How Lewis Dunk has evolved into a Premiership quality centre-back

From his days as a promising but reckless youngster, to a commanding ball-playing defender. The evolution of Lewis Dunk has been simply remarkable.

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Credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk

 

Since making his debut in a 0-0 draw with MK Dons back in April 2010. Lewis has gone on to make 133 senior appearances for Brighton and Hove Albion.

When did Dunk become a pivotal player for Brighton and Hove Albion?

Most Albion fans would agree that Dunk’s real breakthrough came in the 2014/15 season. Brighton finished 20th and without Dunk’s consistency and goalscoring threat, Brighton would of certainly been banished to League 1 obscurity. In all competitions, Lewis Dunk was Albion’s top scorer with 7 goals.

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Dunk sending off versus Derby 2015/16. Photo credit: http://www.irishmirror.ie

In the past, Dunk has been branded as a quality young player, however, a player who has a reckless streak. In the last 3 years, he has accumulated 4 red cards and 24 yellow cards (113 appearances). Two of those red cards were picked up last season.

Dunk has well surpassed last seasons yellow card total. The defender has picked up 11 this season which dwarfs his 6 from last season. Brighton fans have witnessed occasional lapses in concentration from the Brighton-born defender, he got sent off for a second yellow against the 3-1 defeat against Huddersfield and 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday for unnecessary tackles.

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There is no denying his quality with Shane Duffy and David Stockdale in preventing goals. In Dunk’s 29 appearances, Brighton have kept 17 clean sheets. When Dunk has been suspended, Brighton have drawn 3-3 against Brentford, lost 2-0 to Preston, and scraped a win away at Wigan.

With games coming up against Reading, Newcastle, Leeds and Derby. Every player will need to be at their best. That means no reckless challenges from Lewis Dunk!

Article by George Carden

Is Dale Stephens the central figure to Brighton’s promotion hopes?

Dale Stephens often goes unnoticed during matches, his stats on paper aren’t fantastic from an outsiders point of view either. Two goals and one solitary assist this season seems much worse than his seven goals and five assists from the 2015/16 season. However his link up play, physicality, and superb technical ability has been vital for Brighton this season.  In 22 appearances, Brighton have won 18 games, drawn 5, and lost 0 with Stephens in the team.

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Dale Stephens evades Hull’s Jake Livermore – Picture taken by: Richard Parkes

 

The 27 year old’s place at the club was shrouded in speculation in the summer. Multiple bids from Burnley, which ended with an eventual £7 million pound bid left Albion fans praying for the transfer window to slam shut as soon as possible. This ended with Stephens handing a transfer request in a last ditch attempt to force a move to Burnley and play Premier League football. The Bolton-born midfielder tweeted to Brighton fans about his desire to play in the Premier League, he also stated that he would honour his contract and do everything he could to help Brighton achieve promotion.

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Dale Stephens’ tweet composed on 01/09/16

Stephens offers technical ability superior to many Championship players. His 88% pass completion percentage and average of 46 passes per game show how crucial he is in the heart of Brighton’s midfield. According to http://www.squawka.com, 65% of Stephens’ passes have been forward passes.

The £500,000 investment for Dale in January 2014 has proved very wise of Tony Bloom and the scouting team. His current market value is £4,250,000 and is still rising from his consistently good performances (source: http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk)

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Stephens stated, “every time I’m on the pitch I’m fully committed. That’s something I will carry on doing throughout the season.”

“We want to do this together and sometimes you’ve got to be patient and wait for your chance.”

Dale Stephens should be fit enough to start Saturday’s game against Burton Albion after suffering from a recurring groin injury. He will prove vital for the must-win games against Burton and Ipswich. Win both of those, and Brighton and Hove Albion will be back on track.


Article by George Carden

Match Preview – Brighton vs Sheffield Wednesday – 20/01/17

Brighton face a sixth placed Sheffield Wednesday side who will be looking to cause an upset in front of the Sky cameras.

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Courtesy of http://www.seagulls.co.uk

Recent Form

Brighton suffered their first defeat in 18 games last weekend away to Preston North End. The Seagulls hadn’t lost a league game since September 10. However, before that, Chris Hughton’s side won five games in a row. Brighton currently have 12 points out of 15 in their last five games.

Sheffield Wednesday are currently unbeaten in six games, they have won four of those last six. Carlos Carvahal’s side boast wins against table-toppers Newcastle, and Huddersfield Town. In their last 5 games, the Owls have acquired 11 points out of a possible 15.


Last Time Out

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Brighton won 2-1 thanks to goals from Sam Baldock and Anthony Knockaert. Gary Hooper scored a 90th minute consolation but it was too little, too late for Sheffield Wednesday.


