Brighton and Hove Albion have broken their transfer record with the capture of winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
The Iranian international, who featured for his country at the World Cup in Russia, has joined the Seagulls for a reported £17m and has signed a five-year contract with the south coast club.
Jahanbakhsh finished last season as the top goal-scorer in the Eredivisie, with two hat-tricks in his final three matches for AZ helping him to a total of 21 league goals. The Iranian midfielder also registered 12 assists in 2017/18.
Jahanbakhsh was Chris Hughton’s tenth signing of the summer – no Premier League coach has been busier during the current transfer window.
Fantasy Premier League have listed the 24-year-old winger as a £7.0m-rated midfielder, meanwhile, the same as Pascal Gross.
Predominantly occupying the right flank, Jahanbakhsh’s ability to play in a variety of positions was highlighted by his new manager upon signing for the club:
Ali is a player that we have been aware of and monitored for a few years, and his versatility will increase our attacking options within the squad.
He can play in a wide position or central midfield attacking role, and I am now very much looking forward to working with him.
Should Jahanbakhsh take up his preferred position on the right flank, as expected, then the move will likely spell bad news for Anthony Knockaert (£5.5m), who occupied that role in Hughton’s side for much of 2017/18. Jahanbakhsh’s arrival also blocks another route into the side for Jurgen Locadia (£5.5m), who was fielded on the right wing on three occasions after his January move from PSV Eindhoven.
Born in Gilan in August 1993, Jahanbakhsh spent his formative years playing for youth sides in the city of Qazvin before his first taste of senior football with Damash Tehran in the Iranian third tier.
Moving to affiliated club Damash Gilan in 2011, Jahanbakhsh made 44 league appearances in the top flight of Iranian football and scored ten goals across two seasons.
Still only 19, Jahanbakhsh was presented with a move to Europe when Dutch side NEC Nijmegen snapped up the teenage prospect on a three-year deal.
Making 27 appearances (16 as a substitute) in his debut season in the Eredivisie, Jahanbakhsh scored on five occasions – including a brace in the 2-2 draw with Ajax on the final day of the regular season – and set up a further four goals as NEC were relegated from the Dutch top flight following a play-off defeat to Sparta Rotterdam.
A superb campaign in the Eerste Divisie – in which the Iranian winger scored 12 goals, recorded 17 assists and won the Dutch second tier’s Player of the Year award – attracted the interest of AZ, who signed Jahanbakhsh in August 2015.
Two promising seasons in the Eredivisie preceded his headline-making campaign of 2017/18 and the Iranian international departed for the Premier League having registered 34 goals and 27 assists during his three seasons with AZ.
Jahanbakhsh at AZ
Featuring for his homeland in both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, Jahanbakhsh has 41 caps and four international goals to his name.
Goals and assists from the Brighton right flank were conspicuous by their absence in 2017/18. Despite having more attempts on goal and penalty box touches than Pascal Gross last season, Anthony Knockaert finished the season with just three league goals to his name. The French winger recorded just one solitary assist, meanwhile.
Knockaert’s chance creation rate was also poor: the 26-year-old midfielder made a key pass just once every 76 minutes.
Jahanbakhsh’s arrival, then, should fill Brighton fans with much optimism given the Iranian’s eye-catching numbers from last season.
The winger’s underlying attacking statistics in 2017/18 compare very favourably with those of his new colleagues, too, as the table below highlights.
Jahanbakhsh vs Brighton midfielders – a 2017/18 comparison
|Player||Minutes per goal attempt||Minutes per chance created|
The 34 goals Brighton scored in the Premier League last season was the fourth-lowest total in the top flight. With over half of those strikes scored by either Glenn Murray, who turns 35 this season, or Pascal Gross, whose total of seven goals flattered his minutes-per-chance mean, Jahanbakhsh’s arrival will hopefully alleviate some of that goal-scoring burden.
Jahanbakhsh’s total of 144 shots was identical to the amount recorded by Mohamed Salah last season and registered over fewer minutes, too; the Iran international’s minutes-per-chance rate bettered that of the Egyptian’s as a result. Brighton’s record signing hit the target on 62 occasions, a figure only inferior to Salah among FPL midfielders in 2017/18.
Sixty-six of Jahanbakhsh’s efforts on goal were from inside the box, while 16 of them were deemed “big chances”.
Eden Hazard and Wilfried Zaha were the only Premier League midfielders last season to complete more successful take-ons than Jahanbakhsh managed (111) in the Eredivisie.
The Iranian winger’s chance creation average (one every 35 minutes) also bested that of Pascal Gross, whose rate of key passes was among the best in the FPL budget/mid-price midfielder bracket. No Premier League midfielder created more big chances than Jahanbakhsh (21) supplied for AZ, meanwhile.
The huge, glaring caveat to Jahanbakhsh’s numbers last season is that they were all recorded in the Dutch top flight. From Afonso Alves at Middlesbrough to Siem de Jong at Newcastle United, many a high-achieving forward or midfielder in the Eredivisie has flopped upon their move to the Premier League. While it would grossly unfair to fully judge Jurgen Locadia yet, Brighton fans and FPL managers need only look to the Seagulls’ January capture from PSV (nine goals and six assists for Eindhoven prior to his move, one goal and an assist for Hughton’s side in a stop-start spell since then) to acknowledge how difficult a transition the step up can be.
The fact that Brighton can already offer us a tried-and-tested midfield option for £7.0m in the shape of Pascal Gross means there seems little to be gained by taking a punt on Jahanbakhsh while he is still unproven in the Premier League – particularly at that price.
That Gross will once again be on set-piece duties this season – only one of the 80 chances that Jahanbakhsh created for AZ last season was from a dead-ball situation – and has seemingly usurped Glenn Murray as Brighton’s first-choice penalty taker furthers the German midfielder’s case.
The Seagulls’ tricky-looking start to 2018/19, in which they play last season’s top four in the first seven Gameweeks, is likely to deter Fantasy investment in the Brighton squads anyway and gives us the opportunity to assess Jahanbakhsh’s worth as a mid-price midfielder before their fixtures take a turn for the better in Gameweek 8. Given his goal involvement potential and the prospect of his game being well-reflected on the Bonus Points System (key passes, “big chance” creation and successful take-ons all being rewarded with BPS points), then Jahanbakhsh is one to monitor for the medium-term.
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