LONDON – Eight goals and six points from their opening two games have put Brighton and Hove Albion on top of the Premier League for the first time in their history — proof, if any were still needed, that they are one of the best run clubs in the top flight.
Brighton, homeless and facing an uncertain future little more than a decade ago, welcome West Ham United on Saturday looking to continue their dream start.
Last year’s sixth-place finish was the best in the club’s history, taking them into the Europa League.
Inevitably their big-name players became targets for the Premier League’s so-called elite and keeper Robert Sanchez and midfielder Moises Caicedo were lured to Chelsea with Alexis Mac Allister joining Liverpool — the three deals worth close to 200 million pounds ($253 million).
Clubs built on less stable foundations might have been shaken by such an exodus, but Brighton have just carried on regardless, soaring high like the seagulls on the club’s crest.
Few would expect Roberto De Zerbi’s side to mount a sustained title challenge, especially with the demands of the Europa League, which is likely to place a strain on the squad.
But for sheer entertainment, Brighton will again prove extremely popular with the neutrals.
In the 34 games that Italian De Zerbi has been in charge, Brighton have scored and conceded in 22 of them.
Those 34 games have also witnessed 119 goals — 69 for Brighton and 50 for the opposition — the highest number of any club since former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk coach De Zerbi replaced Graham Potter, who jumped ship to Chelsea.
Brighton scored 72 goals last season, 30 more than their previous best in the top flight and the way they have started the new campaign, more records could fall.
An economic impact report commissioned by the club showed they provided a boost of nearly 600 million pounds to the local economy in the 2022-23 season and European visitors heading to the Amex Stadium will offer another 80 million pounds boost.
Money aside, Brighton have also become the blueprint for clubs of a similar size.
“It’s what the English pyramid delivers. If you do a good job on and off the pitch, you’ll get your rewards and European football is there to be had if you get it right,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said.
West Ham, like Brighton, also appear a club on the rise after winning last year’s Europa Conference League and last week’s 3-1 victory over Chelsea means they will head to Brighton confident of bringing the Seagulls back to earth.
Brighton are one of only three clubs to win their opening two fixtures, along with champions Manchester City and Arsenal.
City are at promoted Sheffield United on Sunday with Arsenal hosting Fulham on Saturday.
Chelsea kick off the third round of fixtures on Friday when they host Luton Town — a fixture that should offer new manager Mauricio Pochettino the chance to record his first victory since taking the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
Fourth-placed Brentford, who give Brighton a close run for their money when it comes to punching above their weight, face a third successive London derby as they host Crystal Palace.
Brentford, who drew with Tottenham Hotspur and beat Fulham in their opening fixtures, are unbeaten in 11 games against clubs from the capital.
Tottenham, who along with Brentford, West Ham and Liverpool, have four points, are away at Bournemouth with Liverpool facing a tough trip to Newcastle United on Sunday.
Manchester United will seek to bounce back from defeat at Tottenham as they host Nottingham Forest. REUTERS