Familiar Faces

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Image courtesy: Getty Images

Will Buckley. The winger joined Brighton in the summer of 2011 and went on to score 19 goals in 96 games for Seagulls. He then linked up with former manager, Gus Poyet, at Sunderland. Buckley failed to adapt to life in the Premier League. He made just over 20 appearances for Sunderland but since then has been loaned out to Leeds United, Birmingham City and current team, Sheffield Wednesday.


Fact of the Day:

Brighton last played Sheffield Wednesday on a Friday evening in 2012. The Seagulls won 3-0 thanks to goals from Craig Mackail-Smith, Wayne Bridge and you guessed it… Will Buckley.


We are looking forward to…

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Image courtesy: Getty Images

Having Lewis Dunk back in the side. He has been a rock in defence all season and having him back from his two-game suspension will be crucial.


Verdict

Another massive game for Brighton. The players will be bursting to claim even more ‘revenge’ after the play off misery of last season. That revenge factor played the difference at Hillsborough in October and it could be the difference tonight.

Prediction:

BHAFC: 2

Murray, Dunk

Sheffield Wednesday: 1

Wallace

 

Article by George Carden

Albion December Round Up

Brighton remained unbeaten throughout December. The Seagulls haven’t lost a league game in 104 days. The last league defeat they suffered was against Brentford all the way back in September. In that time, they have kept 11 clean sheets in 18 matches and scored 33 goals. Here is everything that happened for Brighton over the festive period.


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Brighton travelled up to a Cardiff side who hadn’t yet found their feet this season. It was newly appointed assistant-manager Paul Trollope’s first return to the Welsh side since his sacking in October. The game finished 0-0 and the only notable incident was Gaetan Bong receiving a second yellow and being banned for the Leeds game.

Six days later, Brighton hosted Leeds in what looked to be a tough fixture. Kalvin Phillips denied a certain goal from Lewis Dunk by blocking the ball with his hand. The defender was given a straight red. The resulting penalty was scored by Glenn Murray. Brighton sealed the game with eight minutes to go. Dunk was fouled in the box and Hemed stepped up to coolly dispatch the penalty. That was the Israeli international’s fifth goal in four games against Leeds.

Albion faced Blackburn on the 13th of December. It was a night for returning defenders. Signed from Blackburn in the summer, Shane Duffy scored a header to open the scoring whilst ex-Seagulls skipper, Gordon Greer, received a second yellow for a rash tackle on Glenn Murray. Brighton ended up winning 3-2 with Dale Stephens and Glenn Murray grabbing the goals. Sam Gallagher made the affair seem closer with a last minute consolation.

Brighton then travelled up to Birmingham on 17th December. The Seagulls went 1-0 down through a Jutkiewicz header. However, thanks to Solly March causing havoc on the Blues defence, Brighton were able to make it 1-1 thanks to a driven shot from Anthony Knockaert. It was his first goal since his fathers passing. Knockaert was also the man to deliver the corner for Murray’s 94th minute winner.

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Image courtesy of: zimbio.com



Brighton also faced QPR on 27th December. The Seagulls didn’t cover themselves in glory. However, thanks to a Sam Baldock screamer, they took the lead early. Murray and Knockaert capped off a straightforward win for Hughton’s side.

On the 30th December, we were unfortunate to see the first ever game postponed at the Amex. Brighton were set to play Cardiff for the second match between the two, however due to thick fog, the match had to be cancelled.

Brighton players walk across the pitch before the game is called off due to thick fog and low visibility before the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Cardiff City at the Amex Stadium, Brighton on 30th December 2016
Image courtesy of: brunchnews.com

 

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Chris Hughton was awarded manager of the month for December after remaining unbeaten and picking up 13 points out of a possible 15. Brighton also ended 2016 top of the league!

Let’s hope January is just as successful for Brighton!

Article by George Carden

Last piece of the puzzle: How Shane Duffy has made Albion’s defence the most formidable in the league

The towering centre-back has formed arguably the best defensive partnership alongside Lewis Dunk this season.

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Image courtesy of http://www.seagulls.co.uk

Duffy, signed from Blackburn for £4.5 million in the summer, has been a revelation and one of the key factors to Brighton’s run of 13 undefeated league games. During that time Brighton have only conceded 5 goals.

The Irishman has averaged 7.3 clearances per game as well as 1.1 tackles and nearly 2 interceptions per game too. Duffy boasts a pass success rate of 78% which shows his ability to help Brighton start attacks from the back.

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Image courtesy of http://www.seagulls.co.uk

The defender has managed an average rating of 7.44  for Brighton this season. Only Lewis Dunk and Anthony Knockaert have played better this season (both with a 7.67 average rating).

 

The 24 year old could be compared to former skipper, Gordon Greer. An old fashioned big defender who relies on their physicality rather than pace. It may be true that Duffy lacks the acceleration of someone like Connor Goldson, however his positioning and ability to read the game and win the vast majority of aerial duels is a credit to his talent. Full credit to Hughton and the scouting team on acquiring such a brilliant player.

