When Newcastle United was acquired by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in 2021, the English Premier League’s traditional ‘Big Six’ of clubs was enhanced into a magnificent seven.
This septet is supposed to dominate English football, such is their history, pedigree and financial resources. And yet, from time to time, an underdog has emerged to shake down the monopoly.
The latest plucky upstart to play the David to the Big Seven’s Goliath is Brighton & Hove Albion, a club that has been majorly impressive as of late. They’ve found themselves in the third tier of the English game as recently as 2009. But now, with a savvy owner and a straight-talking head coach, the Seagulls are flying high in the upper reaches of the Premier League table. Can they maintain their fine run until the end of the season?
While the ultimate goal in English football is to win the Premier League, securing a top-four finish – and thus Champions League qualification – is also an almighty carrot to be chomped upon.
The football winning odds for that top-four finish market find Brighton in sixth place (9/5) behind the likes of Manchester City (1/50), Liverpool (1/3), Arsenal (4/11), Tottenham (5/4) and Newcastle United (8/5), but ahead of ‘Big Seven’ members Manchester United (5/2) and Chelsea (7/2).
So the bookmakers are, at this point, convinced that the Seagulls can finish inside the top six as a bare minimum, but what about those prized four spots at the summit of the league table?
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) September 24, 2023
One of the more interesting stats to come out of Brighton’s ascendance has been their fine record against the group of clubs known as the Big Six prior to Newcastle’s Brewster’s Millions moment. In their last 12 games against that merry band, the Seagulls have claimed 20 points – proof positive that they belong in such exalted company.
So now the onus is on them to pick up goal difference-enhancing victories over the Premier League’s weaker clubs. Some of their results in 2023/24 – Luton Town (4-1), Wolves (4-1) and Bournemouth (3-1) – are indicative of the fact that they’re ready to achieve exactly that.
Right People, Right Time
To describe Brighton as in the doldrums back in 2009 would be something of an understatement.
But happily for the south coast club, a knight in shining armour was on the approach. Tony Bloom swooped in as the new owner and has certainly played his part in setting the pace for an overhaul.
After acquiring a majority stake in Brighton, Bloom set about revolutionising the club from top to bottom. His head for numbers has been vital to that – the club continues to generate net profit thanks largely to player sales, with more than £300 million accrued in the past 12 months or so alone. Brighton’s balance sheet is one of the few in the Premier League that would please trained accountants.
Bloom has also employed a series of savvy managers and head coaches, from Chris Hughton and Graham Potter to the current incumbent Roberto De Zerbi. The Italian had a fairly low-key career up until his Brighton appointment, but in his first full season, he guided the Seagulls to their highest-ever finish of sixth in the Premier League.
Can De Zerbi and Bloom jointly lead the club to the promised land of the top four?