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Brighton & Hove Albion are not clinical enough.
Taking no chances has been the story of the Seagulls 2020/21 season and it largely explains why a team that is capable of playing football that can go head-to-head with the best teams in the Premier League is ranked 17. at the table with only two wins on the board.
It’s pretty clear that what Graham Potter needs is a forward to get the ball into the back of the net. The Brighton manager was reluctant to enter the transfer market to find one in the summer. He scrapped the idea of signing what he described as a “silver bullet” center forward for a lot of money, instead saying he wants to upgrade the production of Seagull’s existing forward options.
Potter couldn’t do that. Instead, Neal Maupay suffered a three-month goal drought, during which he was removed from the team entirely due to discipline problems. Aaron Connolly has a goal to his name throughout the season. Since November, Leandro Trossard has seemed like a shadow of the talent he had after the lockout and at the start of 2020/21 and Alireza Jahanbakhsh has barely had a glimpse.
Brighton signed Danny Welbeck, but that transfer was completed only once the window was closed and the former England striker was released by Watford. It was a deal that was born out of convenience more than anything else. Welbeck needed a club, Brighton needed reinforcements, here’s a performance-incentivized one-year deal that’s risk-free for both parties.
Welbeck has two goals to his name, has shown glimpses of his old self and at least seems to know how to finish an opportunity. However, his playing time has to be managed carefully and he hasn’t really addressed the problems Brighton has when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.
That is why there is now a growing clamor among Brighton supporters for the return of Glenn Murray. The 37-year-old joined Watford on loan for the season but has barely got a nose at Vicarage Road with former Hornets boss Vladimir Ivić, giving Murray just one Championship start and four appearances as alternate. Murray is yet to figure under the latest headline in the Vicarage Road hot seat, Xisco.
Watford is reportedly ready to cut his losses on Murray and terminate your loan early. Could that lead to a romantic comeback to the Amex and one last song for the Seagulls’ second all-time top scorer as he fired them to Premier League safety?
It’s not hard to see why some Brighton fans see Murray as the answer.
Take, for example, the Seagulls’ 1-1 draw with Sheffield United. Connolly defied the laws of geometry by heading a tall, wide center from two yards into the middle of an open goal. In the final seconds, Alireza Jahanbakhsh headed free against the crossbar from three meters. These are just two examples of the kinds of possibilities that Brighton’s current list of strikers cannot save for what Murray will have breakfast for.
Aging has never affected Murray’s ability. Even when he first signed with Brighton in January 2008 for £ 300,000 from Rochdale, he never trusted the beat. His game has always been about keeping your game, intelligence, and being in the right place at the right time. That he scores so many goals is due to his skill as a spiker. In the 2018/19 campaign, Murray was the third most clinical striker in the Premier League, saving 24.1% of the chances it had. Only Anthony Martial and Sadio Mane were more deadly; Murray’s conversion rate put him ahead of Mo Salah, Sergio Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
For whatever reason, Potter never took on Murray after his appointment as Seagulls boss in May 2019. Murray was barely used in the 2019/20 season by Brighton, even though he proved his worth every time he was called. On the rare occasions that Potter started him in the second half of the season, he scored a late draw to salvage a 3-3 draw at West Ham United in February and helped Maupay when Brighton drew 1-1 with Southampton in form in July. . . Murray and Maupay together caused real trouble for the Saints that night, making it even more bizarre that a potentially potent partnership between the two barely got a chance.
It’s Potter’s dislike for Murray that makes the prospect of a fairy tale return unlikely. One of the most ridiculous tactical decisions made by Potter in his reign thus far, and there is a lot of competition for that accolade, came in Bournemouth last January, when he took on Solly March and Leandro Trossard as wingers to deliver crosses for Aaron Connolly as Murray remained an unused understudy. The fact that Potter would rather rely on the 5’6 forward’s aerial prowess than Murray’s skill set as a target was telling.
The fact that there is even talk of Murray being the man who will change Brighton’s season does not reflect well on the club’s transfer transactions in the forward department. Of course, this is nothing new; Since Gus Poyet allowed Murray to go to Crystal Palace in the summer of 2011, the Seagulls have tried to replace him with little to no success.
Leonardo Ulloa filled the gap for 18 months between January 2013 and his sale to Leicester City in the summer of 2014. Brighton, though he never found a Murray heir until he re-signed Bournemouth’s own Murray in 2016. Potter may have decided yes. I don’t rate the veteran, but he also hasn’t been able to find anyone to score the goals Murray made by firing Brighton to promotion and then keeping them in the top flight with almost no help from Chris Hughton. Over the course of the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, Murray scored 36% of the Seagulls’ goals in the top flight, the highest amount a player has ever achieved. never He has contributed to only one team since the Premier League was formed in 1992.
When you see Murray’s output in cold, hard numbers like that 36% or his 24.1% conversion rate, you begin to understand why Brighton fans wonder if the answer to their scoring problems can’t be found with a player who already owns his club.
Unfortunately for those yearning for a romantic comeback, it is the opinion of one man that matters, Potter, and he has made his position on Murray perfectly clear.