Yves Bissouma Interest From Liverpool & Arsenal No Surprise to Brighton Fans

Dec 4, 2020, 3:45 PM GMT
Yves Bissouma has attracted the interest of Liverpool and Arsenal among others
Yves Bissouma has attracted the interest of Liverpool and Arsenal among others | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images
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There has been much to admire about the Graham Potter revolution taking place at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Since the former Swansea City boss was appointed in the summer of 2019, the Seagulls have been transformed from a side who would grind out 1-0 wins to one who are capable of playing a brand of football which, on its day, can go toe-to-toe with the best sides in the Premier League.

Potter has dramatically reduced the average age of the squad from being one of the oldest starting XIs in the Premier League to one of the youngest. And whilst he did spend over £60m in his first transfer window in charge, signing the likes of Leandro Trossard, Adam Webster and Neal Maupay, since then he has largely relied on bargain buys such as Tariq Lamptey, free transfers like Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck and improving the players he inherited from Chris Hughton.

Yves Bissouma has thrived under the management of Graham Potter
Yves Bissouma has thrived under the management of Graham Potter | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Of those Hughton players who Potter has stuck with - and there are not actually that many - Yves Bissouma has been the biggest success story.

In the past year, the Malian midfielder has gone from a player who did not really have a role in the team into the first name on the team sheet. It is little wonder that the big six are now taking serious interest.

Both Liverpool and Arsenal have been linked with a January move for Bissouma, something that would have got long odds on a year ago. Bissouma has always been talented, but back then he could not find a way past Dale Stephens, Davy Propper, Steve Alzate, Pascal Gross or Aaron Mooy in any of the midfield positions. Nobody was really sure where he fitted in.

There were questions about his attitude too. Put him in the final third and he could be electric, taking players on and looking to make things happen. Ask him to get involved with the hard and unglamorous work that was defending and he did not look interested; he would track back, but often half-heartedly.

In Brighton’s 2-1 defeat against Leicester City in February 2019, he strolled back and made no attempt to put in a tackle as the Foxes launched the move which ended with Jamie Vardy putting them 2-0 ahead. The sight of Bissouma sauntering around the midfield as if on a Sunday stroll without a care in the world whilst Bournemouth scored five unanswered goals at the Amex in April 2019 summed up his first season at the club - promising, but needed to do so much more if he wants to make it in the Premier League.

That was the feeling among fans at LOSC Lille, the Ligue 1 side who Brighton paid £15m to for Bissouma's services in the summer of 2018. Lille supporters said that Bissouma had the ability to be as good as Paul Pogba - providing he sorted his behaviour and attitude out.

Whether it is through a new-found maturity as he approaches his mid-20s or because Potter has put his Master's in leadership and emotional intelligence to good use, Bissouma has done exactly that and Brighton now find themselves with a player who is threatening to be every bit as good as those Lille fans predicted.

LOSC Lille fans saw Yves Bissouma as having the potential of Paul Pogba
LOSC Lille fans saw Yves Bissouma as having the potential of Paul Pogba | PASCAL PAVANI/Getty Images

Bissouma's first opportunity under Potter came in December 2019 when Stephens missed the trip to Crystal Palace suspended. Given Bissouma's aforementioned disdain towards defending and that he had shown none of the discipline required to be a holding midfielder in his previous 18 months at the Amex, he was a surprising choice to replace Stephens for Brighton's biggest game of the season.

Potter's faith though was wonderfully vindicated as Bissouma was one of the best players on the pitch at Selhurst Park, covering every blade of grass at the same time as showing off his full range of talents with the ball.

There has been no looking back for Bissouma since that cold evening in Croydon. He had shown Potter that not only did he possess the mentality to play in the holding role, but he could also bring far greater dynamism to the team than the solid-yet-unspectacular Stephens. A defensive midfielder like Bissouma who can read the game, tackle, carry the ball and pick out a pass is worth his weight in gold in a possession system like Potterball.

Bissouma's performances for Brighton have been so good that Dale Stephens was sold to Burnley
Bissouma's performances for Brighton have been so good that Dale Stephens was sold to Burnley | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Bissouma's next challenge was to start turning in performances of the standard he had shown at Palace on a regular basis. No problems there; since lockdown in particular, he has been Brighton's best player with the small exception of Lamptey. Look at all the key metrics for judging a midfielder - passes, ball recoveries, tackles, interceptions and take ons - and you will see Bissouma's name near the top of the charts.

So good has Bissouma been in 2020/21 that Potter has even be able to deploy number 10s alongside him in the centre of the park at times this season, knowing that Bissouma's work rate and ability can cover for two traditional midfield players. Bissouma buzzing around doing the jobs that Stephens and Propper used to carry out between them allows Potter to use Pascal Gross or Adam Lallana in a much deeper role where they can still concentrate on playmaking, increasing the Seagulls' creativity.

The only area in which Bissouma's game is lacking is goals. He has scored only three times in 66 Brighton appearances and all of those have come from spectacular strikes from outside the box. It says much about his ability that the two goals he has notched in the Premier League - away at Burnley on the final day of the 2019/20 season and at Everton back in October - were both nominated for Goal of the Month.

Bissouma hardly ever finds himself shooting inside the opposition penalty area. If he could find a way to add goals to his game by getting into better positions to score more often, then he would become one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the Premier League - and exactly the sort of player that all of the big six would crave, not just Liverpool and Arsenal.

It will take a big money bid to prise Bissouma from Brighton. The Seagulls do not sell if they do not want to, as the pursuit of Ben White and the annual transfer rumours surrounding Lewis Dunk's next destination are testament to that.

If Liverpool or Arsenal want Bissouma, then they will need to find over £50m to secure his services. That figure would rise substantially should he start scoring goals on a regular basis. Based on his performances over the past year, he would be worth every penny.

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