The Future is Bright(on): Twenty-Three Brighton U23s who might be ones to watch
According to Transfermarkt, Brighton have loaned out the most players (13) of any Premier League side this season, with 11 of those 23-years-old or younger at the start of the season. With that considered, the fact Brighton U23s sit third in the Premier League 2 as joint top scorers with 36 goals, is an impressive feat — they were only promoted to the top division in 2018, beating Aston Villa in the playoffs. In that campaign, they won 11 of their final 18 games — losing just once — and in February ended eventual Champions Blackburn Rovers’ 11-game unbeaten streak with a 2–0 away win.
Since that promotion, they finished 3rd in their PL2 debut season, going 8 games unbeaten between mid-December — when they dispatched West Ham 4–2 away from home — and early April when they scored late on to draw 2–2 against Swansea at the Amex, the day before Brighton faced Manchester City in the FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley. Most telling of this rapid rise was Simon Rusk’s — U23s manager — move to Cambridge United, showcasing the heights Brighton’s academy had started to hit on the pitch as well as in the dugout.
As Brighton become more established as a club — not forgetting the fact that club captain and England international Lewis Dunk and Lewes-lad Solly March are both notable academy products — within the academy sphere, their voluminous youth talent deserves recognition. That’s exactly the purpose of this article; starting from between the sticks and finishing with the forwards, let’s take a look at just who exactly are Brighton’s top youth performers right now — the number in brackets denotes the players year of birth:
1. Carl Rushworth (’01) — Goalkeeper
Currently out on loan at Sussex-side Worthing, last season Rushworth impressively kept clean sheets away at Chelsea and Swansea’s U18’s, with Brighton’s U18s winning 4/6 games he played. Supposedly a target for Barcelona, Rushworth is already involved with the England set-up, at U19 level. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he pulled off a save of the highest class earlier on this season against Folkstone Invicta, which got Maty Ryan’s seal of approval.
2. Thomas McGill (’00) — Goalkeeper
Having previously enjoyed multiple non-league loan spells and now on-loan at Crawley, the 20-year-old has played 10 games in the PL2 this season. Alike Rushworth, he’s well involved on the international stage. McGill has represented England at U16, U17 and most recently, U20 level. He played 21 times for Brighton U18s in the 17/18 season, keeping back-to-back clean sheets in the opening games away at Norwich and Tottenham. Most impressively, he captained the side in 12/21 games, demonstrating a strong level of leadership.
3. Hayden Roberts (’02) — Centre Back
Another Albion youngster involved internationally, Roberts was called up to England’s U17 squad for their 2019 U17 European Championship campaign. He ranks fourth amongst Brighton U23 players for minutes played this season in the PL2, clocking 1,176 of them. That equates to marginally over 13 90s and is almost 75% of total minutes available. Minutes alone fail to do the 17-year-old centre-back justice, though; Brighton U23’s goal difference with him on the pitch compared to without him is +7, which ranks him joint second in that metric amongst all Albion U23s.
Per 90, he averages just under 6 defensive duels, of which he wins 73%, plus just over 6 interceptions, committing less than a foul per game. From a ball playing perspective, he’s pretty good — 46 passes per game, with an 86% pass accuracy. Most impressively, he averages over 3 progressive runs per game, a trait that Potter has demonstrated he clearly desires through his purchase and utilisation of Adam Webster. Despite being just 18, Roberts has shown competence playing against the ‘big boys’. He was a standout player during Brighton’s 3–1 league cup defeat to Aston Villa and scored Albion’s only goal of the game, heading home from a corner in-front of the North Stand.
4. Ben White (’97) — Centre Back
One of the most spotlighted players on this list, Ben White has already been tipped as the ‘next Rio Ferdinand’ and landed himself the prestigious title of The Athletic’s pick for Leeds’ young player of the year. He was fully analysed in a twitter thread earlier this season, standing out for Leeds this season due to immense ball progression and ball-winning abilities; he completes 65% of the 7.59 progressive passes he makes per 90. Stylistically like Dunk, Webster and the aforementioned Hayden Roberts, White is a quality carrier of the ball — he averages 1.86 dribbles and progressive runs combined per game.
