TACTICAL football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) gives us the lowdown on Super Sunday's match-up between Brighton and Wolves.
Brighton v Wolves | Sunday 8th December 2019, 16:30 | Sky Sports
Graham Potter’s Brighton host Wolves in Super Sunday’s offering, as the Seagulls look to build on their impressive away victory at the Emirates on Thursday night. Goals from Adam Webster and Neal Maupay set Brighton on course to the three points, and moved the side up to 13th, just three points off the top-six.
Wolves made it 10 Premier League games unbeaten with a comfortable 2-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday, and with qualification already secured in their Europa League group ahead of Thursday night’s clash with Besiktas, Nuno Espirito Santo can prioritise this game before resting a number of key players.
Brighton’s narrow shape
Brighton were impressive in victory at Arsenal, and Potter’s versatile squad have shown tactical flexibility throughout the season. Potter likes to adapt his sides to the opposition, but one constant that he has tried to instil in his side throughout the season is to dominate possession, and it is expected for this to be the case on Sunday.
Averaging 53.3% possession, Albion have dominated the ball, even against the likes of Liverpool, whilst they passed Arsenal off the park for long periods, all be it only just edging possession with 51%. A contrast to the style Brighton fans have become used to, it should be more of the same, especially against a Wolves side who are comfortable sitting back and hitting teams on the counter.
Whether Potter opts for a back three or four awaits to be seen, due to his willingness to adapt depending on who Brighton are playing. One particular worry for Potter will be the width that Wolves attack with, and Brighton’s midfield have tended to be defend very narrow, leaving full backs vulnerable to 2v1s out wide.
A second half switch from Arsenal initially allowed the Gunners to gain a foothold in the game on Thursday, as the struggling Joe Willock was replaced by Nicolas Pepe, allowing Mesut Ozil back into his preferred central role, and pitting Pepe and Hector Bellerin against Dan Burn at full back.
Burn could be exposed
Although the full back did cope well as Aaron Mooy came wider to help defend against the threat, they originally found joy down this avenue and took time for Brighton to adapt, allowing Arsenal a way back into the game, and the threat of Adama Traore and Matt Doherty on Sunday is hard to overlook.
Burn’s mobility could be called into question, and who Potter opts to start at full back, or whether he rotates to a back five, could have a huge bearing on the game, especially given that Wolves’ left flank is equally as threatening, and could cause the Seagulls boss a headache.
Wolves’ ability to attack wide is a theme of their play and will move the ball away from the congested central areas, so shutting off passing channels in these avenues, like many teams have tried before, is key to Brighton’s hope of a result.
Old Gold to utilise the counter
Sheffield United were able to overrun the Wolves midfield with a high press early on, and Brighton themselves are happy to press out of possession, with energetic forwards Neal Maupay and Aidan Connolly leading this. Arsenal did show that there will be space available if able to pass through it, so if the impressive Portuguese midfield duo of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho can do so, it will set Wolves up to exploit Brighton on the break.
Wolves have shown themselves to be an excellent counter-attacking side this season, perfectly showcased by their victory at The Etihad earlier this season, and the in-form striker Raul Jimenez will have a huge role up against the physical centre halves of Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster, and Brighton have shown themselves to be vulnerable to the counter at times.
Arsenal were able to overload the Brighton defence quickly, due to the high line that Brighton chose to operate, so it would be no surprise to see a similar threat from Wolves come to fruition, especially with the pace of Wolves counter coupled with Brighton’s high line.
Brighton’s attackers are well equipped to cause problems to the Wolves backline, and in Connolly, Maupay and Leandro Trossard they possess a number of different options, all of whom have excellent ability to dribble on the ball and a willingness to run at defenders, as well as showcasing excellent movement off the ball, which is a dream for playmaker Pascal Gross.
Connolly was fouled five times against Arsenal, highlighting how the Irishman can cause problems for the opposition backline, whilst Trossard showcased his own ability to stretch defences off the bench when firing a shot over in stoppage time.
They will look to target Conor Coady, Romain Saiss and Leander Dendoncker at centre half with their dribbling ability, and as a result it does mean the tackles market may come into play for the Wolves backline, and is certainly an angle to consider when the teams are announced.
The betting angles
Wolves wide play and use of wingers Jota and Traore have lent their play to create plenty of crossing opportunities, as well as seeing them rack up corners, a tactic often favouring teams playing in the style of Wolves, especially against a potentially narrow Brighton midfield where they can subsequently create overloads.
Averaging 5.13 corners per-game, it does make Wolves to have Over 4.5 Corners an appealing option at 72/100 (Bet365), especially given Brighton average 5.60 against.
The counter-attacking nature Wolves attack, coupled with Brighton’s high line also points me in the direction on the card market. Unfortunately, given Potter’s tendency to rotate and mix it up so much tactically, picking an individual player to be booked becomes a tough ask, however if adding in Over 1.5 Cards for Brighton to a with the above option, it can boost the price to 2/1 (Bet365).
Jonathan Moss is the man taking charge, and with 45 yellow cards and two red cards, leniency isn’t an issue.
The other appealing option for this game is to take Both Teams To Score, which is available at 1/1 (Sport Pesa). Although Wolves will sit in and look to contain Brighton, Brighton have shown they are more than capable of creating chances, whilst showing vulnerability on the break themselves.
An xGa of 26.21 for Brighton highlights their defensive worries, and both sides are full of confidence going forward, and an early goal would further reinforce the chances of an exciting game.
Brighton v Wolves – Wolves to win Over 4.5 Corners and Brighton to collect Over 1.5 Cards (2/1 Bet365)
Brighton v Wolves – Both Teams To Score (1/1 Sport Pesa)