What can the Premier League elite expect from Brighton & Hove Albion?

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Chris Hughton's side will compete in the Premier League season next year - Goal takes a look at what we can expect from the Seagulls

Brighton & Hove Albion were homeless and heading out of the Football League 20 years ago. On the final day of the 1996-97 campaign, little over 3,000 Albion fans witnessed the Seagulls scrape a 1-1 draw at Hereford United to retain their league status in one of the most important days in the club's history. On Monday, 30,000 were on hand at the state-of-the-art American Express Community Stadium to watch Chris Hughton steer them into the Premier League.

Albion's 2-1 victory over Wigan Athletic all-but-secured their place in the English top tier for the first time since 1983, with Huddersfield's 1-1 draw at Derby County later in the day eventually confirming it.

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The club have been going about their business in an unassuming manner this season, with Rafa Benitez's Newcastle side often being handed the headlines, so Goal takes a look at what we can expect from the Seagulls ahead of next year.


RECENT HISTORY


Since the seaside club climbed back into the second tier of English football, three of their five seasons have ended in play-off semi-final defeats. Last time out, the club missed out of automatic promotion on goal difference, following a final-day 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough, and crashed out of contention over a two-legged tie with Sheffield Wednesday.

Albion re-grouped in the close season and have used the disappointment to drive their performances this time round, though, and have already bettered last season's final tally of 89 points (92). 


THE MANAGER


Hughton will become the first manager since Mick McCarthy to win the Championship title with two different clubs, should Albion secure three points over their remaining three games. He claimed the title with Newcastle United in the 2009-10 campaign, amassing 102 points.

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Hughton was appointed Albion boss in place of Sami Hyypia in December 2014 with the club staring towards the foot of the Championship table. Since, the club have lost just 12 of their last 90 league outings, winning 41 of their last 63.

Chris Hughton Brighton 02052016

There is a lot of love for the former Republic of Ireland defender, and not just in Sussex. Hughton is widely considered as one of football's good guys and is respected at all levels of the game. 

Recently rewarded with a contract until 2020, Hughton exudes a sense of assurance which has been absent in recent years at the club.


THE SQUAD


Brighton were able to preserve the squad of 2015-16 and added a handful of experienced players to the group. Large offers for the likes of Lewis Dunk, Anthony Knockaert and Dale Stephens were all knocked back while Glenn Murray, Shane Duffy and Oliver Norwood joined the ranks.

Hughton has implemented a structured 4-4-2 at Brighton which is as unspectacular as it is effective. 

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A former Premier League goalkeeper in David Stockdale behind a defensive pairing of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk - the former a combative centre-half, the latter the ball player - with former Borussia Dortmund man Uwe Hunemeier and Connor Goldson in reserve.

Two attacking full-backs combine with a pair of exciting, direct wingers in Anthony Knockaert and local lad Solly March, either side of the central midfield pairing of Beram Kayal, the ball-winner, and Dale Stephens, the man who makes them tick.

Glenn Murray, who has scored more home goals than both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo this season, partners either Sam Baldock or Tomer Hemed in attack. 

It's simple. It's effective.

Brighton celebrate

Like any squad progressing into the Premier League, though, it will need tweaking. Bruno, first-choice right-back, turns 37 this year, while another head will need to be added in the striking department. A number of Albion players will also see their contracts expire in the summer and will need to be replaced should they opt to leave the club.


THE CHAIRMAN


Tony Bloom - the man that made it all happen. Born in the city, Bloom is a lifelong fan of the club and took over as chairman in 2009, funding the 30,750 seater-stadium. To this day, Bloom has invested around £300 million into the club, including £25 million in player recruitment, £90 million in subsidising operating losses and £160 million in the Amex and one of the most recognised training facilities in European football.

Bloom's fortune was made through a number of avenues, including sports betting, property investment and professional poker, in which he is known as 'The Lizard', such is his composure at the table.

Tony Bloom - Brighton

Albion are in a privileged position having a boyhood fan as the owner and a man whose values are aligned with the long-term success of the club. He also earns bonus points for regularly travelling with supporters to away games by train.


OUT OF CONTRACT


A number of key players are out of contract in the summer, including midfielder Stephens. The former Charlton man attempted to force a move away from the club at the end of last season following persistent interest from Premier League side Burnley. The club decided to keep hold of the 27-year-old and accept he could leave for free ahead of next season, a gamble which has paid off.

Stockdale is also free to leave the club once the summer rolls around, though is said to be in negotiations in regards to a new two-year deal at the club.

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Gaetan Bong, Steve Sidwell and Vegard Forren are also out of contract, as well as goalkeepers Niki Maenpaa and Casper Ankergren. 

Sebastien Pocognoli, Chuba Akpom and Fikayo Tomori will all return to their parent clubs once the season concludes.


STYLE OF PLAY


Discipline shines through Hughton's side, with a determination to pressure opponents out of possession. Structurally, Brighton are solid, and their prowess on the counter-attack has been their main threat throughout the manager's reign.  

The importance of Championship Player of the Season Knockaert means the majority of Albion attacks are in the wide areas of the pitch, with top scorer Murray benefiting from the quality of delivery into the box.

Glenn Murray Brighton

Midfielder Stephens tends to sit between Duffy and Dunk in the centre of defence whilst in possession, with both full-backs overlapping the midfield and linking with the attack.


STRENGTHS


Albion's home form is the key factor in this season's promotion. Brighton have won 17 league games at the Amex this season, more than any other professional club in Europe, and have one of the stingiest defences.

Brighton have kept 21 clean sheets in their last 43 games and have lost just once in the previous 58 league games they have taken the lead in. 


WEAKNESSES


Though it is difficult to pick holes in one of the most impressive seasons in the club's history, Brighton's tendency to drop deep in the latter stages of the game may hurt them against higher opposition. 

Pace in the full-back areas may also be a cause for concern, though additions may be brought in ahead of the new campaign.


FINANCES


The club are set to record another yearly loss in excess of £40 million this season, though the riches of the Premier League will recoup some of the money put into the club by chairman Tony Bloom.

Spending is unlikely to be excessive in the summer, with a handful of experienced outlets likely to be added to Hughton's first-team squad to ensure they are capable of competing for survival. 

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Brighton's current record transfer is Shane Duffy, who signed for around £4 million from Blackburn Rovers in the summer transfer window.


THE STADIUM


Having been without a permanent home since 1997, the club moved into the Amex in 2011 ahead of their first season back in the Championship. With a capacity of around 31,000, Brighton have consistently ranked amongst the highest attendances outside the Premier League for a number of years. 

Nestled in the South Downs, the stadium consists of two single-tier stands at either end, a double-tier on the east stand, and a triple-tier stand on the west. 

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