At a point where defensive stability is becoming increasingly desirable for Graham Potter, White could add some strength here. Averaging the 4th most defensive duels per 90 of any Championship centre-back, he ranks second in success rate amongst the 10 most frequent duellers, winning 72% of them. Bielsa’s most used man this season — playing every minute in the Championship — has made 87 interceptions in the league, the most of any Championship player by 19. It appears to be when, not if, Ben White will be donning the blue and white stripes under Graham Potter — providing he isn’t poached by a top six club first, that is.
5. Matt Clarke (’96) — Centre Back
Being Graham Potter’s first signing as Brighton manager, it surprised a few to see Clarke loaned out to Derby. In a league which the aforementioned Ben White has taken by storm, Matt Clarke has too impressed, though considerably more under the radar. Potter has made it clear he wants centre-backs who can be the key players in the build-up phase, with the ex-Pompey Clarke averaging over 50 passes per 90, the 7th most of any Championship centre-back to have played over 1000 minutes. Almost 9 of these have been progressive passes, with Clarke proving that, whilst ball progression is not his biggest asset, he’s more than capable. Perhaps more like Duffy than Dunk, Derby’s number 16 has excelled in the air this season, winning 65% of these duels.
His best trait? He’s — almost — as clean as a whistle. Clarke has committed just 14 fouls in total this season, which equates to just 0.59 per game, the 7th fewest of any Championship centre-back. For what its worth, he’s been fouled 19 times. Such discipline was potentially the reason he captained the side in pre-season against Crawley. Stylistically, Clarke offers Potter something entirely different through his left-footedness. Dan Burn is second to only Lewis Dunk for minutes played by Brighton ‘centre-backs’ this season, which demonstrates the value Potter places in a left-footed defender. Considering Dunk, Duffy, Webster and White are all right-footed, this trait could be enough to facilitate a breakthrough for the 23-year-old.
6. Romaric Yapi (’00) — Right Back
Poached from French giants PSG in August 2019, Yapi has featured 14 times for the U23s this season, starting on 11 occasions. Alike most modern day full-backs, the 19-year-old loves to get forward. Against Leicester U23s in January he attempted 8 dribbles and crossed on 4 occasions. Given his offensive style, Yapi unsurprisingly loses possession occasionally, 16 times in the aforementioned fixture. Though, 11 of those came in the opposition half, testament to his attacking mindset. Whilst this could be perceived negatively, alike all players in this list, Yapi is young and has years ahead to refine his technique, whilst his commitment to take risks is something sure to catch Potter’s eye. In the 22 minutes he played against Villa in the Carabao Cup this season, he managed 2 shots, the joint-second most of any Brighton player. His energetic ability supplements his ability to read the game, too, with him intercepting the ball 5 times when the U23s lost 1–0 to Leicester. Though, as the remainder of this article will show, Yapi faces fierce competition to break through and cement the right-back position as his own.
7. Tariq Lamptey (’00) — Right Back
A deadline day addition from Chelsea’s world-class academy, Tariq Lamptey has already been earmarked as a player bound for success. Across all youth competitions this season, Lamptey averages — per 90 — almost 50 passes, 3 of which are long, nearly 5 crosses and over 7 dribbles. Alike his positional compatriot Yapi, he too is yet to perfectly refine his craft, recording a 20% cross success rate and 42% long pass accuracy.
Yet, any potential shortcomings in his passing range are more than justified through his ball carrying ability: he averages 7 dribbles and 2.4 progressive runs per youth game this season. Outstandingly, he completes an immense 70% of dribbles, proving himself to not just a high volume, but also a high output player in that department. Once the Frenchman is forward, his threat is just as significant. Averaging over 2 touches in the opposition box per 90, as well as creating a chance every 2 games, plus winning 2.5 fouls per game, Lamptey loves contributing to the attack. If this wasn’t impressive enough, he played 30 minutes as a substitute for Chelsea in their 2–1 comeback win at Arsenal this season. Off the bench, he created a chance and completed 3/3 long passes, whilst doing his defensive duties diligently, winning both tackles he attempted.
