Albion Revitalised with Knockaert Providing the Spark
Brighton & Hove Albion’s hat-trick of wins, completed with a 3-0 victory over Brentford, highlighted a positive January transfer window for the club and Chris Hughton’s side look to be heading in the right direction, as missing pieces to the puzzle return from injury and new recruits bolster the promotion push.
January arrival Anthony Knockaert has dazzled beneath the Amex floodlights since arriving from Standard Liege, boosting Albion’s clueless attack that went over 500 minutes without scoring a goal throughout December and January.
The Frenchman’s back-to-back man of the match performances have been a breath of fresh air for Hughton’s fourth placed side, assisting both goals in the win against Huddersfield, before opening the scoring in the pasting of Brentford.
Kazenga Lua Lua’s influential start to the season, which saw the winger score four goals in four Albion victories, was cut short due to injury and his ‘create something from nothing’ attribute has been sorely missed despite Jamie Murphy’s worthy contribution.
Of course, Solly March was also lost to injury and the pressure on Murphy’s shoulders to singlehandedly supply Albion’s wing threat proved too much, as Albion endured a wounded winter before their recent turnaround.
Albion’s blunt attack over the Christmas period and into early January was a worrying sign. Out of ideas and woeful in front of goal, Hughton’s activity within the January transfer window offered refreshment to the whole squad and removed mounting pressure on players such as Murphy and Tomer Hemed.
Knockaert’s energetic displays have inspired those around him, including the players on the pitch and the supporters around it. His mazy runs and confidence on the ball has replenished the ageing void left by Lua Lua’s absence, with his fine goal against Brentford being a perfect example of the midfielder’s opportunist character.
Hughton’s refusal to introduce Lua Lua from the bench against Brentford was an indication of Albion’s growing strength in depth. Adding to that, new signing Jiri Skalak watched the game from the stands and a number of key players including Gordon Greer, Liam Rosenior, Gataen Bong and Sam Baldock are yet to return from injury.
Inigo Calderon will take over the left back reigns from Liam Ridgewell when he completes his loan spell against Bolton Wanderers. The position will again change hands once Rosenior and Bong return to full fitness, with one of the energetic summer signings knocking the Spaniard aside as Albion’s left sided threat reaches full throttle.
Albion’s faltering approach has been shaken-up with new recruits and returners strengthening Hughton’s favoured formula that was wearing thin. Plan B, C and D will look stronger than ever as pieces of the puzzle gradually fall into place as the league season begins its descent.