It is fair to say the first months of Sami Hyypia’s tenure as manager of Brighton & Hove Albion were tinged with disappointment, but a late flurry of summer signings has given the club a new lease of life.
With high-profile sales of Liam Bridcutt, Leonardo Ulloa and Will Buckley, among others, selections of the Seagulls fanbase began to question the club's ambition, with little in terms of reinvestment shown.
Sanctioning the departures of the trio earned the club around £14 million, and Brighton’s Championship rivals have strengthened drastically this summer.
Furthermore, early results did not go the right way as Hyypia began his stewardship on the East Sussex coast, with consecutive 1-0 losses at home to Sheffield Wednesday and away to Birmingham City.
The starting XI for Brighton’s Championship opener was clearly lacking in several positions, namely at left-back, in the midfield and up front.
Central to this are the signings that Hyypia has made in recent weeks, signings which have seen the Seagulls’ first team, as well as the squad on the whole, boosted significantly.
Early acquisitions David Stockdale, Aaron Hughes and Chris O’Grady have been joined by a group of fresh faces. Finally the Seagulls squad looks near complete, and results are evidence of this.
What a difference a week makes.
Joining the experienced trio are four new names: Paddy McCourt, Danny Holla, Joao Carlos Teixeira and Joe Bennett (above from left to right).
Firstly, despite suffering relegation with Barnsley last season, Northern Irish midfielder McCourt joined O’Grady at the Amex on a one-year deal and brings invaluable experience to the club.
Per WhoScored.com, the 30-year-old scored two goals in 23 Championship games last season as Barnsley failed to extended their eight-season stay in the English second tier.
Able to play on either the left or right wing, McCourt bolsters Hyypia’s squad and will be expected to provide from the substitutes bench this season.
Dutch central midfielder Holla was a surprise signing last week, joining on a free transfer from Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag.
The 26-year-old is another player who brings a wealth of experience to the Brighton squad, and Hyypia holds high hopes for the midfielder, per BBC Sport:
Danny is a player who has plenty of top-flight experience in Holland with more than 200 senior appearances, and that experience is something we need.
Impressive on his debut against Leeds, Holla will continue to progress into a focal role under Hyypia at Brighton.
Joining the club on a season-long loan from Premier League side Liverpool, Portuguese midfielder Teixeira has brought a measure of much-needed excitement to the Amex since his move.
Having scored two goals in three Championship appearances so far, the 21-year-old is also the club’s joint most-creative player, having made six chances for team-mates, per Squawka.
According to ITV, the Brighton manager expects the midfielder to continue his fine form for the team:
Joao is a very good player. We also need quality from the other players and if we manage to do that we'll get Joao on the ball and he'll be dangerous. He likes to be on the ball and do his best work in the final third of the pitch. He's got a great opportunity and we'll push him to improve himself.
As a focal point in Hyypia’s side, Teixeira can flourish.
Finally, following a lengthy pursuit of former Wolves man Stephen Ward, the Seagulls were spurned by the left-back in favour of a move to Premier League newcomers Burnley.
Brought in to fill the gaping left-back void is loanee signing Joe Bennett, a peripheral figure under Paul Lambert at Aston Villa.
Making his debut in the win against Bolton at the Amex, the 24-year-old performed exceptionally.
According to Squawka, the defender made four chances, won 60 percent of his attempted take-ons and boasted an imperious passing accuracy of 94 percent.
Bennett joins the aforementioned as a signing who suits Hyypia’s system adeptly, comfortable on the ball and with a desire to flourish.
The cliche “like a new signing” is bandied about often in modern football, but under Hyypia, Brighton can look for standout performances from their current charges this season.
Scottish striker Craig Mackail-Smith has been hugely unfortunate with injuries since joining the Seagulls in 2011.
After a 13-month layoff after tearing his Achilles tendon, the 30-year-old is finally finding his feet at East Sussex and has Hyypia to thank, according to the club’s official website:
The system is great. The gaffer wants me to stretch the game and allow the ball players to get in there and find my runs. It suits me perfectly and it’s what I've been waiting for, for the previous three years.
Mackail-Smith returned to goalscoring form against Bolton with his first in the league since December 2012 and will be expected to help fill the void left by a departed Ulloa this season.
Elsewhere, the player expected to emerge from the post-Buckley furore is Congolese winger Kazenga LuaLua.
The talented wide player made just 11 starts under Oscar Garcia last season, with a further 23 appearances from the substitutes bench, scoring two goals and making five assists, per WhoScored.com.
So far in 2014/15, LuaLua has made four appearances, with a well-taken free kick against Leeds United the highlight of this early-season run.
With the forward still lacking for Brighton at this juncture, this season can be the chance for Mackail-Smith and LuaLua to really make their mark on East Sussex.
What’s more, this renaissance looks to continue, with the Seagulls linked with a move for centre-forward Adrian Colunga, who currently plies his trade with La Liga side Getafe.
The 29-year-old scored just four goals in 27 appearances in the Spanish top flight last season but against lesser opposition in the Championship will look to emulate the success of Ulloa at Brighton.
Central to this renewed positivity are the contributions of Hyypia; the Finn is a manager with a clear identity and is slowly imprinting this on his new side.
It is still early days, but long may it continue.
How far are Brighton & Hove Albion away from a complete squad under Hyypia? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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