8. Warren O’Hora (’99) — Centre Back
One of three Irishmen covered in this article, O’Hora was signed from Bohemians in the 17/18 season. He’s featured in 15 PL2 games for the U23s this season, impressively scoring 3 from set pieces. Three could be the magic number for the ex-Bohs defender, who has captained the U23s three times this season.
Statistically, his numbers look good — 43 passes per game, of which 4.5 are long, with a very respectable 89% pass accuracy. Defensively, his output is strong, recording 5.7 interceptions, 2.73 clearances and 67% success rate in the 7.05 defensive duels he partakes in per game — all these figures are per 90 minutes. Though, importantly, all this data comes from 4 games in total, as this is all Wyscout have data on.
That said, O’Hora certainly fits the template which has seemingly formed over time for a Brighton centre-back; a competent passer, capable of doing the dirty work defensively and even pose a threat at set pieces. Compared to some others in this article, he’s probably a few years off a breakthrough and an EFL loan might suit him well, but he’s shown promise so far.
9. Leo Østigård (99’) — Centre Back
Since joining Brighton in 2018 from Norwegian side Molde, Østigård has developed rapidly and this season has enjoyed a loan spell — with Scandinavian compatriot Viktor Gyökeres — at St. Pauli in the 2. Bundesliga.
The 20-year-old earned rave reviews at last years U20 World Cup in Poland. The Argus cited an extract from France Football magazine, following Norway’s 12–0 steamrolling of Honduras, where Erling Haaland scored 9; “Rather than this striker, it’s more worthwhile taking an interest in central defender Leo Ostigard, who has a classic profile (solid in duels on the ground and in the air) but also has real keenness in his passing. Capable of extremely precise long balls, something which shows real technical ability, Ostigard is remaining patient in the antechamber at Brighton, waiting to debut in a Premier League which seems made to measure for him. Or maybe it’s the other way around…”
Playing every minute of the four 2. Bundesliga games St Pauli have featured in since its restart, Østigård has cemented a place at centre-back, showcasing immense ability to defend his box, both aerially and on the grass.
10. Steven Alzate (’98) — Right Back
Although he has been labelled a right-back, the reality is nobody yet knows where Alzate fits best. Certainly the surprise breakthrough of the season, following a loan spell last season at Swindon Town, the Camden-Colombian has been immense in 1v1 scenarios, the only Brighton player to record beyond a 65% success rate in take-ons and tackles.
Considering he has no league goal involvements, Alzate’s evolving reputation demonstrates just how good he has been with — and also without — the ball this season.
His flair has caught the eye and made him popular amongst the fans. Brighton may certainly face challenges in keeping hold of the ex-Orient youngster, though in the meantime it remains to be seen if Alzate can cement a starting spot — he’s played 1,188 minutes this season (45.5% of total minutes), which averages out at just over 13 total 90s, and is second only to Neal Maupay for minutes played by U23s at Brighton this season.
11. Alex Cochrane (’00) — Left Back
Claiming the accolade of Brighton U23s most-used player this season, Cochrane is another attack-minded full-back coming off the product line. Uniquely left-footed, Cochrane prefers to create for others rather than himself, averaging 3 crosses, 6.7 passes to the final third and 0.92 through passes per 90, recording less than 1 dribble per game. Defensively, he’s competent too, completing 3.58 interceptions and 1.62 clearances per game, winning over 50% of the 5.77 defensive duels he engages in per game, conceding a foul just once every 4 games in the process. Cochrane was another in this article to play against Villa in the cup, and has featured internationally too, though just on one occasion in 2015 for England U16, where he assisted in England’s 3–3 draw with USA.
12. Tudor Băluță (’99) — Defensive Midfielder
The Romanian burst onto the scene last summer, as part of the Romania U21 side who went all the way to the semi-finals of the Euro U21 Championship, dispatching England 4–2 in the group stage. Despite being a defensive minded midfielder, Băluță scored twice across qualifying and tournament games. At 6ft 3, Băluță fits the physical profile of a typical defensive midfielder.
