Date: 24th February 2018 at 7:34pm
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Carlos Carvalhal’s attacking gamble at Brighton & HA backfired as his side lost 4-1 to put them back into the bottom three.

Brighton took the lead after 18 minutes when van der Hoorn was adjudged to have tripped Glenn Murray inside the box. The striker then stepped up to give the hosts the lead from 12 yards.

It was a soft penalty, to say the least, and with Mike Dean in charge, a spot kick was always the likely outcome. van der Hoorn was tracking the striker inside the box but it looked like he made very slightly contact with the striker’s heals, and he was soon on the deck.

Brighton’s lead and Swansea’s failure to show a quick, positive response prompted Carvalhal into an early substitution after just 35 minutes. Nathan Dyer was the unfortunate one to come off early, with Andre Ayew coming on in his place.

That wasn’t the gamble that didn’t pay off. That substitute was a welcomed one. Nathan Dyer was barely in the game and had already lost possession 6 times, but it was a surprise to see Carvalhal make another at the restart, as he opted to switch to a back four, bringing off van der Hoorn and adding Narsingh.

That was a gamble. We’ve used a back 3/5 for the majority of Carvalhal’s tenure to date and it has worked effectively, having lost only once since his arrival, so a switch to a back four wasn’t ideal. We’ve looked comfortable with a back five, it’s well-balanced but van der Hoorn’s absence left a big gap down Brighton’s left attacking side, and they took the opportunity to exploit it and exploit it they did.

Early in the second half, with just a 1-0 deficit, Brighton were knocking on the door to double their lead. They had a goal ruled out for offside that looked like the wrong decision, and it was unclear if Murray did get a touch on the long-range shot that caught out Fabianski. Murray had another effort go just wide and Brighton were continually creating chances down their left flank. They were quite wasteful but it was obvious that a second and killer goal from the hosts wasn’t far away.

The second goal did come on 69 minutes – 3 minutes after our third and final attacking substitution, as Tammy Abraham replaced Tom Carroll. Unsurprisingly then, with our defence and midfield both compromised, a third goal followed four minutes after the second.

Some fans have said that ‘you can’t win with some fans’, as the same fans complaining about Carvalhal’s substitutions today were complaining when Paul Clement wasn’t making subs until the final 10 minutes. But these are two, opposite extremes. A balance between the two is always preferred. We made our first change after just 35 minutes, ok – that was like for like almost, an attacking player is replaced by another. But the switch of system was a proper risk and a gamble at the start of the second half, and within minutes we saw why it was such a gamble.

But to then take off a midfielder, was really quite extraordinary. With Carroll now off, we had Ki and Clucas in midfield, with Narsingh, the two Ayew brothers and Abraham in front.

Whilst it’s good to see a more attacking and positive manager, who has been and still is like a breath of fresh air, it all looked too desperate today, and subs made without real thought behind them. On home soil, the gamble might have worked and it would have been more understable, but having seen Brighton create so many chances at 1-0, it was surprising to see us make the changes we did shortly afterwards.

A heavy 4-1 defeat at Brighton, who have now completed the double over us in a crucial game in the battle against relegation is a big blow, but hopefully it acts as a big wake-up call for us. We’ve been playing with a new level of optimism and confidence recently after some big wins against Liverpool and Arsenal, but we were knocked back down to earth today. The quality was nowhere near the levels we showed in those games, we were lacsidasical throughout and the fact that we had just 1 shot on target with all those attacking players is also a disappointment.

Carvalhal said that it was a gamble that didn’t pay off:

“When we were losing 1-0 I was thinking we must change things, so we put Ayew in attack,”

“We took the risks because we were not happy to lose and we wanted to try to win. So we put Luciano and Tammy on.

“It was a big bet and with a big bet you can win lots of money or you can lose lots of money.

“We knew if we scored one we could win, but we also knew if they scored another on the counter-attack it would be difficult, and that`s what happened.

“That`s football, that`s the life of a manager. If it works the manager is a genius.

“We tried everything to try to win, but Brighton deserved to win. We lost the gamble.”