Chris Hughton did a commendable job as manager of Brighton & Hove Albion, and he can leave with his head held high. However, the club was absolutely right to dismiss him. Brighton knows that a new manager offered them the greatest chance of avoiding relegation from the next Premier League.
Chris Hughton and Brighton’s Disappointing 2019
Brighton’s 2019 has, surely, not gone as planned. The south coast side failed to win in each of their last ten games in all competitions. Brighton recorded just two Premier League wins this calendar year. The club did make an appearance in the semi-final stage of the FA Cup. However, they beat only one Premier League side during their cup run. Hughton’s side were woeful in front of goals,. Enjoying (or not) a seven-game run without scoring a goal in March and April. The fact that Brighton retained their Premier League status says far more about just how poor Huddersfield and Fulham were than it does about Brighton’s accomplishments in the 2018/19 season.
A Step Backwards, and Some Context
Chris Hughton’s conservative, safety-first approach did him no favours with regards to his job security. Only the three relegated clubs scored fewer Premier League goals than Brighton, and the club’s top scorers in the competition makes for grim reading. Glenn Murray led The Seagulls with thirteen goals,. Centre back Shane Duffy was the only other player to score more than three . Achieving 17th place with a young, upwardly-mobile squad playing attacking football feels very different to fielding one of the division’s oldest sides (by average age), playing unattractive football and relying on a 35 year old journeyman who’s played for ten different clubs to score enough to keep you up.
Hughton’s time as Brighton manager is worthy of praise. He has accomplished a lot since taking over from Sami Hyypiä in 2014. But the 2018/19 season is the most relevant when appraising his performance as manager. There were very few positives for Brighton this campaign. When comparing 2018/19 to 2017/18, it’s noteworthy that Brighton created fewer big chances, took fewer shots and conceded more goals. Hughton’s Brighton were not a side that was making progress or becoming a better team.
What Would 2019/20 Look Like With Hughton?
The reason Chris Hughton had to go is most apparent when you try to imagine what the 2019/20 Premier League season would look like for Brighton with Hughton in charge. Their key players will be another year older. There’s little to suggest that last season’s signings will suddenly find their feet after a disappointing first season for the likes of Alireza Jahanbakhsh. It’s difficult to imagine that three sides will finish below Brighton next season unless something dramatically changes, and the departure of Chris Hughton is a chance for that dramatic change to occur.
He’s seen as very likeable within the footballing world and will be remembered fondly by the club’s supporters, but Hughton’s dismissal is an example of why it’s often better to cut ties too soon than to do so too late.