As Everton heads to the Amex Stadium this Saturday to face Brighton & Hove Albion, they will be facing a tough, optimistic team led by boss Graham Potter; together, they have collected all six points available to them thus far and have also moved to the third round of the Carabao Cup. For the away side, Rafa Benitez understands that his outfit will have to play with inspiration and passion against such a sturdy side, even if the Blues have fared well against the home team in recent matches.
RBM: Brighton has managed six points from two games in the league and are through to the third round of the Carabao Cup as well, how would you rate this start for the Seagulls?
Obviously, it’s a perfect start - three wins out of three - so no complaints at all. We’ve looked clinical, which was the main issue last season; we don’t seem to be suffering from the loss of Ben White, and we’re doing all this despite a handful of first-team injuries. And the Carabao Cup has given us the opportunity to give a lot of our talented kids some first-team experience - and they all did brilliantly too. So, so far everything has been positive.
RBM: The general feeling among Brighton fans after three matches must be quite positive currently; what does Graham Potter have the team doing to get these results?
Basically nothing new - the same as we’ve been doing under him the last two seasons. But a few young players have a little more Premier League experience, the squad is a little deeper, the transition from Chris Hughton’s style of play to Potter’s is now complete and, most importantly, we’ve been putting away chances that we kept missing last season, when our results didn’t reflect our performances, because of a poor chance conversion rate.
RBM: In two seasons with Graham Potter in charge, Brighton has finished in 15th and 16th in the Premier League; can they make a serious run towards a higher finish in the league table this season?
We definitely should do. There has been progression over the last two seasons despite the league positions not reflecting that. Part of the problem has been a failure to beat the teams that we might expect to be in the bottom half/quarter of the table. If our wins against Burnley and Watford are a sign of things to come, then it suggests that we’ve learnt our lessons and are ready to push up the table.
RBM: With the transfer window closing soon, how would you rate the business done by the club, as well as what might occur on deadline day?
It has been mostly uneventful. The big departure was Ben White for £50m. But only Enock Mwepu in midfield and a reserve keeper have notably come in so far. We would love to bring in a left-back and a striker, and that is the real hope coming up to deadline day. The other big question is whether someone will come in last minute for Yves Bissouma. Although we have made moves to cover his departure, we’d all like him to stay as he just gets better and better.
RBM: How do you expect Brighton to set up against the Toffees on Saturday and who do you think might cause Everton the most problems?
I expect a fluid 3-4-3 / 3-4-2-1 formation, although much will depend on who is fit upfront, with Neal Maupay a doubt and Danny Welbeck possibly not yet ready to start. Hopefully, Maupay can keep up his goalscoring form but I think this could be Leandro Trossard’s match to shine. He is frustratingly inconsistent but when he’s in the mood he’s an excellent player who can make things happen.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s match?
I think both teams have started the season confidently on the attacking side so I think there’ll be goals on both sides - anything is better than last season’s 0-0! Maybe Brighton to nick it 2-1.
Our thanks to Jeremy for his time.