100 Club: Analysing Pascal Gross’ ton of Premier League games for Brighton
Back in the summer 2017, Chris Hughton and his staff snapped up relegated-Ingolstadt midfielder Pascal Gross for the lowly fee of just £3m. Admittedly the German came to the South Coast relatively unknown to fans, though perhaps this should not have been the case given he created the most chances (98) of any player in the Bundesliga in the 2016/17 season.
Such numbers would have been been simply surface level of the research conducted by Brighton’s scouting department.
“The 40 to 50 page scouting report on me was really impressive. It contained everything about my private life, and every game, strengths and weaknesses” — Pascal Gross on Brighton’s scouting of him
The Mannheim-born midfielder is the fourth Albion player to top a ton of Premier League appearances; following the Villa game, Maty Ryan (118 apps) and club-captain Lewis Dunk (116 appears) were the two most frequent Brighton faces in the top flight; Netherlands international Davy Propper sits level with Gross on 100 Premier League appearances. Including cup games, Gross hit a hundred games in the blue and white back in September:
Before we dive deep into his numbers and underlying numbers, allow me to preface this with one stat from the summer:
Gross burst onto the scene in 2017; across the season, his 15 goal involvements (7 goals, 8 assists) made him the second most involved non-big 6 player — only Marco Arnautovic (17) was involved in more.
Pascal Gross goals + assists in all competitons by season (goals + assists per 90 minutes):
- 2017/18: 7 goals, 8 assists (0.43 G/A per 90)
- 2018/19: 3 goals, 3 assists (0.26 G/A per 90)
- 2019/20: 2 goals, 4 assists (0.26 G/A per 90)
- 2020/21 (so far): 4 assists (0.54 G/A per 90)
The longevity at which the German has involved himself in goals is truly exceptional. So good, is Gross in-fact, that he has now done so in Albion record numbers.
Underlying metrics show that his goal involvement is no fluke, with Gross recording over 3 shot-creating actions (SCA) per 90 minutes in every Premier League season so far. Here’s a breakdown of his SCA values from each season, with the figure in brackets denoting his ranking within the Brighton squad for this metric.
- 2017/18: 3.57 (1st)
- 2018/19: 3.72 (1st)
- 2019/20: 4.76 (1st)
- 2020/21: 3.39 (1st)
He is quite literally Brighton’s top boy when it comes to chance creation, and is enjoying his best creative start to a season in terms of assists and second assists (assisting the assister). Assisting and second assisting a combined 7 goals at this stage of the season is a record for Gross in the blue and white.
His ability from dead-ball situations plays a fundamental role in these numbers; 35% — 106 of 302 — of his shot-creation actions in the Premier League have been from free-kicks and corners. Gross is the only Brighton player to score in the Premier League from both a direct free-kick and penalty in the Premier League, as well as assist from a corner and free-kick.
From a goal-scoring perspective, Gross has one more shot taken than Premier League appearances recorded (101 shots in 100 games). He’s scored with his left-foot, right-foot and head, demonstrating his versatility in both shot creation and conversion.
The former German U19 international has bagged 12 in his time at Brighton, having netted in all three previous Premier League seasons. This total ranks him among the top 10 all-time top flight scorers for the Albion. Impressively, he has scored this volume of goals from just 9.18 ‘Expected Goals’, showing a real level of clinical finishing from the German. For those who want more insight into ‘Expected Goals’ (xG), check out this article.
Such overperformance is strongly rooted in Gross’ ability to score goals from range. His four goals from outside the box is the most of any Brighton player in Premier League history. Breaking down these 12 finishes into pitch zone reads as follows:
- 4 goals from 54 shots outside the box (2.03xG)
- 6 goals from 43 shots inside the 18-yard box (5.58xG)
- 2 goals from 4 shots inside the 6-yard box (1.57xG)
On four occasions Gross has netted the game-winning goal for Brighton. He did so twice against Manchester United, securing all three points for the Seagulls by scoring against the Red Devils in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Amex fixtures.
The former of those two goals is arguably the biggest goal involvement of Gross’ to date in the blue and white, and arguably the biggest he will ever record. His header — which crossed the line by 28.3 millimetres — ensured Brighton hit 40 points in their first Premier League season, securing mathematical survival that night.
Pascal shows that Pressure makes Diamonds
In that Friday night win over Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, Gross led the way for Brighton defensively. In addition to his four tackles attempted, he recorded the most pressures (70) of any Brighton player; this figure was responsible for over 23% of Brighton’s total team pressures.
Just to demonstrate that this was not a one-off, here is his entire defensive activity map from the 18/19 season.
Only Glenn Murray (321) recorded more final third pressures than Gross (129) that season, though the German’s limited numbers played ought to be acknowledged. Per 90 minutes, Gross topped the Brighton charts for midfield third pressures (16.5).
