Glenn Murray described it as a “rude awakening” – though that probably makes Brighton’s performance seem more lively than it actually was. Indeed, the Seagulls put in a curiously inert 90 minutes in their 2-0 defeat by Watford, failing to register a single shot on target.
Brighton fans won’t have been too surprised – last season only 11 points were picked up away from the Amex Stadium – but the arrival of almost a whole team’s worth of summer signings was surely designed to change that pattern.
Only one, the left-back Bernardo, actually started, with record signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh introduced later on when Watford were already two goals to the good.
Brighton manager Chris Hughton was annoyed at his side’s non-performance for this very reason: his initial picks all knew exactly what they should have been doing.
“It was a rude awakening,” said Murray. “We will take a bit of time and work over it and see where we can improve.”
How exactly though? “I can’t put my finger on it right now,” he admitted. “We will go away and do our homework. We can only improve.”
That much is true. Murray, 34, contributed 14 goals last season as Brighton returned to the top flight following a 34-year absence. He wasn’t given a sniff of adding one more by Watford’s defence on Saturday. “I don’t feel as though we got much service or many balls in the box,” he said.
Manchester United are up next, quickly followed by Liverpool. The fixtures computer has also pitted Brighton against Manchester City and Tottenham by the end of September.
The Seagulls beat United at home last term, a result that saw Jose Mourinho throw several superstar names under the proverbial bus afterwards, but this showing offered little hope of a repeat.
Watford had them on the back foot from the first minute, with Andre Gray putting himself about up front with a performance that remained goal-less but drew appreciation from the home fans.
Roberto Pereyra turned out to be the home hero with both goals, though Brighton won’t want to see either replayed. They allowed the Argentine an unimpeded trot into the box to meet Jose Holabas’ delivery from a short corner routine for the first, and for the second allowed the ex-Juventus man to cut in from the left and curl around goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
Had the Albion defence fooled itself into expecting a cut-back? Possibly. The volley for the first goal was top-class though. Ryan got a glove to it but had no chance of stopping it.
Pereyra turned out in the 2015 Champions League final alongside Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo before ending up in Hertfordshire for two inconsistent and often injury-interrupted seasons. This one already looks to be significantly different however. Midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré certainly thinks so.
“He finished really well last season,” he said. “I think he was in the same way the best player on the pitch today. I am really happy for him because he worked hard, has such a good talent and this year he will be a really important player for us.”
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