If 40 points represent the line between safety and relegation, then Brighton are well over a quarter of the way to their ultimate objective ahead of any Premier League season.
Four league victories from their opening five games – a record only bettered by Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United – has seen the Seagulls proudly perch themselves in the top four. In all competitions it’s six wins from seven.
With few envisaging such a sensational start, the scramble to unearth the secrets behind Brighton’s success is in full swing, and a buoyant Graham Potter is all too happy to divulge.
Having fielded over an hour’s worth of questions from a media cohort desperate for their nugget of insight into Brighton’s start, Potter reclines back on his chair, exhales, and indulges in a stretch of accomplishment. His work with the media is done, for now, but the same cannot be said for matters on the pitch.
“No, is the answer,” Potter exclusively told Sky Sports when asked if Brighton’s start had laid the foundations for a season unshackled from the pressures of avoiding relegation. “The sample is too small.
“It’s a great points return for us, four wins out of five in the Premier League is nothing to complain about. It’s a good start, there is no point denying that, but we’ve got a long way to go this season. If we think too far ahead or get carried away and think we’ve cracked it then we’ve got problems.”
Far from being the usual hyperbole peddled by managers to combat complacency, Potter’s insistence nothing has been achieved yet, aside from being true, is rooted in his assessment of Brighton’s performances this season.
Were you to jump to the conclusion that Brighton’s start and lofty league position constituted the best period of Potter’s tenure on the south coast, you may well be correct, but to the man in the hot seat it’s not quite as simple as that.
“This is the fascinating thing about football,” the Seagulls boss explains. “Results-wise it’s hard to argue, absolutely. Results make everything better.
“If you’re a club that has played seven games, won six, kept four clean sheets and you’re saying things are not good, there is something drastically wrong.
“At the same time, if I were to take a five or six-game spell, we probably played better last year in terms of just pure performance, but we didn’t get the results. This is certainly a good time for us, but we are not getting carried away.”
Brighton earned an unwanted reputation for failing to convert a plethora of encouraging performances into points last season, defying the ‘expected goals’ statistics to score fewer and concede more throughout the campaign.
By contrast, the opening five matches of the 2021/22 season have seen the Seagulls score more and concede fewer than expected en route to collecting 12 points from a possible 15, but what’s been behind the transformation?
Have the players all suddenly improved over the summer, or is a tactical masterstroke from Potter responsible? The Brighton boss offered a somewhat more modest assessment.
“Last year we were quite unlucky,” he admitted. “I can say that now the season is done, I couldn’t say it while we were going through it.
“But, at the same time, we have turned little moments in our favour, we’ve learned about each other and developed stronger relationships as a team. But I cannot say there has been a magic formula because it’s not like we’re actually playing better.
“We know the margins have been on our side, we know we’ve been lucky, we know we’ve done a lot well and the boys have been brilliant, but we are still a humble group that wants to keep improving. That is what we have to focus on.
“We are not at our maximum, we can improve a lot. Whether that equates to results is another thing because that is the beauty of the game, sometimes people struggle with that. You can do a lot of things well in football and be the better team but still not win.”
Of all the venues Brighton will play in this season, the one where Potter will hope such a prophecy is unfounded is Selhurst Park.
The intimidating, atmospheric home of Crystal Palace is where the Seagulls head next as their encouraging start to the season faces a stern examination on Monday Night Football.
With Patrick Vieira still finding his feet at Palace and in the Premier League, expectant Brighton fans would be forgiven for thinking their side could ride this wave of confidence to another result, but Potter is under no illusions about the challenge that lies ahead on derby day.
“It’s going to be a tough game, it always is,” Potter added. “Palace are at the start of their journey together with a new manager and new players. They are doing well; they’ve made a good start and I think they will get better the longer they are with each other.
“They will want to win, the crowd are very vocal there, it’s going to be a great atmosphere and we are looking forward to it. We’re trying to prepare as normal, be as consistent as we can, but understand the passion and feeling in a game like this.
“You’ve got to understand we’ve done well in terms of the points we have got. On a results basis we are happy, but we focus more on what we are doing, how we can win the game and how can we play better and improve. If you focus on that then you don’t get carried away or feel overconfident.”
Potter pointed to a shift in luck underpinning Brighton’s outstanding start. That may or may not tell the whole story, but what does is that the Seagulls have been primed to seize any advantage that has come their way this season. Continue doing that, starting at Selhurst, and there are no bounds to how high they can soar.