“A Rolls Royce Of A Player” Brighton Fan's Lowdown On New Leeds Star

Brighton fan Ben Cove gives Liam Bridcutt verdict.
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Brighton fan Ben Cove gives Liam Bridcutt verdict.

Background info: A star of Chelsea's expensively assembled youth academy during José Mourinho's reign, the Berkshire lad grew up alongside the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork, Scott Sinclair and Michael Mancienne within the Stamford Bridge developmental ranks, being offered a pro contract when he left school.

Bridcutt operated as a centre back for much of his apprenticeship, dabbling in midfield duties ad hoc before converting into a full-time Makélélé-style anchorman. At 5ft 9ins you could hardly say he has the typical frame of a centre-half, yet he  filled in there for Brighton at times and always looked assured. After the then-Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti let Bridcutt go, Brighton's Gus Poyet was alerted to his qualities by Ray Wilkins.

Then in League One, Brighton snapped up the youngster on a Bosman and he helped them to the title in his first season, providing the midfield base from which the Seagulls built their patient passing approach in the Championship.

Speed

A natural athlete who is swift on the turn, Bridcutt is seldom outpaced. But then he never appears to exert himself.

He's a Rolls Royce of a player, who glides across the turf, his clever positioning and well-schooled defensive technique affording him the apparent luxury of never getting into a foot race. 7/10.

Strength

Hardly a powerhouse, but Bridcutt does punch well above his diminutive size, often out-muscling chunky opponents who appear twice his weight.

Again this is where his intelligence comes in - he'll shield the ball so that his marker must foul him to stand any chance of nicking it away.

Bridcutt has a low, well-built carriage that aids his sharpness off the mark and serves as a tremendous asset when going into a physical challenge. And he certainly eats his Weetabix.  7/10

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Bridcutt's leap is highly impressive - so impressive, in fact, that he often out-jumps opponents who are 6ft-plus. As such, he is charged with protecting his goalkeeper at corners by marking the opposition's biggest striker.

What's more, Liam's use of the ball from aerial positions is often exceptional. Like his mentor at Chelsea, Claude Makélélé, he refuses to give the ball away in any circumstances – and that includes when jumping to head the ball clear. Instead of heading it back to the opposition, he'll try to cushion it into his own path or to a team-mate. 8/10.

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Positioning

This is the biggest strength of Bridcutt's game. Operating as a deep-lying midfielder, he so often pops up in the right place at the right time, snuffing out opposition attacks or providing a safe option for his own team-mates when they need one.

One of the most proactive footballers I've seen at Championship level, he has a natural ability to pre-empt what is about to happen; assessing the probability of what the player in possession will do next and adapting his own position accordingly.  9/10

Tackling

Bridcutt's reading of the game means he has a head start in winning the ball from an opponent but it's the way in which he meets a midfield challenge that is most impressive.

Blessed with natural athleticism, he marries the two essential elements to the art of tackling: tenacity and timing. 8/10

Passing

On the most part, Bridcutt keeps the team ticking over. His passes are short and sweet, and it is his invention that sparks a lot of attacks.

However, he is no Andrea Pirlo. His passing range is limited, but to his credit I think he is aware of this limitation. He carries the piano: he doesn't play a concerto on it.

To that end, he rarely attempts long pings forward. He is predisposed to keeping possession for his team, and so risk-taking is not his bag. 7/10

Attitude

I have watched Bridcutt train hard during the week and perform with a level of consistency unparalleled at Brighton.

He is a rare breed in that he genuinely gets absolutely everything out of his very being. What I mean by that is he capitalises on his athleticism and uses his brain efficiently, even when under pressure, thus maximising his contribution to the team.

When Brighton's backs are against the wall, it is he who rolls their collective sleeves up. He is a readymade leader – maybe not in a vocal sense, but definitely as an example.

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