- Leicester City head to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League on Sunday (2pm kick-off)
- The Athletic's Andy Naylor says the Seagulls are in good shape at the start of 2021/22
- The south coast outfit have won three of their four Premier League fixtures
- Brighton fans buy into the work being done by Graham Potter, Naylor believes
The Seagulls have secured Premier League victories over Burnley, Watford and Brentford so far in 2021/22, also defeating Cardiff City in the Carabao Cup, while suffering their only defeat of the season against Everton at AMEX Stadium. Leicester City are next up at home on Sunday (2pm kick-off).
It represents the south coast club's best-ever start to a Premier League campaign and suggests the trend which saw promising performances not yield their deserved results last season has been eradicated. Naylor, who follows Brighton closely, admits it has led to heightened optimism in Falmer.
"It’s been very encouraging, three wins out of four," he told LCFC TV's Matchday Live programme. "They’ve got nine points in the bag at this stage of the season. They’ve never had more than nine points after eight games in their previous four seasons in the Premier League.
"That puts into context how encouraging a start it’s been for Brighton. They also won with a ‘second XI’ which Graham Potter fielded in the Carabao Cup at Cardiff, so overall, it’s four wins out of five. It’s pretty promising.
Manager Graham Potter is looking to turn Brighton into a top-10 Premier League club.
"If you go back to last season, the narrative was that Brighton played well in most games, but weren’t quite getting the results the justify the performances. They haven’t necessarily played that well in the games this season, although they’ve certainly had good patches, but it’s just those fine margins.
"The chances that are coming, they’re taking more of them, and the key moments in games provide a fine dividing line between winning or drawing. They’re just coming out on the right side of those narrow margins at the moment, which obviously, going forward, that’s encouraging for what might lie ahead."
Leicester will naturally have to be wary of several attacking players on Sunday, but Naylor pointed to the importance of central midfielder Yves Bissouma and defender Shane Duffy when asked to highlight some of the top performers over the early weeks of this new season.
"Neal Maupay’s scored a couple of goals already," he added. "They’ve relied heavily on his goals in the previous two seasons. He was the top scorer with 10 two seasons ago and had a bit of a dip last time around with eight. He’s quite a fiery character, but he’s started the season well.
I think the majority of supporters can see what the project is at Brighton since Graham was appointed in place of Chris HughtonAndy Naylor The Athletic
"One of the biggest positives has been keeping hold of Yves Bissouma in central midfield. I think there was a general fear that he might go in the summer transfer window. Instead, it was Ben White, who went to Arsenal. Also, the rejuvenation of Shane Duffy is a big positive since White left.
"Shane had a pretty rough time out on loan at Celtic last season, but has come back and looked really solid, playing a big part in what they’ve done so far."
Potter remains hugely popular among Seagulls fans, who can see the work the former Swansea City manager is carrying out at AMEX Stadium, Naylor believes.
"I think the majority of supporters can see what the project is at Brighton since Graham was appointed in place of Chris Hughton," he explained. "They wanted to move the club on playing a different style of football, moving towards their ultimate aim, which is to establish themselves as a top-10 club.
"They’re still on that journey, it’s still the early stages. This is only Graham’s third season, but generally speaking, I think the fans are pretty satisfied with what they’re seeing in terms of the style of play and how the squad is evolving. They’ve got quite a young squad now with a lot of promising players.
Midfielder Yves Bissouma is regarded as one of Brighton's best players and stayed in the summer transfer market.
"They’re recruiting at a relatively low cost from overseas and Graham is developing those players and improving them with his coaching methods. Fans can see the pathway ahead with Graham and see the identity of the club."
Sunday's clash with the Foxes has the potential to be Brighton's toughest test so far, though, and Naylor is looking forward to see how they handle the occasion.
"It absolutely is a litmus test for how far they are on that journey," he continued. "I’ve seen people say they’ve had an easy start, but I think that’s unfair. If you look at the fact they’ve beaten Burnley, Watford and Brentford… Arsenal, Leeds and Villa have all either lost or drawn against those teams.
"I don’t think there are any easy games for Brighton in the Premier League but I understand where people are coming from. The one higher quality team they’ve faced, Everton, they struggled to lay a glove on them really and lost 2-0. I would put Leicester into that category of team.
"This will be a good barometer for them and how they’re progressing."
All times BST.
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