Loaned out to the Eredivisie’s second-bottom side Den Haag in January, Băluță has played four times. Across those games, the 21-year-old averaged 31 passes, 2.8 long passes, 1.5 interceptions, 1 tackle and 3 clearances. Despite not evolving at the rate some may have expected him too, Băluță’s potential is immense. Already capped at senior level on 7 occasions, the first of which coming aged just 19, he actually made his senior national debut before his U21 debut.
13. Teddy Jenks (’02) — Central Midfielder
The youngest player in the article — born in 2002 — Jenks, has performed well this season, netting 3 and assisting twice in 22 games for the U23s. The youngster typically operates in a double-pivot and shows competency when playing under pressure, capable of using both feet to break lines and switch play. Statistically — across the 6 games Wyscout have data on for Jenks this season — the 18-year-old averages 37 passes per game, 3 of which are long passes and a position-impressive 80% pass accuracy. Against Villa in the Carabao Cup this season, he recorded a 91% pass accuracy, showing good positional awareness to find positions beyond the first line of pressure to receive line-breaking passes. Jenks has represented England at youth levels, netting for England U17s , just 5 minutes after coming on, in their 3–1 win against Sweden in the 2019 UEFA U17 European Championships in Ireland.
14. Yves Bissouma (’96) — Central Midfielder
Signed from Lille in 2018 at a hefty price fee of £15m, Bissouma is one of the more established in the article. The Malian international has accumulated 2,442 Premier League minutes since joining, though this only averages out at 27 full 90s and is 38% of total minutes available in the last two seasons. Despite somewhat limited playing time, Bissouma has become popular within the Albion community. Alongside his dancing at Selhurst last season after the 2–1 win, his continuous desire to press, role as a linchpin in attacking transition and playing panache carry excitement. His voluminous output this season sees him rank highest — per 90 — of all Brighton players across multiple metrics:
Bissouma’s between-both boxes ability is certainly strong, though there is room for him to improve in terms of goal contribution. Over the last two seasons he has shot 43 times — 37 outside the box and 6 times in the penalty area. Though, Bissouma accumulated just 2.05xG from those shots, averaging just 0.04xG per shot. That said, he has certainly got the ability to score from range — 6/8 career goals have come outside the 18-yard-box, with 3 being from direct free kicks. The 23-year-old’s 1.08 shot-creating actions per 90 is only good enough to rank him 15th within the squad, just behind Glenn Murray. That said, Bissouma may offer enough without being involved in goals — he featured for 80+ minutes in the 3 most recent Brighton games, so it is clear he is part of Potter’s plans.
15. Jayson Molumby (’99) — Central Midfielder
Waterford-born Molumby has appeared to be teetering on the edge of the breakthrough for the last couple of seasons. He featured on the bench three times in the 17/18 season — at home to Everton and away at Arsenal and West Ham — and twice last season. Yet to play in the Premier League, the 20-year-old has spent the season on loan at playoff chasers Millwall, accumulating 2,441 minutes. Equating to 27 full 90s, that makes him the South-East London Club’s 6th most used player this season. Stylistically, Molumby is an archetypal defensive midfielder:
Earmarked as a potential long-term Dale Stephens replacement, given their physical and stylistic likeness, Molumby certainly appears to be more of a case of when, rather than if, when looking at a breakthrough. Internationally, the 20-year-old has already been capped 10 times at U21 level, captaining the side on 6 occasions. Having become highly rated within the Millwall community, Brighton could well face a tough task keeping hold of him, though one would highly doubt Tony Bloom to be prepared to lose a player with such potential at this stage of their career.
16. Max Sanders (’99) — Central Midfielder
Alike Molumby, Max Sanders seemed set to breakthrough over the last two seasons under Chris Hughton. He was part of the matchday squad in the 17/18 FA Cup quarter-final loss at United, and more recently in the 1–0 loss at home to Liverpool last season, though was an unused substitute in both. The Crawley-born youngster was instrumental in the U23s playoff-winning campaign two seasons ago, accumulating 1,277 minutes — the 4th most of any Brighton player — throughout a campaign where he scored three times and assisted four. The last of those assists was for Aaron Connolly in the PL2 playoff final, where Sanders captained the side.
