Why Roberto De Zerbi is the perfect fit for Brighton
If you told a Brighton supporter three weeks ago that their club would soon be appointing a new manager, they wouldn’t have believed you. However, Graham Potter’s recent departure to Chelsea means that a once absurd statement is now a harsh reality.
Understandably, those associated with the Albion would have felt rather disappointed by the departure of Potter. The Brighton board remained patient with Potter in times when victories appeared unobtainable, something which may not have occurred had he managed another side. Whilst the 47-year-old did enjoy great success in his three-year stint on the south coast, his decision to swap the Seagulls for West London at such an early stage of the season would have undoubtedly tarnished his reputation amongst the Amex faithful.
However, as highlighted by the departure of Chris Hughton in 2019, the appointment of a new manager could prove to provide an exciting future for Albion. Given the calibre of Potter’s successor, Roberto De Zerbi, it is likely that such a feat will be repeated. Despite a small amount of criticism towards Brighton for their appointment of the Italian, notably from ex Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness, there is great reason for supporters of the south coast club to be encouraged by their side’s recent appointment. The former Napoli midfielder possesses a clear ability to transform the fates of the teams he manages, something which has earnt him plenty of plaudits in the last four years. As for Brighton, it appears De Zerbi could be the key to truly establishing Albion as a top half team.
But what has De Zerbi done to earn himself the job in the Amex dugout? In this article, De Zerbi’s recent efforts and style of play will be analysed, allowing an insight into the individual set to lead the way for the Seagulls.
As highlighted by Graeme Souness in his recent criticism of the Italian, De Zerbi has managed a host of clubs, both in his native Italy and abroad. Whilst De Zerbi’s managerial career has not been entirely straightforward, the 43-year-old has undeniably established his abilities in the last four years.
Despite the challenge of a small budget as presented during his post at Serie A side Sassuolo, it appeared De Zerbi was able to take such a challenge in his stride. The former attacking midfielder guided the Italian outfit to an eighth-place finish in two successive seasons, the latter of which saw his side miss out on a UEFA Europa Conference League spot on goal difference. Following his departure from the Serie A side in 2021, De Zerbi would swap Sassuolo for Shakhtar Donetsk, ending a three-year stint with the Italian outfit.
De Zerbi would manage Shakthar Donetsk for just over a year, departing in July 2022 as a consequence of the war involving Russia and Ukraine. However, De Zerbi would prove to be fan favourite in his short spell at the club, having guided his side to the top of the Ukrainian Premier League before the season was cut short in February. Alongside this, the former Napoli midfielder led his side on their global tour for Peace following the outbreak of the war, featuring in numerous friendlies against teams from Greece, Turkey, Poland, and Croatia.
Style of play
As Brighton supporters will be aware, De Zerbi has opted for an attacking style of play with his previous sides. In his first league campaign with Sassuolo, De Zerbi’s side scored 53 times in Serie A, a drastic improvement in comparison to just 29 league goals from the previous season. In De Zerbi’s second season, Sassuolo would score 69 league goals, earning themselves a respectable spot in eighth for their efforts. Whilst it must be acknowledged that De Zerbi had achieved such feats in a different league, his evident ability to encourage and employ an attacking style of football is a factor which cannot be overlooked.
Despite the fact that Brighton have evidently enjoyed some success during their ongoing stint in the top- flight, it must be acknowledged that the Seagulls are yet to score more than 42 goals in a league campaign since their promotion to the Premier League in 2017. Whilst there have been some improvements for the south coast side in the last five years with regards to scoring, it must be acknowledged that last season saw Brighton score just once in seven league matches, a run of form which saw them slip from 9th place to 13th. Therefore, whilst the Brighton job will be De Zerbi first in the Premier League, it is evident that the Italian’s preferred style of play will be key if the Seagulls are to secure another top half finish this season.
As with the appointment of any manager in football, there will be an extent of concern with regards to the appointment. In the case of De Zerbi, there are several factors which may be of concern to some Brighton supporters. The Italian is just 43 years old and is yet to manage in England as a whole, let alone the Premier League.
As pointed out by Graeme Souness, De Zerbi has managed a host of clubs, with the Brighton job being his seventh since his retirement from professional football in 2013. However, whilst these factors are worth noting, it should not cast any doubt over De Zerbi’s capabilities. The Italian has earnt plenty of plaudits during his managerial career as a consequence of the attacking style of play he employs, a factor which makes him and Brighton a perfect match. Although De Zerbi is still young, it must be acknowledged that Brighton have taken a gamble on a young manager once before, given that Graham Potter was just 44 years old when he made the move to the south coast.
There is a long season ahead for De Zerbi and the Seagulls, and with that is plenty of time for the Italian to adjust to life in England’s top- flight. Whilst a ball is yet to be kicked in the De Zerbi era, one factor is already evident: The Seagulls are in safe hands once again.