Scott McCarthy: Watford defeat a cause for concern but Brighton cannot be that poor again

Albion defender Shane Duffy clears under pressure from Watford striker Troy Deeney on Saturday. Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Albion defender Shane Duffy clears under pressure from Watford striker Troy Deeney on Saturday. Picture by PW Sporting Photography

Firstly, let’s start with the bad news. If Brighton and Hove Albion play as badly as they did at Watford in the opening game of the Premier League campaign, they’ll be relegated.

Ben Foster in the Hornets goal was so underworked that he could have finished the entirety of War and Peace, written a 10,000 word review of it, designed a flying car and invented a method of time travel between 3pm and 5pm on Saturday.

Not managing a single shot on target against a side roundly tipped for relegation is of huge concern. Being outclassed by a side roundly tipped for relegation even more so. Especially with last season's top four to come in the next six games.

The good news is that the Albion cannot be that poor again. Chris Hughton said in one of his post-match interviews that he wasn’t sure what had happened. Don’t worry Chris, we can explain it all for you.

Let’s start with the team selection. Tony Bloom may have worked through a dozen cheque books on his way to spending the GDP of a small country over the course of the summer, but only one new face started at Vicarage Road.

That was Bernardo at left-back. Essentially, we went into the game against Watford with exactly the same side that managed just two wins and only ten goals on the road all last season. It should come as little surprise therefore that the result and performance was a repeat of what we had to put up with in the majority of away games in 2017-18, given it was the same personnel on show.

Same personnel, same problems. Hughton said in the run up to the game that they’d been working hard on defending set pieces over the summer, and that hard work looks to have paid off as we managed to go a whole 40 minutes of the new season before conceding from a corner.

Yes, it was a pretty tasty volley from Roberto Pereyra but if you give a bloke the sort of space rarely seen outside of the Wild West, that is exactly what can happen. That set piece problem needs addressing and quickly.

The Albion had £50m worth of talent sitting on the bench at Vicarage Road. Alireza Jahanbakhsh may be the most expensive of that talent at a cool £22m, but it was Yves Bissouma who looked most impressive in his 20-minute cameo.

While Dale Stephens and Davy Propper like to pass the ball, Bissouma wants to drive forward with it and make something happen. The Albion’s central players of Stephens, Propper, Pascal Gross and Glenn Murray aren’t the quickest, which means that the Mali international offers something totally different in the middle of the park.

That means that the team will only become stronger for his presence in it, starting this Sunday against Manchester United hopefully. Anthony Knockaert and Solly March were booth poor at Watford, which means that Jahanbakhsh should also provide an instant upgrade should he be chosen to start against United.

And that is where the cause for optimism comes from. Yes, we were well beaten by Watford, but we were beaten with Brighton and Hove Albion version 2017-18. Version 2018-19, with the likes of Bissouma, Jahanbakhsh and a Champions League winning right back in Martin Montoya in it should be giving comfortably better performances than what we saw on Saturday.

It’s one game in a 38-game season. Once Brighton version 2019 hit the pitch, we’ll have a much better idea of where we will be. And it shouldn’t be having no shots on goal against the likes of Watford.