West Ham have an abysmal Premier League record against Brighton but they will be optimistic of changing that on their trip down to the south coast on Saturday.
The Hammers face the Seagulls at the Amex Stadium – a place they have failed to collect any points from in the Premier League – but there are certainly positives to take heading into the clash.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side were thumped 5-0 on their 2019/20 Premier League introduction at the hands of Manchester City, while Brighton kick-started Graham Potter’s managerial reign with an impressive 3-0 victory against Watford.
Despite a devastating opening day defeat for the Hammers, this poises to be a match-up where they will be able to demonstrate their quality and pose more of an attacking threat.
Here are five areas Pellegrini’s side can look to exploit on Saturday:
Despite their excellent victory at Vicarage Road last weekend, the Seagulls do not inherit wing-backs that are overly satisfying defensively – particularly Solly March.
The 25-year-old is a wide midfielder by trade and is now being utilised as a wing-back by Potter which limits his attacking contribution while offering little defensively.
With either Felipe Anderson or Michail Antonio set to play on the right-hand side, both will inherit plenty of success down the flank and it could be an area the Hammers look to exploit on a regular basis.
2. Lack of midfield presence
Brighton utilise a central-midfield pairing of Davy Propper and Dale Stephens; if the Hammers are serious about taking three points away from the Amex this weekend, it is imperative that they dictate the midfield.
Both Declan Rice and Jack Wilshere will be crucial to West Ham’s success and if they can dominate the battle in the middle of the park, it will give the Irons the platform required to springboard attacks while remaining defensively astute.
3. Possession-based football
Pellegrini could decide to give Spanish playmaker Pablo Fornals his first Premier League start against the Seagulls and it is certainly something to consider.
The 23-year-old operated in the ‘number 10’ role during pre-season, remaining closely paired to centre-forward Sebastien Haller to provide attacking support when on the offensive.
With the space the Hammers will get from the midfield, it is essential that they get as many bodies around Haller as they can – Fornals could be the one to make things tick.
Potter opted to deploy a 5-4-1 formation against Watford, which shifted to a 3-4-3 when going forwards – against Pellegrini’s set-up, I suspect it will favour the latter manager.
The Hammers will line-up with a midfield quartet behind Haller with Rice sitting in the defensive midfield role. The Seagulls will find it hard to penetrate West Ham’s backline and when they do commit bodies forward, they leave themselves vulnerable to the fast-paced counter attacker Pellegrini’s side will inevitably utilise.
5. Lone striker
Although Glenn Murray scores against West Ham for fun, it could be a different story this time around.
The 35-year-old does not pose a counter-attacking threat to the Hammers, which makes the job for centre-back pairing of Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena an easier one in comparison to City last weekend; keeping tight on Murray and winning that individual battle will be vital.
Rice will also benefit without the constant worry of being out-paced in the Hammers’ defensive third. His successful tackling and intercepting nature will be important on Saturday and preventing Murray from holding onto the ball will isolate the England forward – creating a disjointed attack for the Seagulls.