While it is always difficult to take over from a manager, the task is even more complicated when the predecessor in question has done an extraordinary job. Indeed, when Graham Potter packed his bags to replace Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, Brighton were already in 4th place in the table with four wins in six games played in the Premier League. The great promises had already made themselves visible with Potter, but the introduction of Roberto De Zerbi had not started auspiciously with three defeats and two draws in the first five games under his management, despite an interesting performance against Liverpool ( 3-3). Today the Italian has imposed his tactical paw and his players seem to have assimilated well the ingredients of the former Sassuolo coach.
“I’m very happy. For me, we played the best game (against Southampton ed) with me as coach. We are improving in many things. We saw how we improved in this last part of the season in Dubai and Brighton last week.said De Zerbi at the moment of the second half, during the Christmas Boxing Day during which the Seagulls beat the Saints (1-3).
A well-honed game system
Famous for having produced a daring and risky game, Roberto De Zerbi installs an offensive tactical approach with the Seagulls, even against the strongest teams in the division. He began his tenure with a thrilling draw at Liverpool (3-3), before Brighton became one of the few visiting teams to dominate possession against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium despite the defeat (3-1 ). As a symbol, the Seagulls then beat Potter’s Chelsea at home (4-1) showing spectacular offensive intentions from the first whistle.
One of the most obvious tactical changes under De Zerbi is Brighton’s ability to withstand pressure. Even when the opponents try to gain ground in their defensive third, the Italian coach wants his goalkeeper and defenders to keep their cool by playing short in their game. It’s a risky philosophy but when the Seagulls cancel their pressing, as they have done so many times against Chelsea, they find more room to create chances at the other end of the pitch.
Brighton are averaging 130 extra passes per game under De Zerbi, which translates into a 10% increase in average possession. With a 4-2-3-1 formation preferred, the 43-year-old doesn’t want his defenders or midfielders to try too many long passes. Since Potter’s departure, Brighton’s long pass production has dropped by 24%. Central defenders Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster have drastically reduced the number of passes with the goal they make from moving to wing or central forward.
The future in points
With the explosion of some still young elements such as Moisés Caicedo, Pervis Estupiñán or even Alexis Mac Allister, Brighton will know capital in the development of De Zerbi’s sports project in the coming months. And the rumors continue to grow but the Italian coach refuses to let this disturb his goals for the season and the Argentinian midfielder is quite in agreement: “They know how grateful I am to this club. I’m in no hurry to leave. I am very happy here, I enjoy every day spent here. I’m only focused on Brighton.”Mac Allister told Albion TV, despite interest from Chelsea. As for Caicedo, Liverpool had tested the waters during the last summer transfer window, but the Italian wants to keep the core of his collective: “There are many players who are very good with the ball, but it’s not so good without him in defence. With Caicedo, I don’t see anything that isn’t at the top level. And he’s only 20, he’s very young, so he can learn and get even better.”.
Currently, the Seagulls stand on three league wins, in the past five days. A good form that allows them to be 8th in the standings with one game left and just six points off fifth place. Everything is still possible and Roberto De Zerbi can validate a ticket for Europe. This is enough to relaunch an attractive project which, on paper, can enjoy a formidable tactical system.