His pressing has become more refined under Potter, too. The German sits second to only Adam Lallana for distance covered per game, though of course this is not entirely demonstrative of a player’s ability to press effectively.
Pascal Gross press success rate by season:
- 2017/18: 22%
- 2018/19: 16.5%
- 2019/20: 25%
- 2020/21: 28.6%
Whilst Hughton built a largely successful deep-defending side, he simply did not prioritise high pressing to the extent Potter does. Last season Gross recorded two defensive actions which directly led to a shot, double that of what he managed in both seasons prior under Hughton. One of the two was Albion’s second goal at the London Stadium back in February, a game which finished 3–3 and saw the Albion behind for nearly 50 footballing minutes. With the score at 3–1, Gross halved the arrears by pouncing on Issa Diop’s under-hit headed backpass, poking past Fabianski. Only Bernardo (6/7 tackles won) attempted and completed more tackles for Brighton than Gross in the match.
A Divided Output versus Uniteds
The German is absolutely red hot against the Irons, unbeaten in all 5 games against the London outfit (2 wins, 3 draws) and directly involved in 5 goals in the process (2 goals, 3 assists).
Pascal Gross’ most goal involvements against Premier League sides:
- West Ham United: 5 goal involvements (2 goals, 3 assists)
- Manchester United: 5 goal involvements (3 goals, 2 assists)
- Tottenham: 3 goal involvements (1 goal, 2 assists)
- West Bromwich Albion: 3 goal involvements (2 goals, 1 assist)
Gross recorded all three involvements in one game against West Brom, responsible for scoring Brighton’s first two Premier League goals, before assisting Tomer Hemed to head home the third. That day, no player took more shots or created more chances than Pascal.
If such involvement was not enough, he ranked top for distance covered in the whole league during match-day four of the 17/18 Premier League season.
His assist for Tariq Lamptey was his first Premier League one of the 2020/21 season, his second in two appearances at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium — he set up Adam Webster to open the scoring last season. At that point in time, his assist for the centre-back was the 83rd chance he had created from set pieces in an Albion shirt, a league record:
By providing Lamptey with the pass to score, Gross brought his assist tally to 16 (now 17), double the next most assists of any Brighton player in the Premier League (March — 8).
In total, Gross has assisted nine different players in the Premier League:
- 6 assists for Glenn Murray
- 2 assists for Webster, Knockaert, March
- 1 assist for Lamptey, Dunk, Maupay, Duffy, Hemed
Four of his six assists for Murray came in the 17/18 Premier League season, an assister-goalscorer combo which produced the most goals of any pairing to finish in the bottom half. The last of the four set up the veteran forward to head home past Petr Cech, scoring what turned out to be the match-winner for Brighton against Arsenal — their first win over a ‘big six’ side in the league. Gross’ performance by numbers from that game are as follows:
Gross profit from Crosses
As a Brighton player, Gross has attempted 427 crosses, taken 265 corner kicks and 174 free-kicks. Make of those numbers what you will, but simply from an output perspective he has recorded one of those 3 actions less than ever 5 minutes in the Premier League.
Pascal Gross open play crosses completed into the penalty area — per 90 — by season (ranking among Brighton squad):
- 2017/18: 0.62 (1st)
- 2018/19: 0.53 (2nd)
- 2019/20: 0.55 (3rd)
- 2020/21: 1.32 (1st)
His most in one game was versus Tottenham at the Amex last season. His first cross of the game was ironically an ‘incomplete’ one; though a back-pedalling Hugo Lloris did claim it, the Frenchman dropped the ball — simultaneously injuring himself — and allowed his international counterpart Neal Maupay to tap in the opener. Output-wise, Gross ranked top for crosses attempted (7) and completed (4) as well as final third passes (29/35 completed).
Cruyff turns are typical of Pascal; twice in all competitions he has sold defenders with these before assisting (for Mac Allister v Preston and for March v Bournemouth). Whilst the assist number may be small, the number leading to dangerous crosses will be exponentially higher. Though many fans are rightly clinical as to his limited pace, the German compensates for this by using the skill to force defenders to commit to blocking the cross, creating space for him to move the ball and create a clear crossing angle.
Home Scoring Comforts but an ‘On the Road’ Assister
It is relatively natural for players to show cute quirks in their goal-scoring or assisting patterns, typically through doing some more frequently either at home or away. Gross must be relatively unique in this department, though.
- 10 of his 12 Premier League goals have been scored at the Amex (away goals at West Ham 19/20 and Manchester United 18/19)
- 7 of his last 8 assists (all competitions) have come away from home; the solitary Amex assist was for Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the 4–0 EFL Cup win over Portsmouth
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