Brighton & Hove Albion Have An Opportunity To Make FA Cup Magic

Roberto De Zerbi's men may never get a better chance to go all the way
10:00, 19 Mar 2023

Brighton & Hove Albion are on that precipice where a surprisingly good team simply becomes a good one. Under Graham Potter, they have raced to the top of many people’s “best of the rest” lists as a team making the absolute most out of middling resources. The Seagulls rank 18th out of the 20 clubs currently in the Premier League for net spend over the last five years. And yet Brighton continue to achieve well beyond expectations.

Previous manager Graham Potter had them playing some stunning stuff, while unearthing talents like Moises Caicedo, Marc Cucurella and future World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister along the way. Many expected Brighton’s exciting run to dissipate when Potter swapped the Amex for Stamford Bridge earlier this season. In many quarters, Brighton were tipped to go the way of other “breath of fresh air” sides like Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United and Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa.


Up stepped Roberto De Zerbi. Brighton have gone from strength to strength since the former Sassuolo manager took over. Seagulls fans are quick to point out that their club is actually three places above Potter’s Chelsea in the table. While their former coach, and ex-player in Cucurella, have struggled away from the Amex, the club they let behind has thrived.

Which brings us on neatly to this weekend. Brighton take on Grimsby in the quarter final of the FA Cup. They have only gone further than the last eight once since 1983. With no disrespect intended to the 15th best team in League Two, Brighton have a tremendous opportunity here. 

Looking beyond The Mariners, one can plot a route to the final for Brighton. While Manchester City and Manchester United are favoured to come through against Burnley and Fulham respectively, this competition does have a tendency to throw up an upset. Meanwhile, an all-Championship showdown between Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield United guarantees at least one lower league side in the semi final.


Surprise FA Cup winners have been thin on the ground in recent years. Leicester’s 2021 victory over Chelsea was a minor upset but the Foxes had been recent league champions and were European mainstays at the time. Watford and Hull City got hammered by Manchester City and Arsenal respectively when they made it to Wembley. 

You have to go back to Wigan Athletic’s Ben Watson-inspired fairytale against City in 2013 for the last truly shocking winner. While this Brighton team look a cut above the Latics of a decade ago, De Zerbi’s men lifting the famous trophy would still be deemed an upset. 

European qualification has eclipsed the domestic cups in the eyes of many teams in recent years. With Brighton battling on that front with teams like Newcastle United and Liverpool, they may be tempted to focus primarily on the league rather than gamble on pipping the Manchester clubs in the FA Cup. But at the same time, with a Europa League berth up for grabs for three games’ work rather than 13, perhaps going all-in for Wembley is more pragmatic than it seems. 

However Brighton’s season pans out, they’ve done brilliantly. Losing a seemingly-talismanic manager without missing a beat is one thing but to actually improve in his absence is quite another. Success in the FA Cup, even by way of just reaching the final, would be the icing on the cake. Coupled with a strong league finish, it would mean De Zerbi’s first season at the Amex would be a true landmark moment for the club.

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