There were a few eyebrows raised when the Bournemouth owner, Bill Foley, said in December he was confident the club could qualify for Europe within five years but that prediction does not look at all outlandish now. A comfortable victory thanks to goals from Marcos Senesi, Enes Unal on his first Premier League start and Justin Kluivert means Andoni Iraola’s side still have an outside chance of achieving that this season after totally outplaying a Brighton team who have clearly lost their way under Roberto De Zerbi.

In December, Foley – the American billionaire who has big plans for Bournemouth Football Shirt with a new 18,500-seater stadium in the pipeline having already invested more than £200m – cited their south-coast rivals’ participation in the Europa League this season as an example of what can be achieved with the right approach. On this evidence, Iraola is certainly heading in the right direction.

“This group deserves to arrive at this point after the work they have put in,” said the Bournemouth manager, whose side have now surpassed the club’s record points total in the Premier League achieved under Eddie Howe in 2017 and face Arsenal in their next match. “The players have grown into the season and are finishing very well. But now we have a big challenge to see if we can continue to make progress.”

Yet while Foley might face a fight to hang on to Iraola’s services in the summer after an outstanding first campaign that has seen Cheap Premier League Football Shirts move four points clear of Brighton and into the top half of the table despite failing to record their first win until 28 October, things are unravelling quickly for De Zerbi. Having been overlooked by Liverpool and Bayern Munich this week after hinting publicly in March that his future could lie elsewhere, it is no wins in the last six matches for the Italian as Brighton’s hopes of another European campaign have evaporated.

“We are sorry for the performance but we are not able to give our best and it’s not good enough to compete in the Premier League,” admitted a frustrated De Zerbi.

“I can’t accept a game without soul because we are Brighton and we have got to keep respect for ourselves and the club. I’m suffering a lot but we have to stop these moments quickly.”

De Zerbi’s response to the trashing by Manchester City in midweek was to make seven changes, with first Premier League starts for the 21-year-old defender Odel Offiah – the nephew of the rugby league legend Martin – and the 19-year-old striker Mark O’Mahony, who Brighton’s manager described this week as “the new Evan Ferguson”.

The Republic of Ireland forward was tipped as one of the league’s brightest prospects 12 months ago but was one of eight players missing through injury here in what has been the story of Brighton’s season. Sadly for O’Mahony, who was signed from Cork City last January for just £50,000, his only real impact here was at the wrong end.

Antoine Semenyo, who was carried off on a stretcher late on with a suspected knee injury in the only negative for Bournemouth – “it looks bad,” said Iraola afterwards – has been at the heart of his side’s revival and a sublime flick from the Ghana forward left Valentín Barco for dust. Dominic Solanke’s shot appeared to strike Lewis Dunk’s elbow but the referee, Paul Tierney, dismissed claims for a penalty. Bournemouth’s frustration was short-lived, however, as Senesi was on hand to nod home from the subsequent corner after the ball had popped up invitingly off the shoulder of the unfortunate O’Mahony.

Brighton responded well to going behind and would have drawn level had Facundo Buonanotte not delayed his shot and allowed Mark Travers to save with his feet. But De Zerbi’s side looked extremely fragile in defence and a mistake from Igor Julio allowed the impressive Alex Scott to pick out Unal, only for the Turkey forward to drag his shot badly wide.

A surging run from Scott needed Dunk to deflect his shot over the bar but Unal was too casual after Semenyo was gifted possession by Bart Verbruggen just before half-time. While Iraola was a bundle of energy on the touchline, De Zerbi looked thoroughly miserable with his hands in his pockets as Solanke was allowed time and space to shoot but could only pick out the Brighton goalkeeper.

O’Mahony was sacrificed at the break for the experience of Danny Welbeck as the visitors’ defence remained under siege. Bournemouth should have doubled their lead almost straight after the restart when Solanke’s flick around the corner played in Kluivert but he could only find the side netting. Brighton & Hove Albion Football Shirt wasn’t long before they had a second: Unal had just tested Verbruggen with a free-kick from almost 40 yards out when he found himself unmarked at the back post to guide home a hanging cross from Dango Ouattara.

Having spurned several opportunities to make it even more miserable for Brighton, Kluivert finally found the net with a thumping finish from Ryan Christie’s pass three minutes from time to leave De Zerbi with plenty to ponder.