Talking Tactics

Burn at the heart of Potter's Brighton revolution

By Adrian Clarke 8 Nov 2019
Dan Burn and Graham Potter, Brighton

Ahead of facing Man Utd, Adrian Clarke says central defender's switch to left-back shows how head coach is getting the best out of his players

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Adrian Clarke is looking at key tactical talking points ahead of Matchweek 12. 

Graham Potter's tactical revolution has breathed new life into Brighton & Hove Albion and rejuvenated individuals who were not considered last term.

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Dan Burn and Steven Alzate, who both performed with distinction down the left side in last weekend’s 2-0 home win over Norwich City, fall into that category.

They spent the bulk of last season out on loan at Wigan Athletic and Swindon Town respectively but have since grabbed their chance to shine under Potter and will be key men at Manchester United on Sunday.

Progressive in possession

At 6ft 7in, Burn does not look like a left-back, but he has taken to his new role wonderfully after switching from centre-back.

He is comfortable moving the ball through the lines, aiming forward with an impressive 40.7 per cent of his passes, which helps Brighton’s attackers get on the ball early in the final third.

The versatile 27-year-old has also made 10 key passes and completed nine successful dribbles.

Meanwhile, his height and defensive ability are assets out of possession.

When the Seagulls need to defend narrowly or from set-pieces, and when Potter wants to switch to a back three, Burn can tuck in seamlessly.

Top-ranked Brighton players 2019/20
Brighton rank 1 2 3
Clearances Dunk 37 Burn 34 Webster 28
Blocks Dunk 7 Burn 6 Webster 6
Interceptions Dunk 24 Stephens 22 Burn 18
Duels won Burn 73 Montoya 55 Propper 50
Aerial duels won Burn 37 Duffy 31 Webster 22
Forward passes Dunk 251 Burn 231 Webster 210

Former Leyton Orient midfielder Alzate is also impressing.

Busy, direct and eager to get into positions where he can get shots off, the 21-year-old has shone in all three of Brighton’s successive home wins.

Last time out he played as a left midfielder, but he can also play more centrally.

He is dangerous when drifting infield from the wing and, if he starts at Old Trafford, Man Utd's players will need to communicate well and track his runs.

Nice selection problem

Potter is blessed with competition for places in forward areas, though, so Alzate may be overlooked despite his outstanding display against Norwich.

Fit-again Leandro Trossard is pushing hard for a place after providing a goal and two assists in his last two substitute appearances.

Australia international Aaron Mooy is also available after suspension, having previously been a regular in midfield, while Solly March and Glenn Murray are ready to make an impression from the bench.

This strength in depth has helped the Seagulls enormously in recent weeks. Indeed, no top-flight side have had more direct goal contributions from substitutes in 2019/20.

Combined goals and assists from substitutes
2019/20 Total
Brighton 5
Chelsea 4
Sheff Utd

Brighton's home form has been excellent, but now they need a positive away performance.

Since beating Watford 3-0 on the opening weekend they have collected only one point from four matches on the road, scoring once, from a set-piece at Villa Park.

As he seeks to improve that record at Man Utd, Potter will be seeking to select the most effective combination of attacking players from the start.

But do not be surprised if it is one of his substitutes that makes a difference.

Also in this series 

Part 2: Kovacic aiming to maintain influence in Jorginho's absence
Part 3: Arsenal need settled system to keep pace with Leicester

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