Another in this article to have spent this season out on loan in the EFL, the 21-year-old has impressed at League One strugglers AFC Wimbledon:
Stylistically, Sanders ticks boxes as a central midfielder. The Englishman has an extensive passing range and has operated within a pivot in organised build-up play for the U23s, showing ability to drop in and act as a link player between defensive and midfield units, comfortable playing back to goal. Internationally, Sanders made appearances in all of England’s games at the European U19 Championship in 2018. Across those games, per 90 he averaged 79 passes with a whopping 92% pass accuracy, 8 long passes with an equally impressive 68% pass accuracy, 7 interceptions and 12 ball recoveries.
17. Taylor Richards (’00) — Central Midfielder
Poached from City in the summer of 2019, Richards has impressed since day one at Brighton; on ‘debut’ at Crawley in preseason, the teenager coolly converted a Panenka penalty with less than 10 minutes to go, winning the game for Brighton. His goal involvement has flourished since, with the midfielder netting 5 and assisting twice in 1,053 minutes, which averages out at 0.6 goals/assists per 90 minutes.
His explosiveness and forward-thinking makes him a valuable asset in central midfield; Richards is an immense ball carrier and terrific in transition, capable of breaking lines at speed. Providing he can be balanced with a pass-focused central midfielder, the 19-year-old may propel the U23s even further up the PL2 table. He proves incredibly tough to stop, not only recording high dribbling success rates but also drawing over 2 fouls per game. Although not as established as some of his teammates internationally, Richards has still been capped 5 times for England at U17 level, whom he debuted for aged 16 years, 2 months and 6 days.
18. Viktor Gyökeres (’98) — Left Winger/Centre Forward
The Swedish striker was signed from IF Brommapojkarna on New Years’ Day 2018. In the 2,094 minutes he’s clocked for the U23s since joining, Gyökeres netted 12 and assisted 4, averaging 0.69 goals/assists per 90. Capped fully at international level and scoring in Sweden’s 2–2 draw with Iceland in 2019, Gyökeres boasts an impressive youth international CV: across all youth age groups, he scored 14 in 27 games.
Whilst playing for the U23s he primarily operated as a central striker, though in the FA Cup last season Chris Hughton inverted the Scandinavian in a wide left position — like he had with Jose Izquierdo and Alireza Jahanbakhsh. On loan at St Pauli this season, Gyökeres has been used in both centre forward and wide left positions, showing good ability to cut in from left-hand channels to score. His impressive goal involvement record has continued, scoring 7 and assisting 3 in just over 1,400 minutes.
Alike Østigård, Gyökeres has featured frequently for St Pauli since the restart, and netted their first goal back, cutting inside from the left-hand half space in trademark fashion to get the winner against Nürnberg.
Given Potter’s liking of Trossard inverted in advanced wide-left positions, Gyökeres’ stylistic similarities may aid in accelerating his breakthrough. His versatility would be another valuable trait, and he could even be an answer to the question marks some fans are placing around Brighton’s strike force.
19. Aaron Connolly (’00) — Centre Forward
Albion’s enigmatic Irishman has been analysed fully in an article, though still warrants a place in this list. The Galway-born youngster has proven himself a real handful for defenders to deal with, both in and out of possession. Per 90, he averages 10 final third pressures, just 2 less than Maupay. Though, perhaps Connolly’s most underrated trait is his ability to draw fouls, winning 3.12 per 90, almost 1 more than Alireza Jahanbakhsh who ranks second.
The forward has won 7 fouls this season which have led to shots, including Pascal Gross’ free-kick and Neal Maupay’s penalty against Everton. With a similar physical profile to Maupay, Connolly is able to use his speed and low centre of gravity to shield the ball from opponents when back to goal, and his high touch frequency play keeps the ball close to him, allowing him to shift it away from tackling players and draw fouls.
It is clear that Connolly is considered a valuable player for Potter, as he has used the Irishman more than Murray this season. The 20-year-old was fully internationally capped after the Spurs brace, coming off the bench in Ireland’s 0–0 draw with Georgia.
