Chris Hughton admits it has been tough at the top for Anthony Knockaert

Brighton boss Chris Hughton says promotion hero Anthony Knockaert is struggling to make the same impact in the Premier League as he did last season.

Knockaert was named the Sky Bet Championship player of the year after scoring 15 goals and helping to create many more as the Seagulls secured a return to the top flight after a 34-year absence.

The French winger has found the net just twice this term but Hughton insists it is not for the want of trying.

“I think it’s easy to assess,” said Hughton.

“If you are comparing last season and this season, if you have a player that’s not working as hard as he did last year you can put it down to that.

“But that’s one we’ve ruled out because he is, he’s working as hard and his levels, and what we get from our fitness people, are the same as last season.

“What he is up against is good players and, particularly, when you are a side that generally play with two wingers and you’re a wide player, what he got away with last season is more difficult to get away with.

“Any striker we have would not have scored as many goals this season as they would have last season. So it comes with the levels.

“But he is giving us a contribution for the team. He is trying, he is trying to get crosses in as often as he can, but some of those moments he produced last season he can still produce, but of course it’s harder.”

While he attempts to get the best out of his own playmaker, Hughton must also work out how to stop one of the Premier League’s finest on Saturday lunchtime.

Chelsea are the visitors to the Amex Stadium and, in the absence of Pedro and Alvaro Morata through suspension, Eden Hazard will spearhead their attack.

“With Hazard every time he receives the ball in the final third then there is a huge threat that there could be an end product,” said Hughton.

“You have to be aware of him individually. There are some players that have a brilliant turn of pace off the mark, directional, but there aren’t many around that have that pace and change of direction that he has. He’s very difficult to mark.

“For the last few seasons he has gone to, I think, another level.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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