FAWSL 2021/22 Preview: Brighton & Hove Albion

The 2020/21 FA Women’s Super League kicks off on the weekend of the 3rd – 5th September. D2B is here to preview all twelve teams in the title race and assess their chances. We’re going back to an alphabetical approach this year and continue with Brighton & Hove Albion, who secured their first top-half WSL finish since their arrival in the division three seasons ago…

The Seagulls did something no other team managed in the WSL last season. They beat Chelsea at Kingsmeadow.

Full Name: Brighton & Hove Albion Women Football Club

Nickname(s): The Seagulls; the Albion

Founded: 1991; 30 years ago

Ground: Broadfield Stadium, Crawley (6,134 Capacity)

Last Season, FAWSL: 6th place

WSL Pedigree / Club History

Brighton put forward a successful application to join the restructured WSL and FA Women’s Championship for the 2018/19 season. They would go on to finish 9th in consecutive seasons.

Immediately prior to that, the Seagulls had been a very capable side in the second and third tiers of the women’s game. The club made a concerted decision to fully integrate their women’s set-up and fund it at a level where the squad can now compete in the Super League.

Last Season

Although Brighton came out of the blocks with four points from their opening two games last season, it wasn’t long before they were starting to look like a bottom four side again – at best.

They lost eight of their next eleven matches, including a 7-1 home thumping by Manchester City and then a total horror show at Bristol City where they were roundly beaten 3-0.

But then something clicked. They got on a winning streak, starting at (of all places) Kingsmeadow, home of Champions-to-be Chelsea.

A 2-1 win there heralded the beginning of a run that saw the Seagulls pick up fifteen of the next eighteen points available – bookending that run with a gritty 1-0 victory over Manchester United at the Broadfield.

Football is not without its ironies. After their mid-season humiliation, Brighton hosted a Bristol City side on the final day, playing for its life. Albion were ruthless (3-1), relegating the Vixens and ousting Reading from the top half of the table in the bargain.

Manager

Brighton Manager Hope Powell: Bags… truck-loads… Maersk Cargo ships-worth of experience.

“It’s been a tough pre-season for the players. The demands of the WSL are going up all the time. Squads are getting bigger and with more quality and the physical demands on everyone are increasing. But I think we’re in good shape. I know a lot of the players didn’t want last season to stop because we finished it so well but we’ve reset, integrated the new players and have worked on every aspect of our game, both as individuals and collectively. I’ve asked a lot of the players and the staff, but they have risen to the challenge.”

Hope Powell, Manager, Brighton & Hove Albion, via brightonandhovealbion.com (29/8/2021)

Fans of the England Women’s team will need no introduction to Brighton Manager Hope Powell. She managed the senior international squad from 1998, long before social media was a thing and the Lionesses were a serious brand.

She took England to the final of the European Championships in 2009, as well as reaching two World Cup Quarter Finals.  She also led Team GB to the Quarter Finals of the London 2012 Olympic tournament.

Still just 54-years old (let’s be honest it feels like she’s been around a lifetime), Hope is heading into her fifth year in charge of the Seagulls.

It’s worth remembering she was a VERY decent player. One that scored 35 goals in 66 international caps for England.

Summer Recruitment

A priority was to retain some important players. Inessa Kaagman extended her contract and the club also completed new deals with Aileen Whelan, Kayleigh Green, Victoria Williams and Megan Connolly.

The club hasn’t done a lot of ‘new’ business over the summer but their focus up to the time of writing has been about finding more goals. Brighton scored just shy of a goal-per-game last season with set-pieces contributing a significant percentage.

South Korean international Lee Geum-min was on loan to the Seagulls last season from Manchester City. That deal was made permanent over the summer. The striker only scored three times during 2020/21 and they all came in the final two games – one of which was an absolute ‘doozy’ against Reading.

Lee Geum-min, scoring one of the best WSL goals in the 2020/21 season.

Centre forward Danielle Carter has come in from Reading. The 28-year old always puts in a shift but will want to rediscover the form she was enjoying at Arsenal prior to two ACL injuries suffered within 14-months of each other. She would probably be pleased with over 1,300 WSL minutes with the Royals but will hope to score more than 3 goals in 21 appearances.

New signing Danielle Carter has swapped Reading’s Blue and White hoops for Brighton’s blue and white stripes…

“Regardless of experience, or where I’ve come from or what I’ve done, I’m new here. I’m literally the new girl. There were a few other options both in England and abroad. When I spoke to Hope [Powell] and walked around the facilities, I thought this setup is very professional. I think for me, my goals are to stay fit and healthy and, ultimately, score goals. That’s what I’m here for.”

Danielle Carter, Forward, Brighton & Hove Albion, via SkySports.com (30/8/2021)

Liverpool want-away Rinsola Babajide has also arrived, on loan from the Reds. She was part of the team relegated on a points-per-game basis in 2019/20. It was perhaps a little surprising that she opted for Brighton given that her former boss, Vicky Jepson, joined the coaching team at Spurs – which would have also put the player closer to her family roots in London. But there’s no denying that the Seagulls have been on an upward trajectory and, let’s face it, Rinsola gets to work with Hope Powell.