20. Peter Gwargis (’00) — Winger
Brighton U23s top scorer this season with 7 goals, the Australian-born Swede is a real all-round winger. Per 90, winning 53% of the 8.2 defensive duels he competes in and recording 3.7 interceptions makes for impressive reading given his position, though he excels even more going forward. An adept ball-carrier, he records over 7 dribbles and progressive passes per 90, whilst also showing an ability to create, creating a chance per game and averaging 2.1 passes to the penalty area, with an impressive 80% pass accuracy when passing in behind the defensive line.
His roundedness is largely a reason why Gwargis can, and does, play on either wing. The 19-year-old is also a primary set piece taker for the U23s, and assisted Haydon Roberts’ aforementioned goal against Villa in the Carabao Cup. Alike most in this list, Gwargis has international pedigree, having represented Sweden twice at U19 level.
21. Neal Maupay (’96) — Centre Forward
The Frenchman sneaks onto this list, and even though he has established himself already as a Premier League forward, Maupay could still be one to watch going forward. The speed and aggression with which he tirelessly leads the press has won the fans over, with Maupay ranking as one of the top U23 forwards in Europe for final third pressures.
Maupay’s ability to show such variety in his finishing is an underrated element of his game. Of the 8 goals the Frenchman scored this season, 3 have been headers, 3 have been left foot finishes and 2 have been scored with his — strong — right foot. Admittedly, Maupay’s commitment to shoot frequently has borne frustration at times, and his 6-yard box xG underperformance of 2.37 leaves room for improvement. This isn’t to say the ex-Brentford boy is incapable of clinical finishing, as in back-to-back-to-back games at home to Wolves and at Arsenal and Palace he scored in each game, taking 12 shots in the process and outperforming the 1.97xG he recorded.
Though, the 23-year-old may be more rounded than many give him credit for. Maupay has recorded 52 shot-creating actions this season, 36 of which were open play passes; 2 assists and 19 key passes are the most of any Brighton striker in a Premier League season. His ability to drop in-front of the defensive line as a withdrawn forward has been invaluable for Brighton to progress the ball. Quantifying this, Maupay receives 26 passes per 90, but they bypass 55 opponents in the process, ranking him third of all Brighton players in the latter of the two metrics. Clearly a fulcrum of Potter’s system, Maupay has banked over 2,000 minutes and is Potter’s fifth-most used player.
22. Alexis Mac Allister (’99) — Attacking Midfielder
Albion’s Argentinian hotshot was recalled from loan club Boca in the January transfer window. Impressive in Argentina, Mac Allister ranks highly in creation metrics, but has primarily caught the eye amongst the Brighton faithful for his long-range goal-scoring ability, netting on 5 occasions from outside the box this season.
He has been analysed in full in a recent thread, though it would be a disservice to Mac Allister to not acknowledge his immense performance for the Argentina U23s in their Pre-Olympic Tournament, which the 21-year-old scored four times in and assisted one other as Argentina won the Tournament. Mac Allister is going to provide Potter with another player who can operate between the lines, combine with forwards to create shooting angles, and provide a direct and indirect set-piece threat. Fans were teased with a brief cameo from the South American at Wolves and all eyes will be on the Argentine when football returns.
23. Danny Cashman (’01) — Forward
Boasting the best goals/assists output per 90 of any PL2 player this season, with 1.07 goals/assists per 90, the 19-year-old has had an impressive campaign, despite limited minutes. A frequent shooter — across data Wyscout have games for him this season he averages 4.3 shots per 90 — Cashman has the capacity to finish with either foot and is a capable runner in-behind, though has been caught offside on occasion.
Another who appears to be developing well in the U23s and is probably still some way off breaking through, Cashman has been capped twice by England at U17 level. With Bojan Radulovic released, next season could be crucial for the youngsters development.
Hopefully this article has showcased some of the talent that has, and is, coming out of Brighton’s academy. This list is by no means comprehensive, either, as multiple others could have been included, as well as the unfortunate few who find themselves just beyond the age cap of 23 years.
Data from this article was taken from, and owned by, a variety of sources: Impect, Transfermarkt, FBREF/Statsbomb, Premier League, SofaScore, WhoScored, Wyscout, UEFA, Understat.