Brighton are the latest Premier League team to be playing in Europe, following in the footsteps of West Ham, instead entering the Europa League next season.
Here I take a look at some the issues they may face next season, and, ultimately, whether they are likely to thrive, or be in for a season of Premier League struggle like West Ham were this season.
The first thing Brighton need to get right, is how many players they bring in during the summer transfer window, the calibre of players they bring in, and what kind of players they bring in.
For the past few windows, I have absolutely loved watching how Brighton conduct their business. They sign a relatively unknown player that nobody else is looking at, and 12-18 months later they sell them for £50 million.
Last season they made 3 big sales, and one standard sale. Cucurella went to Chelsea for £60 million, surpassing Brighton’s record fee received for Ben White the season before from Arsenal, which stood at £50 million.
Yves Bissmouma moved to Tottenham Hotspur in a deal that could rise up to £35 million, with Leandro Trossard moving to their London rivals Arsenal in January for around £27 million.
Even this season, Brighton continue to sell their star players. World Cup winner Alexis MacAllister has already been announced as a Liverpool player for around £35 million, which could, reportedly, rise to £55 million.
There is also a lot of talk about Caicedo’s future at the club, with Chelsea and Man United heavily linked with the young midfielder. If a deal can be agreed between either club, it could see Brighton register yet another record fee.
In terms of players coming in, Brighton have still been finding gem after gem. Nobody can ignore the season Kaoru Mitoma has had. It is hard to believe that the winger only cost Brighton just short of £3 million a few seasons ago, and they have continued to find players like this.
Pervis Estupiñán arrived at the club to replace Cucurella for less than half of the transfer fee, and has, arguably, been the better player this season out of the two. Evan Ferguson came up from their youth system and scored 6 goals, a great return for the young striker.
Even in preparation for this season, Brighton have been busy. They have already announced James Milner and Mahmoud Dahoud on free transfers to bolster their midfield, perhaps in preparation of Caicedo leaving. This is more smart business from Brighton, signing two players with European experience without spending a penny.
They have also, uncharacteristically, splashed the cash on one of the best prospects in the Championship, bringing in Joao Pedro, who scored 11 goals in 35 games last season in an underperforming Watford side.
It will be interesting to see how much more business Brighton do throughout the transfer window. They certainly need to bulk their squad up to be dealing with the Thursday night games they will have to play in now.
We may also find Brighton spending a bit more on players now. If they hope to stay in Europe and continue to fight for a place in the top 6 each season, they may look for players who have already established themselves in the top leagues, rather than trying to find more hidden gems.
In terms of players linked with a move to Brighton, there is not a lot of speculation. Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus has been linked with a move to the Premier League club, another signing which would cost Brighton a large sum of money, but would be a brilliant addition.
If Brighton lose any more key names, it is absolutely vital that they replace them with similar quality. If they want to compete in Europe, they need players to come in who will perform instantly.
One thing is for certain, Brighton will invest into this squad. They will need to in order to cope with Thursday night games. It will be interesting to see their team come the first game of the season.
Managing Midweek Games
The next issue Brighton will have to deal with, is how they are going to manage their fixture list. In a day and age where the fixture list is already congested for most Premier League teams, European competitions amplify this problem.
Next season, Brighton will play 38 games in the Premier League, will compete in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, with games played depending on how far they progress.
To add to this, they will now be playing at least 6 games in the Europa League group stage, with 3 of these games being overseas, and all on Thursday nights.
If we look at how many games Brighton played this season, they had the usual 38 in the Premier League, 5 in the FA Cup, and 3 in the Carabao Cup, totalling 46 games.
This season, if they perform as well as they have this season, they will play at least 52 games. If they progress any further in the domestic or European cups, then that number will increase.
This does not include any of the games played by any of Brighton’s players who went on international duty throughout the season, or were called up to play in the World Cup, such as MacAllister.
Fatigue and injuries are a major concern for any team who can potentially play 3 times in the space of 7 days. Injuries to key players can derail a teams season, it can alter the way they play, it can cost them games.
Brighton need to manage their game time next season. If they want to go far in the Europa League, they may have to look at forfeiting a domestic cup. Currently, they do not have the squad depth to compete on all four fronts.
Looking At West Ham
West Ham are, realistically, the only comparable for Brighton at the moment. Arsenal returned to play in Europe recently, but they have a squad big enough, and the clubs as a whole have played in Europe more recently than West Ham.
For West Ham, it was new. Their more recent European runs have all ended in the qualifying rounds. In the 16-17 season, West Ham got knocked out in the play-off round by Astra Giurgi, losing 2-1 after both legs.
In the 15-16 season, they made it to the third qualifying round of the Europa League, only to meet Astra Giurgiu, and lose 4-3 on aggregate.
Looking past West Ham‘s failures in Europe, they have been more successful recently. In the 21-22 season, they played in the Europa League, and had a successful run. They finished first in their group, then knocked out Sevilla and Lyon.
They met with Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi finals, and lost both legs, resulting in them being knocked out 3-1 on aggregate. They performed well in the Premier League, and earned themselves a Europa Conference League spot.
This season has been a rollercoaster for West Ham. They tasted glory in Europe, but struggled to survive in the Premier League. Brighton need to take note of the mistakes West Ham made.
If we look at West Ham’s form surrounding their European games, the issue presents itself boldly. Before their first group stage game, West Ham travelled to Chelsea and lost 2-1.
They then travelled to Denmark, where they beat Genk 3-0 on the 15th of September, before playing Everton away on the 18th, where they lost 1-0.
After beating Silkeborg 1-0 at home, they travelled to play Man United 3 days later and lost 1-0. On the 3rd of November they played their final group stage game in Romania, which West Ham won. They then played Crystal Palace at home 3 days later and lost 2-1.
Throughout the group stage, the issue is obvious. The fatigue the West Ham squad faced when having to travel twice in 3 days, or even when they had to return home, was having an effect on the squad.
It did not stop after the group stage. After trips to Cyprus and Belgium, West Ham dropped points at home on both occasions. Surrounding their European fixtures, West Ham recorded 3 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses.
Whilst this does not seem too detrimental at first, it certainly contributed to West Ham‘s struggles. The quick turnover of games led to players feeling fatigued, underperforming in key games.
The bad results also got the home crowd on their back, at times turning the home atmosphere negative. Despite flying high in Europe, the fans were not happy with how their Premier League campaign was going.
In the end, West Ham won the Europa Conference League, and survived in the Premier League, finishing 6 points clear of the relegation zone, after hitting that magical 40 point mark.
Brighton need to take note here. They need to find a way to rotate their squad in order to compete in all 4 competitions without causing fatigue or injury. This is why squad depth is so important, and it is why Brighton need to invest wisely.
Will They Succeed Or Fail?
So, ultimately, will Brighton succeed or fail? At the moment, it is hard to tell. Their key players are leaving for big money, and they have already made a few good investments so far.
If they can get the right players in to fit their system, and they manage to stay clear of any major fatigue or injury issues, then I do not see why Brighton cannot go far in Europe, and perform in the Premier League at the same time.
Even if they do underperform in Europe and get knocked out early, Brighton are at a stage now where they could seriously challenge for one of the two domestic cups. Any form of silverware would be a massive achievement for Brighton.
In terms of Europe though, I think Brighton have some quality players. They have players who have dealt damage to the likes of Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal, so why could they not do it against anyone else?
If they make it out of the group stage, depending on who they are drawn against, I would not bet against them making, at least, the quarter finals, which would be a very good run for them. Only time will tell.