A dream week for Evan Ferguson has been somewhat marred by an injury exacerbated while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Ferguson became only the fourth 18-year-old to score a hat-trick in the Premier League after his sensational performance against Newcastle United before the international break. The young forward dominated a convincing 3-1 win over the Magpies, pushing Brighton up to sixth in the table.
The Amex Stadium rose in unison when Ferguson was taken off against Newcastle following a robust challenge from Bruno Guimaraes which appeared to cause the Irishman some discomfort. Despite initially joining up with the Ireland squad on international duty, Ferguson has now been sent back to the south coast to recuperate.
Here is the latest on Ferguson’s injury.
It was initially reported that the injury suffered by Ferguson came as a result of Guimaraes’ challenge on the 18-year-old, but Ireland boss Stephen Kenny claims that is not the case. Instead, the Brazilian’s tackle merely exacerbated an existing knee problem that Ferguson was suffering with.
Speaking about the injury, Kenny said: “I don’t think it was well reported as an injury in the game, in the challenge, that’s not the case actually. It is one that he’s been playing on, the patellar tendon injury, a knee injury that he has had some pain in.”
The manager added: “So, he just felt after he did it that it was too sore and he couldn’t play on it. When he came off he just felt too sore and it was too sore to participate [for Ireland].”
Kenny insisted that Ferguson’s injury was one he had been struggling with for some time, but also suggested it was unrelated to the ankle issue that kept him out towards the end of last season.
Having been sent back to Brighton, Ferguson will undoubtedly be given the once over by the club’s medical staff to ascertain the seriousness of his knee problem. Until those checks have been completed, the Seagulls will not be able to put a timeline on his recovery.
Ferguson’s fitness concerns will undoubtedly cause Roberto De Zerbi some headaches as Brighton prepare themselves for a tricky trip to Manchester United after the international break, followed by their first ever European game against AEK Athens the following Thursday.
Ansu Fati was signed on loan by Brighton as a replacement for the injured Julio Enciso but he may have to fill the considerable void left by Ferguson’s enforced absence.
At Barcelona, Fati almost exclusively played on the left flank, but has little chance of dislodging Kaoru Mitoma from that perch on the south coast. De Zerbi explained that Fati could operate in a number of roles for the Seagulls. “Nine, ten, seven, 11,” De Zerbi said, before stressing that Fati will play “where we need”.
In the immediate future, Fati may be needed in a central position, dovetailing with the club’s record signing Joao Pedro who has excelled when dropping deep this season.
Former Manchester United and Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck is perhaps the most stylistically similar player to Ferguson but has also been struggling with the latest of his many fitness issues. Welbeck sat out the win over Newcastle with a muscular injury which De Zerbi described as “not so bad”.
Whoever comes into the team in place of Brighton’s hat-trick hero has a tough act to follow.