Life under Graham Potter began in the most spectacular fashion for Brighton, as they thrashed Watford by three goals to nil at Vicarage Road to kick off the new Premier League season in style.
The Seagulls took a deserved lead on the half-hour mark after they won possession in the Watford half, and Abdoulaye Doucoure could only turn Pascal Groß’ driven cross into his own net. The Seagulls doubled their lead on 65 minutes, substitute Florin Andone tucking the ball away after being on the pitch for barely a minute.
New signing Neal Maupay put the game beyond doubt in the 77th minute with a lovely finish, condemning Watford to a humiliating opening day defeat.
Key Talking Point
Watford limped over the Premier League finish line last season, with one eye on the FA Cup final. However, their Wembley visit was a nightmare, and they look to be suffering a hangover following their 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City in May.
The Hornets have done brilliantly to hold on to their best players this summer, and have invested wisely, but Javi Gracia's side looked sluggish and clueless throughout the match.
Talisman Gerard Deulofeu was hooked at half-time, and his teammates struggled equally as they were unable to create many clear-cut chances, even when chasing the game. Watford need to wake up from their slumber, before the sleep-walk into an unexpected relegation battle.
Starting XI: Watford: Foster (5); Femenia (5), Catchcart (4), Dawson (5), Holebas (4); Doucoure (5), Capoue (5), Hughes (5), Deulofeu (4); Deeney (4), Gray (5*)
Substitutes: Pereyra (4), Success (5)
STAR MAN - It was hard to pick a star man in the midst of such a dismal result and performance, but striker Andre Gray never stopped running for his side. The 28-year-old was starved of supply in front of goal, and was unlucky to have one effort blocked by Brighton's superb defensive rearguard.
It was an afternoon to forget for the Hornets, but in Gray they possess a reliable goalscorer – when given the opportunity. Maybe Sarr will help?
Damn West Ham, Watford and Everton really gonna get relegated this year huh? Crazy.— Across the Pond (@acrossthepond) August 10, 2019
Key Talking Point
All eyes were on Brighton this summer after the sacking of Chris Hughton, while the appointment of Graham Potter raised eyebrows given his lack of experience at the highest level.
Hughton was relieved of his duties due to his inability to improve his side's style of play and failure to fit his more attacking players into his system and, whilst it’s early days for Brighton fans, Potter’s ideas seem to encourage an attractive passing style.
His side played out from their the back with a new five-man defence, and a determined press from the front – showing bravery and spirit, and this victory will only further boost his players' confidence in his tactics.
If Potter is able to get results along with Brighton’s easy-on-the-eye football, the Seagulls’ supporters will be in for an exciting season under their new gaffer.
Starting XI: Ryan (7); Montoya (8), Duffy (8), Dunk (8), Burn (7), March (7); Propper (7), Stephens (9*), Groß (8), Locadia (6); Murray (7)
Substitutes: Andone (8), Maupay (8), Bernardo (N/A)
STAR MAN - Dale Stephens worked tirelessly for his side, and is clearly thriving under the tutelage of his new boss. Potter's side relies heavily on his wing-backs being given the freedom to bomb down the flanks, and this wouldn't be possible without the presence of Stephens in the heart of the midfield.
The 30-year-old shielded his three centre-backs expertly, and allowed Martin Montoya the freedom to wreak havoc down the Seagull's left-hand side. His positioning and awareness was flawless as he consistently broke up play and allowed his teammates to benefit from the turnover in possession. An excellent display and a sign of things to come under Potter.
I wasn't happy with the sacking Chris Hughton but it's clear Graham Potter is doing something different.— Olumide Lawal(DeBOL) (@DeBOLx) August 10, 2019
Let's wait & see how the season goes anyway.
Hornets boss Gracia will demand to see a much-improved performance next week, as his side travel to Everton where they will hope to put things right against ex-Watford manager Marco Silva.
Potter will be delighted with his side's opening-day display, and confidence will be high as they welcome Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham to the Amex stadium next weekend – especially after the Hammers' 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City earlier on Saturday.