As Brighton eased to a 3-0 victory against Newcastle on Sunday afternoon, there was only name on the tip of the footballing world’s tongues.
Signed from Chelsea for a mere £3m in January, 19-year-old Tariq Lamptey has rapidly emerged into a star on the south coast.
His performance on Tyneside was limited to an hour due to injury, but boy did the teenager make an impact in the time he spent marauding down the St James’ Park right flank. ‘Football Twitter’ have fallen in love with Brighton’s live wire.
Within three minutes of kick-off, he’d won his side a penalty through a darting infield run from the flank which forced Allan Saint-Maximin into the most clumsiest of challenges. Lamptey’s low centre of gravity, ability to glide with the ball at his feet combined with a remarkable turn of speed makes him almost unstoppable in such situations, with his superb work allowing Neal Maupay to score Brighton’s opener amid a dominant display from Graham Potter’s Seagulls.
And it was Lamptey – deployed as a right wing-back in Potter’s well-drilled 3-4-1-2 – who was so key in establishing the visitors’ superiority.
He offered a constant source of progression down his right flank through those aforementioned dynamic dribbles, while the speed at which he progresses through the gears makes him incredibly hard to track off the ball. Thus, he was able to make both under and overlapping runs in the final third which made him an unpredictable proposition for the overwhelmed Jamal Lewis down Newcastle’s left.
The dynamic, meanwhile, he estabished with Leandro Trossard – who functioned in a free role behind Brighton’s front two and often found himself overloading Lewis with astute movements out to the right – proved mightily dangerous throughout.
The pair combined for Maupay’s second within the opening ten minutes, with Lamptey slipping the Belgian in behind the former Norwich full-back before Trossard picked out the Frenchman with a perfectly placed driven cross.
But it wasn’t just his electric nature going forward which helped Lamptey capture the attention of the masses – this was a dominant performance in all phases.
The 19-year-old’s remarkable engine means he’s the ideal profile for the wing-back role and allows him to contribute in all thirds. Defensively, he didn’t put a foot wrong.
His aggression and capacity to step out to an opponent in an instant allowed him to pin Lewis and ensure he didn’t pose a threat in Brighton’s third, but anytime the Magpies did break in behind before his forced exit early in the second period, Lamptey was the first man to deny them.
The teenager’s hustle to prevent Callum Wilson from pulling a goal back after breaking in behind the Seagulls’ back three was a celebration of his mature awareness, majestic burst of pace and defensive nous. He timed his tackle on the Magpies’ summer signing superbly.
The 19-year-old may be petit – too slight for some – but there’s no doubting his exceptional talent. He’s an entertainer. He plays the game with a smile on his face, no matter how many opponents are attempting to chop his legs in half – it was just the two Magpies who were booked for cynical fouls on the wing-back after he’d left them for dead.
If the second half of last season or the Chelsea performance weren’t enough, Lamptey’s showing at Newcastle was confirmation of his rare talent. He’s so unique, so dynamic and most importantly, remarkably entertaining.
Tariq Lamptey is the epitome of Graham Potter’s vibrant new-look Brighton.