Can Baleba shore up Brighton's midfield?

Carlos Baleba
Carlos Baleba

Joe Bradshaw, BBC Sport

Brighton have signed an unheralded teenager so he is undoubtedly going to rip up the Premier League.

That is the new narrative surrounding Albion, and it is quite apt given their outstanding recruitment in recent years.

But Carlos Baleba is his own player and, having to fill the boots of £115m Moises Caicedo, is a daunting prospect.

So who is he?

A 19-year-old central midfielder with just 36 senior appearances to his name for French side Lille, and most of those coming last season.

He has yet to be capped by Cameroon, at any age group, and has only 470 minutes of Ligue 1 football under his belt.

Put that into context – Caicedo had 34 appearances when he arrived from Independiente and needed half a season on loan at Belgian side Beerschot to find his feet.

It would be remiss to expect Baleba to fill the hole in Brighton’s midfield – a gap that was exposed by West Ham’s rapier counter-attacks on Saturday – but the underlying data is promising.

From a limited sample size, all his tackling numbers are in the top 10 per cent for midfielders in Europe’s top leagues, as are his blocking statistics.

He’s not merely a destroyer either, with his numbers for progressive passes and carries stacking up well against his peers.

Despite being yet to score in senior football, he does like a shot – and everybody knows how effective Roberto de Zerbi’s midfielders tend to be at bagging screamers from distance.

In Brighton’s opening three games, Pascal Gross and Billy Gilmour have been De Zerbi’s midfield pivot, and Baleba certainly offers something different to their profiles.

Whether this raw but talented 19-year-old is actually ready to don an Albion shirt in the Premier League remains to be seen.