Is Sam Baldock finished at Brighton?
Last season Brighton & Hove Albion striker Sam Baldock scored and created 15 goals in 27 Championship starts as the Seagulls earned promotion to the Premier League.
His reward? Being left out of the matchday squad for five months of the season and being an unused substitute when he was picked.
When fit, the 29-year-old was a regular in the Albion attack. He can’t get a game for love nor money now, however, as manager Chris Hughton clearly doesn’t believe he can cope with the step up in quality.
Injury problems have plagued Baldock‘s time at Brighton
The Englishman’s season got off to the worse possible start, having spent the first two months sidelined with a calf injury picked up in July 2017. He returned to training in mid-October but had a lot of work to do to build up his fitness after missing all of pre-season.
Baldock missed eight Premier League games at the start of the campaign through injury and was given minutes with the u23s after recovering. It took him another seven-and-a-half weeks before he was deemed fit enough to make Brighton’s matchday squad, although he didn’t come off the bench against Huddersfield on December 9.
The striker has struggled with injuries throughout his time at the Amex Stadium which have caused him to miss a lot of games each season. Upon his arrival in 2014, Baldock featured in only 20 of 46 Championship games (43%) and the following campaign saw him make 28 appearances (61%).
Last season, the Brighton forward played in 31 outings (67%), an improvement from the previous year, but still saw him out of action for more than a quarter of the season.
In his four years with the Seagulls, Baldock has only played in 80 games from a possible 168, forcing Hughton to sign a more reliable striker for the top-flight campaign.
Glenn Murray form has kept Baldock waiting in the wings
Baldock can’t play a lone role up front and spent last season operating alongside a strike partner in the Championship. Promotion to the Premier League meant Hughton had to devise a tactic with extra midfield protection at the expense of sacrificing a striker.
And with Baldock injured at the start of the season, Murray was given the nod and has been outstanding for Brighton. The 34-year-old has scored 11 goals in 20 Premier League starts, creating 13 chances, and was even been talked up for an England call-up recently.
Capable of holding the ball up to bring others into play, while running the channels to give his side respite, Murray has been a standout performer for the Seagulls. Baldock hasn’t been given much of a sniff as a result.
While Murray stays fit, it’s hard to see him being dethroned given how lethal he’s been in front of goal – 41 shots, 22 on target (53%) and 11 scored (27%). Unfortunately for Baldock, Murray just hasn’t let up for Hughton to give others a chance.
Baldock is in a catch 22 situation too, as the Brighton boss is even more likely to overlook Baldock given his lack of activity compared to other squad players this season, so an exit might be on the cards in the coming months.