There was more than one reason that I dreamed of a certain seaside town last week as I boiled to death in my small London flat in 33C weather. Brighton were the highest surprise finishers that performed consistently well in our model, earning themselves a lovely 7th place above the recently minted Newcastle United and high flying West Ham.
Why? I have no idea. Let’s have a deeper look at some of their key stats.
Last year Brighton finished 9th and, while very good, they were highest placed team with a negative goal difference. Not the most promising headline, but let’s dig deeper.
‘Defence wins Championships!’ Or so our friends across the Atlantic like to say, or perhaps more accurately here, ‘Defence leads to an above average season.’ Much better.
Clearly attacking is not what is driving the strong predictions. Brighton are below the league average both home and away. However, their defensive strength is pretty impressive. What is most amazing perhaps is just how good they are away from home. Maybe that ocean breeze isn’t so great after all. Not only do they seem to be amazing away from home, but they are even better than they are at home, with one of the league’s strongest defensives when on the road.
Teams are at an immediate disadvantage when they play away. The home team won 43% of the time last year, compared to 34% for away and 23% were draws. Given teams are expected to accrue fewer points away from home, any extra that they do obtain could be seen as relatively more valuable compared to extra points gained at home (where they are expected to score most of their points anyway). Therefore, it seems as if this exceptional away ability is really the key to Brighton’s big predictions for next season.
As always, these predictions are based on the prior season and we have not included player specific features and transfers are still ongoing. However, if Brighton pick up where they left off last year, and are able to improve to be at least average at home, they will be looking at a really good year.