The 23-year old is a predominantly left-footed forward who can play anywhere across front three – (D2B likes her wide right). She can be physical and is well balanced, with a languid stride, but is deceptively quicker than people think – which means she can get success playing on the shoulder of the last defender.

Babajide has good, quick feet in tight spaces for a relatively tall player and can score goals, although she’s not a stone-cold finisher.

She tallied 6 goals in all competitions last season before effectively sitting out the second half of the Championship campaign following a request for loan / transfer that Liverpool refused.  Question marks remain over whether she can deliver in the WSL. This year should give everyone a much better indication than 2019/20 did.

Who’s moved on?

Midfielder Jodie Brett has had to retire at just 25-years old through injury.

Central defender Laura Rafferty and forward Rianna Jarrett have decided to drop down levels going to Southampton and London City Lionesses respectively. Jarrett scored for the Lionesses on the first weekend of the FA Women’s Championship.

New Zealand international defender Rebekah Stott was forced to leave the Seagulls after she found out she had Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Mercifully, she has since revealed that the cancer is in remission and has been able to sign for former club Melbourne City in the Australian W-League.

Key Players

Inessa Kaagman signed from Everton last summer and pepped up Brighton’s midfield creativity.

Inessa Kaagman had a terrific season for Brighton last year. The Dutch midfielder topped-out as the club’s top scorer with eight goals (although, bear in mind she was the penalty taker!). She’s a proper box-to-boxer, with a creative edge and was ever-present in Hope Powell’s starting line-up.

Megan Connolly is very tidy on set-pieces, while attacker Aileen Whelan is adept at getting on the end of them. They had six league goals between them over the campaign. Both are a bit overlooked (outside of Albion fans) in terms of their contribution.

Megan Walsh had to fight hard last season to nail down the goalkeeping jersey after a few mishaps, but she worked herself into the role and ended up conceding just three more goals than her PSxG (expected goals) forecasted – which is very much in line with her peers in the division.

Another ever-present last season was Guernsey-born defender Maya Le Tissier. Just 19-years old, she has already featured 36 times in the WSL for Brighton. Earlier this year she was named in the prestigious Goal 2021 NXGN List of the World’s most talented teenagers at number 7!

Maya can play equally well as a right full-back or a central defender, shows great on-field composure for a player of her young year and, most importantly, terrific mental strength to bounce back when things don’t go to plan – something that was evident within the entire Brighton squad during the 2020/21 campaign.

“To be considered among the top ten young players in the world is a tremendous honour, and I would like to thank Goal for nominating me. I am really enjoying my football at the moment. Personally, I am really enjoying working with Hope Powell and the coaching team at Brighton and this award will inspire me to keep on developing and improving every aspect of my game.”

Maya Le Tissier, Brighton & Hove Albion, via brightonandhovealbion.com (23/3/2021)

Opening Day

Brighton host West Ham United on Sunday 5th September at the AMEX Stadium in Brighton.

Pre-season

The U23s were beaten 3-0 by Southampton, but there wouldn’t have been too many first teamers in that line-up.

It probably wasn’t the plan for the senior squad to go to Finch Farm and get thrashed 6-1 by Everton, though. However, they went on to draw 1-1 with Manchester United. Danielle Carter scored for the Seagulls.

Prospects for 2021/22

The nature of the current WSL, with lots of spending going on at the top, means Brighton look like a mid-to-lower-mid-table prospect again.

It’s interesting that they played Everton and United during pre-season as these are the teams they will need to chase down in order to improve on last season’s sixth place finish.

One can’t take too much from pre-season results, but Everton’s 6-1 win was somewhat disarming given that they hit the Seagulls for five last season in the WSL year (towards the back end of the fixture schedule), ending the 4-match winning streak.

Has the summer recruitment improved Hope Powell’s squad sufficiently to go top five, bypassing teams that were five points (Everton) and 20 points (United) ahead respectively? No.

But they certainly don’t look worse. Not on paper anyway, and there may be more players to come in.

Retaining important personnel for another season together was key, but Brighton’s challenge will surely be repeating last year, not bettering it… 

Transfer Summary

Ins

  • Danielle Carter (Forward)
  • Rinsola Babajide (Forward)
  • Lee Geum-min (Forward)

Outs

  • Kirsty Barton (Midfielder)
  • Jodie Brett – Retired (Midfielder)
  • Cecilie Fiskerstrand (Goalkeeper)
  • Hollie Olding (Midfielder)
  • Laura Rafferty (Defender)
  • Bethan Roe (Defender)
  • Rebekah Stott (Defender)
  • Ellie Hack (Defender)
  • Nora Heroum (Midfielder)
  • Rianna Jarrett (Forward)
  • Katie Startup – Loan Out (Goalkeeper)

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