Davy Propper: Brighton's calm influence within Premier League madness
Anyone who has seen Davy Propper play will know he is not one to get ruffled too easily.
The Dutchman has been a calming influence on Brighton and Hove Albion' midfield for the last two seasons, following his arrival from PSV Eindhoven in August 2017.
Propper, 28, agreed a four-year contract and at the time the reported fee of around £10m was a record signing following the club's promotion to the Premier League - eclipsing the £5m they paid Valencia for Maty Ryan.
The Holland international has since made 71 appearances for the Seagulls. He was a regular under the previous manager Chris Hughton and it's clear the new head coach Graham Potter equally appreciates his talents.
Potter has radically changed the style of play and the possession-based tactics appear to suit the Dutchman nicely, who was linked with a summer switch to Ajax. He insisted that move was "never close" and is happy working with the new head coach at Albion.
"We changed quite a bit," said Propper, who is as laid back in an interview room as he is on the pitch. "We are a little bit more comfortable on the ball. We like to have the ball ourselves and control the game.
"We have done this very well, but we need to score a little bit more and get the points. We are confident that the goals will come. Everybody gets more chances than the last two years, and I expect more goals from myself too.
"Everything's new and we adapted. We try to understand how he (Potter) wants to play. For us it was a big difference from the last two years. We play with a little bit more risk, but if you have the ball you can control the game a little bit more, you don’t have to defend as much as we are used to."
Propper returned to first team action at Aston Villa last week having missed the previous two Premier League matches (Chelsea and Tottenham) with a minor hamstring injury.
He immediately rekindled his central midfield partnership with Dale Stephens and despite playing with 10-men - following Aaron Mooy's sending-off - the Albion midfield was rarely over-run at Villa.
Propper and Stephens continued to be a creative force and so nearly helped Potter's men to a hard-earned point. With a man down, you may expect to see the midfielder frantically covering, scrambling and last ditch tackles...but not Propper, that's just not his style.
“It is not that we are really aggressive or anything," he said, addressing the two red cards Brighton have received this season. "It is not the way we want to start a game after 30 minutes with ten men, but it can happen to anyone. Of course we try to stay 11 v 11 and I’m sure we would have won the game if we would have had 11 on the pitch.
"Every red card is different it is not all the same, sometimes it is two yellows or sometimes it is not even right to get a red card. But, I think there isn’t a problem. Maybe we have to think about it a little bit more. But it happens."
Propper, who said his favourite all-time player was Zinedine Zidane, was a regular scorer with his previous club PSV and netted 10 times in their 2015-16 title-winning season.
He scored 16 from 67 appearances in Eindhoven and at Vitesse he also had a healthy strike rate from midfield of 18 goals from 142. At international level he has three from 17 but for the Albion, he has been far less prolific with just one goal to his name.
"It's harder to score in the Premier League," he said. "In Holland you see teams winning four and five a lot. Here it is more 1-0 or 2-1."
The former Vitesse man is also a regular in Ronald Koeman's Dutch squad. He has 17 caps and was part of the 2019 Nations League team that finished as runners up. He also admitted that Albion's new style of play makes the transition from club to international football much smoother.
“With the country I hope we get to the European Championships. We are not there yet, but we are close and that is massive for us because we were in there the last two major tournaments that is important.
"With the club we are getting in the right direction and it is not there the moment with our points, but I like the way we do things now and try to improve every game, we have a real clear strategy.”
That clear strategy will need to deliver three points this Saturday against Everton. After nine matches, and despite a number of encouraging displays, Albion are just one point above the bottom three.
“Especially at home we have a good record against them (Everton)," said Propper. "We have to do the same things we did against Villa, not get the red card that is one thing."On the other hand we played really well at Villa, we just go on with these games and then I’m really confident.”