Tariq Lamptey’s cameo for Brighton on the wing could offer a taste of what is to come

Tariq Lamptey could be reinvented at Brighton & Hove Albion as a rapid right-winger.

The right-back returned in that more advanced role from his latest injury lay-off, spanning nearly two months, in last night’s 0-0 draw against Wolves at the Amex Stadium.

Lamptey was one of five substitutions made in the second half by head coach Roberto De Zerbi in a vain attempt to fashion a breakthrough. The introduction of the 23-year-old after 65 minutes, further forward than in his normal position, is intriguing.

Although he did not see enough of the ball to make a meaningful impact, the role revision provides Lamptey with an opportunity to build up more minutes after a succession of lengthy injury absences which have damaged his progress.

Adam Hinshelwood, 18, has hogged the right-back berth since Joel Veltman sustained an ankle injury at Arsenal in mid-December. The experienced Dutchman expects to be back in action soon, but De Zerbi has contrastingly limited options to provide more width.

Japan’s Kaoru Mitoma and Ivory Coast international Simon Adingra, the regular wingers since October, have been sidelined from club duty since December by respective ankle and hamstring injuries.

They are currently unavailable to De Zerbi anyway, as they are with their countries for the Asia Cup in the case of Mitoma and the Africa Cup of Nations — Adingra made his comeback as a late substitute in Ivory Coast’s shock 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea in the latter tournament last night.

Solly March, another winger, is out for the season with knee damage. Julio Enciso, who can also play wide, has only just returned to the grass to train separately from the first team squad following two operations on a torn meniscus in his left knee.

De Zerbi has compensated for the lack of natural width at his disposal by dispensing with wingers, playing Joao Pedro and Facundo Buonanotte tucked in centrally behind either Danny Welbeck and Evan Ferguson while Ansu Fati recovers from a hamstring issue. Lamptey’s return to action adds a different dimension.

Lamptey’s surges forward have been restricted by injury of late (Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

De Zerbi, asked what he wants from Lamptey before the game against Wolves, said: “To be available, because he is an important, important player for us. He can play full-back, winger. Especially in this moment without Kaoru Mitoma, Simon Adingra, and Solly March. So, I am happy to have him available.”

Lamptey had only been on the pitch for 34 minutes since early October prior to his appearance against Wolves, because of a muscle injury. He had not been seen since going off in the first half of the 3-2 win at Nottingham Forest at the end of November.

Lamptey showed what he is capable of when he is fit by playing a key part in the 2-2 comeback draw away to Marseille in October, the turning point result in Brighton topping their group in the Europa League to automatically qualify for the last 16 in March.

Covering at left-back for the then-injured Pervis Estupinan in France that night, Lamptey capped an influential second half performance by winning the late penalty for Joao Pedro’s equaliser.

De Zerbi said: “He is a unique player. His attitude and behaviour is incredible. It is to Tariq’s credit that we achieved first place in the Europa League. The penalty in Marseille was for his attitude and passion to create the penalty, to find the one-on-one.

“I would like to improve him in pass control, and I would like him cleaner in technique. His characteristic is speed, his energy. When Tariq starts (to run) and is attacking, you have to follow him or you will be left 40 metres behind.”

Lamptey’s searing pace has been his biggest asset since bursting onto the Premier League scene in 2020 under former head coach Graham Potter after moving from Chelsea. Electric runs forward from right-back have been rarer than they were back then, due to a succession of injury problems.

Hamstring surgery ruled him out for nine months from December 2020 to September 2021, then a knee injury kept him out last season from March onwards.

Lamptey is just relieved to be in contention. “If you speak to any footballer, they want to be on the pitch and helping the team,” he said after the stalemate with Wolves. “It’s just frustrating when you are out, but I am back now and happy to be helping the team again.”

Versatility is commonplace in De Zerbi’s squad. Lamptey, who switched allegiance to Ghana in May 2022 after representing England at youth level, added: “In every game you have to be adaptable.

“I don’t really mind where I play. As long as I am helping the team. I can play on the wing, I can play full-back, in a few different positions. Where ever I’m asked to play I just try to give my all.”

With a minimum of ten matches looming for Brighton in the league, Europa League and the FA Cup in the space of 48 days before the international break in March, Lamptey’s return is a timely boost to De Zerbi’s limited choices — whether that is as an attacker or in defence.

(Top image: Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

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