Which former Albion player would you compare Duffy to?

 

Article by George Carden

Albion November Round Up

 

 

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November was a bit stop-start for the Seagulls. The two week international break certainly didn’t help Chris Hughton’s side. Brighton went into the Bristol City fixture on the 5th of November high on confidence after dispatching Norwich in a 5-0 thumping. A wonder goal from Steve Sidwell followed by a poignant celebration dedicated to Anthony Knockaert’s recently deceased father was the main talking point of the match. A goal from Jamie Murphy topped off a straightforward 2-0 win. It is important to also think of the Ince family during this time. Rohan Ince’s father also passed away in November.

Hemed, Duffy, Norwood, and Jiri Skalak represented their countries during the international break.

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Brighton then faced Steve Bruce’s inform Villa side on November 18th. Despite their league position, most Albion fans could sense the importance of this fixture. Relatively low-spenders Brighton versus a Premier League founder who had spent 50 million on transfers alone in the summer. Villa came to the game and didn’t allow Brighton time and space with their pacey wingers and high pressure tactics. An outstanding goal from Glenn Murray was definitely the highlight. 1-1 was a fair reflection on the match in general.

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Following on from this, Colin Calderwood resigned as assistant-manager the night before the Aston Villa match. He then controversially joined Steve Bruce’s side after a compensation deal was agreed between the two clubs.

Calderwood joined as Hughton’s deputy ahead of the 2015/16 season and alongside Hughton, guided Brighton to their highest ever Championship points tally of 89. He didn’t cover himself in glory however in the last game of the 2015/16 season. Arguably the biggest match in the clubs history, Calderwood appeared to elbow Boro manager, Aitor Karanka, after affairs became relatively heated. So maybe his departure is a positive thing. He doesn’t carry the same dignity and class as Chris.

Since then, Brighton have brought in Paul Trollope. He was the name everyone expected to be appointed due to his connection with Hughton from working with him at Birmingham and Norwich.

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Beram Kayal signed a new two and a half year contract extension. The classy midfielder has been ever-present since joining in January 2015. He will be one of the key men if Albion want to grab a top 2 spot this season. Now all we need is for Dale Stephens to sign a contract!

Lastly, Brighton came back from the jaws of defeat, winning 2-1 against an impressive Fulham side. This game saw Stockdale, Duffy, and Baldock have some of the best games in their Albion careers. Fulham were unlucky not to get anything out of the match, but it also shows that the team we have assembled this season is one with a myriad of threats to opposing sides. Everyone contributes!

 

Article by George Carden. (Twitter: @George_Carden)

Match Preview – Everything you need to know about Aston Villa

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The West Midlands side have suffered a rough start to their first season in the second tier since the 1987/88 season. New owner, Tony Xia, hired Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo at the start of the season. The Italian was sacked after only 12 games and 1 solitary win. Since then, they have acquired Steve Bruce. The former Manchester United defender is the perfect appointment for Villa. He knows what it takes to achieve success on and off the field and he will certainly make the Villans a formidable threat come the end of the season.

Summer Signings

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Villa have spent a total of £49,000,000 in transfer fees and have acquired 17 players. Their heftiest dealings come in the form of Ross McCormack (£14 million), Jonathan Kodjia (£11 million) and James Chester (£7.91 million). Villa have made a loss of £33 million this season. A huge gamble which so far hasn’t paid off but with the quality of their signings and experience of Steve Bruce, it is almost a certainty that they will  be challenging for at least a play off place come the end of the season.


History

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Tony Barton (left) and Dennis Mortimer (right)  lifting European Cup at victory parade in 1982.

Aston Villa were founded in 1874. They have been one of the most influential clubs in England due to the fact they were a founding member of the Football League in 1888 and a founding member of the Premier League in 1992.

Aston Villa have a rich list of achievements. Arguably their biggest achievements was winning the European Cup in 1981/82 (beating Bayern Munich 1-0). Along with this, Villa have also won the first division seven times, the FA Cup seven times and the UEFA Super Cup once.


Familiar Faces:

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Tommy Elphick. The Brighton youth academy graduate played 153 times for the Seagulls. He left in 2012 due to injury problems and a lack of first team football. He then joined Bournemouth and captained them on a remarkable journey from League 1 into the Premier League. However, the defender only made 14 appearances last season which is why he decided to drop down a league and join current team, Aston Villa.

Another familiar face for both sets of supporters will be Warren Aspinall. He was their top scorer in the season they got promoted back to the top division in 1987/88.


Fact of the Day:

This season is the only season Aston Villa have not partaken in the Premier League since its founding in 1992.


Verdict:

Villa have been a much improved side since Steve Bruce took charge. Ignore their poor start as with the players they have got and the recent form they are in means it will be an extremely tough match. Brighton have been very impressive this season and have kept four clean sheets in a row. Both sides will cancel each other out tonight.

Prediction:

2-2

Article by George Carden