MARTIN KEOWN TALKS TACTICS: Brighton have lost control in midfield after selling off their top talent ahead of a derby-day clash against Crystal Palace - who are inspired by in-form duo Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise

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  • Brighton suffered a shock 4-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Luton in midweek
  • Seagulls have made a sluggish start to 2024 in the league and are yet to score 
  • SAMI MOKBEL reveals which three January transfers he rates as the best ever - It's All Kicking Off Transfer Week podcast 

Brighton have turned selling their best and brightest stars and looking like it never bothers them into an art form.

Whether it was Marc Cucurella to Chelsea, or Yves Bissouma to Tottenham, or Ben White to Arsenal, this was a runaway train that refused to be derailed. Yet now, amid a run of three wins in 16 Premier League games — their opponents today Crystal Palace have won four in 16 — you have to wonder if that policy is catching up with them.

They sold Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister in the summer and, amid that absence of control in midfield, opponents look like they are figuring out how to beat Roberto De Zerbi’s approach.

Brighton started this season with a 4-1 win over Luton at the Amex Stadium. That was the Seagulls at their slickest, oozing confidence with one-touch and two-touch passages of mesmerising play as Luton only won possession once in the final third.

But when they met in midweek at Kenilworth Road, Luton upped that statistic to 12 as Brighton were sluggish, predictable and played into their opponents’ high press.

Brighton suffered a shock 4-0 Premier League defeat to Luton at Kenilworth Road in midweek

Brighton suffered a shock 4-0 Premier League defeat to Luton at Kenilworth Road in midweek

Brighton suffered a shock 4-0 Premier League defeat to Luton at Kenilworth Road in midweek

The Seagulls have not yet found the net in a Premier League game since returning to action this year

The Seagulls have not yet found the net in a Premier League game since returning to action this year

It took one erroneous touch of the ball inside 20 seconds for Luton to score their first goal. That was one of 173 times that Brighton lost possession — their most in a Premier League game this season — as De Zerbi’s players daydreamed.

Pervis Estupinan’s obsession with moving inside from the left was targeted for Luton’s second goal, as it took only a single diagonal ball from Sambi Lokonga into the space Estupinan had vacated for Chiedozie Ogbene to score. Luton then got their third goal after Estupinan carelessly gave away possession. He was hooked at half-time but the damage had been done, as Luton were already well on their way to a 4-0 win.

Brighton are yet to score in 2024 and I’m sure Palace will look to frustrate them in a similar way to Luton. They will press high and early, but if they cannot win the ball in that first chase, Roy Hodgson will tell his players to retreat to form a protective barrier around their box. 

Brighton will need to show much more care on the ball because if they gift it to Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, they risk finding themselves staring at another demoralising defeat.

Crystal Palace have been reinvigorated by the return of their star players from injury including Eberechi Eze (right)

Crystal Palace have been reinvigorated by the return of their star players from injury including Eberechi Eze (right)

Injuries have seen Eze and Olise start only four Premier League games together this season, but they are players going places. I got the chance to watch them train at Palace last year and spoke to Eze for half an hour afterwards. I got the sense he was hoovering up as much knowledge as he could. He was very inquisitive, wanting to know what our mindset was like at Arsenal.

I told him there was no time to lose. You have to leave your mark. You want everyone at your club talking about you in a positive way if you ever leave. I’ve watched him with great interest ever since and Eze has taken his game to another level, as has Olise.

It used to be all about Wilfried Zaha at Palace. Now it is Eze and Olise who guarantee electricity, and if Brighton aren’t careful, they might find themselves on the receiving end of another seismic shock.

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