It was a poor performance at Burnley, which means that we have lost two of our last three games. On the other hand, when I previewed the Newcastle game at the beginning of December, I was (admittedly, tongue in cheek) looking for 24 points from the next eight games. Perhaps I could have put it another way. If we could get 15 points from the seven games leading up to the Brighton fixture at the beginning of 2019, how many fans would have taken that? Or even, if in the month of December we could get three more points than Manchester City in the seven games to be played by the end of the year, who would be happy with that, especially with the (usual) lengthy injury list that we have?
Whatever the reasons for what happened at Burnley, and I’m sure that tiredness was a contributory factor, if not as important a part as has been said, then if we can bounce back with a win tonight then all will be forgotten for the time being. Wolves and Watford stand in our way of reclaiming eighth place, and even a point may be enough to take us into the top half of the table, as two of our adversaries in the race to finish seventh (Bournemouth and Watford) meet on the South Coast tonight. I’d like to see that game end in a draw, as well as the Wolves v Palace game. In fact I always like to see teams that we are in direct competition with losing or drawing their games for the benefit of our fortunes in the league.
Ironically, Brighton are not renowned for their performances away from the Amex, especially when they travel to London, where they have lost seven of their last eight games in the capital. Of course the exception to this is the 3-0 drubbing they gave us last season at the London Stadium. This is only their second season back in the top flight, but manager Chris Hughton (much under-rated in my opinion) has done an excellent job.
In the three games played so far since their return, the Seagulls have beaten us on each occasion, but given our recent run against flying creatures (magpies, bluebirds, eagles) let us hope that we can add a fourth bird to the list tonight. Oh, for a repeat of that glorious sunny afternoon in April 2012 when Ricardo Vaz Te scored some wonderful goals, and we trounced Brighton 6-0 in a Championship fixture on our way back to the Premier League.
If fit (and not too tired) I’d like to see a triple A front line tonight of Antonio, Anderson and Arnie. In midfield I’d like to see Snodgrass, Rice and Obiang. And if Zabaleta is fit, then I’d like to see him take his place alongside Diop, Ogbonna, and Cresswell. My player of the season, Fabianski (just shading Rice) will continue in goal, although I assume Adrian will get a run out in the Cup next week.
It won’t be easy against an Albion side that are well organised, and have taken four points from their last two games against Everton and Arsenal, after a run of three successive defeats. It would be good to get off to a quick start and score early on. But I’ve been racking my brains trying to remember the last time we scored a goal at home in the first half of a game, and despite our excellent recent run, I don’t think we’ve scored in the first 45 minutes of a match at the London Stadium for two months now, since the win over Burnley on 3 November.
Perhaps today we can put that right? I’ll go for a 3-1 win.