Brighton’s Steven Alzate on the ‘honour’ of playing with Radamel Falcao and trusting xG

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Jack Rathborn
·3 min read
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<p>Steven Alzate in action for Brighton against Crystal Palace</p> (Getty)

Steven Alzate in action for Brighton against Crystal Palace

(Getty)

From Brisbane Road to the firecracker atmosphere of Barranquilla’s Estadio Metropolitano, Steven Alzate has carved out one of football’s most unique paths.

Born in Camden to Colombian parents, Alzate was surrounded by Latin culture growing up but the Premier League captured his heart.

Thierry Henry and Steven Gerrard, who the 22-year-old mirrors his game on as a No 8, were among his idols, but his family’s passion for Los Cafeteros naturally ensured Radamel Falcao joined them.

Thrown into the cauldron of a World Cup qualifier against Venezuela last year alongside the Colombian icon, Alzate insists he was not “fazed” by the “honour” of sharing the pitch with such illustrious company.

“Sharing a pitch with players of the calibre of Falcao and James Rodriguez was an honour,” says the Brighton midfielder.

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“But I wasn’t too fazed. It’s my job. I’ve played with big players before here. I’ve played against big players in the Premier League.

“I was really excited to play with these players but I wasn’t too fazed by it. I just got on with it and enjoyed my time there.

“He [Falcao] is a lovely, lovely person. From the moment he saw me, he just started speaking to me as if he had known me for years. That made me feel really comfortably straight away.

Stevan Alzate battles with Mauricio Isla for the ballGetty
Stevan Alzate battles with Mauricio Isla for the ballGetty

“It’s the person he is. He’s a nice person. He made me feel so welcome. He was really encouraging as well.”

For a young player, Alzate is comfortable with pressure, having endured a desperate and ultimately doomed relegation battle with Leyton Orient in 2017, an experience he hopes will benefit him in Brighton’s own fight to beat the drop this season.

Teammate Ben White crumpled to the turf on Monday night as Christian Benteke’s stoppage time strike snatched the most unlikely Crystal Palace victory in a match dominated by Brighton.

The Seagulls were “distraught”, admitted manager Graham Potter, “the beauty of football” he muttered through gritted teeth in a game that has so far summed up their season.

Slick, electric football, but without a ruthless edge. Stuck down in 16th, four points above Fulham and the drop zone, though the numbers still believe in Brighton.

Their 2.59 xG on Monday night dwarfed Palace’s 0.18, according to to Understat, whose expected points table has Brighton shockingly in fifth, a whopping 15.62 points better off than their official total of 26.

Alzate is aware of the data though and confides in it to stay “positive” ahead of a crucial match against fellow strugglers West Brom this weekend.

“Our expected goals are quite high. We haven’t scored as many as we want to this season,” Alzate admits, with Brighton netting 26 this term, 11.85 less than their xG of 37.85.

Steven Alzate warming up with Radamel Falcao for ColombiaGetty
Steven Alzate warming up with Radamel Falcao for ColombiaGetty

“But we are aiming to keep working well as a team, keep playing well and I’m sure the goals will come.

“I wouldn’t say we’re worried at all at this moment in time.”

Alzate, who struck the winner against Liverpool earlier this month in the club’s first win at Anfield since 1982, is conscious of his fortunate position.

A young player operating in a system that encourages expansive, thought-provoking football, he emphasises the “big bonus” of his manager being “more than open” to discuss the views of his players.

“We’ve discussed that he’s got a lot of faith in me,” Alzate reveals. ”Obviously, I’m still a young player that is trying to learn new things every day in training and trying to improve. He’s trying to help me become the player I want to be.”