applause.

Martinez

But this result, coming off the back of the hugely dispiriting trip to Bolton, felt like a turning point of sorts for Kenny Jackett’s team of fledglings.

Brighton’s excellent start to the season indicated a challenge lay ahead and the visitors made a lively start.

Sheyi Ojo offered little defensive support to Scott Golbourne and our left back struggled as a result, tripping Jamie Murphy to concede our third penalty in just seven Championship fixtures.

Thankfully, Emi Martinez’s horror show against QPR is beginning to look like a one off occurrence. The man on loan from Arsenal began a man-of-the-match display by saving both Tomer Hemed’s spot kick and the subsequent follow-up.

The decision to axe Carl Ikeme is one that has been discussed plenty enough but the performance of his successor today suggested that their may be some method to Kenny’s perceived madness.

From that point on we more than matched Chris Hughton’s table toppers and looked more likely to break the deadlock prior to the halftime whistle.

Dominic Iorfa enjoyed his restoration to the team and was arguably our biggest threat, regularly jinxing past the brilliantly named Gaetan Bong.

Up front, Adam Le Fondre’s neat build-up play offered plenty and took focus away from the unusually subdued performance of Benik Afobe.

Dreams of an opening goal were soon quashed by Connor Coady’s red card, brought about by an arguably reckless lunge on Elvis Manu.

My initial reaction was that Jerry Simpson’s call had been harsh but, having considered the matter in a calmer environment, now feel that he was within his rights to give the Liverpudlian his marching orders.

Going in with your studs showing always invites trouble and Coady should have known better.

The sending off lay a huge gauntlet but was responded to in emphatic style. Every man put in a gargantuan shift and gave a timely reminder to all in attendance that there is plenty of spirit in this team, something that will no doubt delight our manager.

Kortney Hause gave his most assured performance to date and has probably done enough to be given the chance to strike up a partnership with Danny Batth once the skipper makes his eagerly anticipated return to the starting eleven.

None of this is to say that the fears brought about by our stuttering start to the season are now invalid. Our midfield is bypassed far too often and is running the risk of edging Afobe towards the exit door by failing to create regular chances for him.

Resolving the contractual impasse with Kevin McDonald is a matter of real urgency because he remains our most creative outlet. The continued omission of Rajiv van La Parra is also beginning to look questionable, given the underwhelming form of our other wide men.

This spirited display against a very capable Brighton team offers plenty of encouragement but doesn’t quite go as far to suggest that a surge up the league table is imminent.

Hope remains that Kenny will use the loan market to good effect but the mooted signing of Shola Ameobi suggests that future arrivals at Molineux may be of a more modest nature than most would like.

Still, as Johnny Mercer one said, you’ve got to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.

Wolves Vs Brighton & Hove Albion Preview

I know it’s repeated ad infinitum, but the margin of error in Championship fixtures really is razor thin.

LuaLua

We could easily be going into this game with a 100% home record having dominated large chunks against both Hull & QPR.

Equally, we could have lost all three matches, having ridden our luck in a tricky second half against Charlton.

Brighton are running away with it at the moment, but even they would probably admit many of their games could have gone either way.

And it’s the fact we’re highly competitive in every fixture – despite so much unrest in the squad – that should give us hope that better things may lie ahead.

Brighton

1024px-Brighton_&_Hove_Albion_logo.svgHad it not been for Jacob Butterfield, the Seagulls would be rocking up at Molineux with a perfect record.

The Huddersfield midfielder (who has since joined Derby) is the only player to blemish what’s been an impeccable start for Chris Hughton’s men.

There’s always one team that emerge from the wilderness and suddenly look unbeatable, so it’s not entirely surprising what they’ve achieved. The question is: Can they sustain it?

Israel striker Tomer Hemed has been a consistent scorer and supported by the lively Kazenga LuaLua, they suddenly look a real threat going forward.

But it’s the goals conceded column that tells much of the story. Having shipped just 5 goals (compared to our 10), only Middlesbrough (4) have a better defensive record.

Wolves

I might have felt more relaxed about last week’s team selection had it included Kevin McDonald, but without the Scot in the side I couldn’t suppress my deflation:

Wolves team for Brighton

I know there’s been issues over his contract and some are suggesting he doesn’t work hard enough, but he’s a vital cog in the machine. He pulls the strings and is a nailed on starter for me every single week.

In the below video, Kenny suggests Adam Le Fondre might be carrying a minor knock so I wonder if he’s considering a slight shift in shape and personnel?

I’m looking forward to seeing what Nathan Byrne can do and hopefully he can add that injection of pace and trickery that’s been lacking at times. I think either he or Ojo will get the nod.

The gaffer

Predictions

As the undisputed king of incorrect predictions this season, I find myself once more pondering what might be considered the most likely outcome.

Brighton can’t keep winning forever and are maybe due a bit of bad luck. Equally though, the combination of high confidence strikers against our generous back four makes me shudder.

I’ll sit on the fence with an entertaining score draw forecast.

2-2

Up The Wolves!