How brilliant was that performance from Arsenal at Stamford Bridge? The expectations heading into the match, attitude by both squads and the respective supporters for each side. Quite the turnaround from a few seasons ago. Up next is a midweek pause for everyone’s favorite competition.
How seriously should Mikel Arteta take the League Cup? Arsenal have been runners-up a few times over the past few decades, but haven’t won the competition since 1992-93. While it is definitely the minor Cup and the least important of Arsenal’s four competitions this season, they have the depth to make a mark this year.
Brighton enters the match on the back of two straight victories, 4-1 over Chelsea and 3-2 topping Wolves. That lifts them into 7th place, a brilliant first half of the Premier League season. And that’s despite losing their manager, plus numerous other key individuals, in September.
These two sides have met several times in the FA Cup, but it has been quite a while since they’ve faced off in the League Cup. In fact, the two have played twice in the League Cup, but both iterations came in 1979, just one month apart. A nil-nil draw before Arsenal saw off Brighton 4-0 in the replay.
In this week’s Q&A we chatted with Scott from the We Are Brighton website.
TSF: We’ve got to start with the manager switch. How surprised were you that Graham Potter left, midseason? What have you seen so far Roberto De Zerbi and how his approach might change what we’ve been used to seeing from Brighton?
WAB: Potter was always going to move onto bigger things than Brighton, so it was not really a surprise him being offered a job by one of the European Super League Elite Six. The timing however was appalling; one week after the transfer window had shut and with him leaving the Albion with Danny Welbeck as the only proven Premier League forward in the squad. To make matters worse, Potter then took the entire first team coaching staff with him, including those who had been at the club long before him. And Chelsea have since come in for our head of recruitment too. Potter’s departure has led to the asset stripping of the Albion by Chelsea.
Brighton though are known as one of the best run clubs in the Premier League for a reason. Early days in the Roberto De Zerbi Era it might be, but there is a feeling that the Albion might have landed an upgrade. De Zerbi is far more attacking than Potter and at a club often mocked for their ridiculous xG numbers, the Italian looks like the idea figure to turn chances into goals and push Brighton towards Europe.
Potter’s obsession with possession and sideways pass followed by sideways pass has been replaced by fast, risk taking football with players encouraged to shoot as much as possible. For it to already be working after six weeks after the mess Potter left when walking away is phenomenal really.
TSF: The current era of Brighton in the top flight was hovering in the 15th-17th range until last season which saw the club’s best-ever finish, 9th. After a great start this season (currently 8th) and just four points outside the top four, what is your current hope/expectation for where they might finish this year?
WAB: Brighton fans realistic expectations are for an improvement year-on-year, even if it is very minor. History though shows that most teams who crack the top 10 for the first time then slide back down the table, a sort of second-season syndrome. Leeds, Sheffield United, Burnley, Southampton... there are loads of recent examples of it. So to finish better than ninth looked tough at the start, and that was before all the upheaval caused by Potter abandoning ship.
Another top 10 finish would be impressive. Who knows what is possible under De Zerbi though? The most fascinating prospect if that he gets a six week break to work with the squad, impart his ideas and fine tune them to what he wants - a mini pre-season of sorts. Brighton could be one of the teams to watch after the World Cup, once he has had a true opportunity to stamp himself on these players.
TSF: Moisés Caicedo is a standout player and is drawing interest from Real Madrid, Chelsea & Newcastle. After arriving for about $5m last year, he has been a regular starter for Brighton this season. Describe his role in this squad and if you believe they can hold on to him during the January transfer window.
WAB: He made his debut at the Emirates in April, when Brighton famously arrived having lost six games in a row and then been held 0-0 at home by a ghastly Norwich side. The Albion won 2-1 that day (sorry for the reminder) and have been defeated only five times in the Premier League since. That is the difference Caicedo has made. You could even argue that Caicedo earned Potter the Stamford Bridge job as there is surely no way Chelsea would have been interested until Brighton started flying.
He is a bit of everything, really. He reads the game well, breaks up attacks, gets Brighton on the front foot and even has an eye for goal. His engine is superb and he covers an unreal amount of ground. As for a January sale, Brighton do not tend to do anything in the winter window either buying or selling - hence why Yves Bissouma stayed last January, even though it meant accepting less money in the summer from Spurs as he entered the final year of his contract.
Next summer is a different prospect altogether. If somebody meets the Albion’s evaluation, then the club would probably sanction a sale. Especially if it were Real Madrid. You cannot really say to a player “You are staying at Brighton” when the most famous, successful club in the world come calling.
TSF: The last two seasons Brighton have advanced to the Fourth Round. Considering their start in the league, how seriously do you believe they will take this Cup competition?
WAB: Absolutely no idea, to be honest. Potter took the League Cup seriously enough and the FA Cup to his credit, making changes but always maintaining a strong enough side to beat whoever we were paired with.
De Zerbi might view it as a chance to take a first look at the players he is yet to see play a competitive game for the club. Brighton fans would prefer to see him take it seriously. The Albion have never won a major trophy in their history - if you don’t count the 1910 Charity Shield.
This group of players have proven on their day that they can compete with anyone in the country, so why not have a go at making a bit of history? Nobody would ever forget the 2022-23 season if Brighton lifted silverware at Wembley, whereas in 20 years time an eighth or ninth place finish would be largely forgotten about.
TSF: With the match being at the Emirates what is your scoreline prediction and do you expect Brighton to play more Premier League starters or backups and academy prospects?
WAB: We seem to like playing at Emirates. It is a tough one to predict though as it depends on what sort of side De Zerbi goes with. With Arsenal in title contention and competing in Europe, your focus will obviously be on frying bigger fish than the League Cup. If De Zerbi names a strong XI, then I would back the Albion to win as a consequence. If you are going to push me for a prediction, a 1-1 draw and on to penalties. Nothing quite like sitting on the fence.
Thanks to Scott and We Are Brighton for taking with us ahead of the upcoming Carabao Cup match.