Has Roberto de Zerbi improved Brighton?

When Graham Potter left Brighton and Hove Albion in September there were huge doubts surrounding the club’s ability to adjust in the near future. Roberto de Zerbi was appointed in Potter’s place and was perhaps a name that is not incredibly well known amongst English football supporters. Brighton have recruited well in recent years and have cemented themselves as a stable Premier League club, but there were certainly worries over whether the club’s upward trajectory would continue in Potter’s absence.

Change of system

Brighton began the season strongly under Potter and were fighting near the top from the offset but consistency over a significant amount of games is what matters and de Zerbi has delivered that with the fresh system he has implemented on the South coast. In the latest football betting odds from Paddy Power Brighton are offered at 15/8 to finish in the top six as they now have a real chance of threatening the big clubs’ dominance in the league. The likes of Arsenal and Manchester City are now battling at the top of the table with the former being the 4/6 favourite in the Premier League title odds, but the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea are in real danger of losing out on a European spot due to Brighton’s incredible rise up the league table under the Italian manager.

Under Potter Brighton often played a five-defender system and were a team that was compact out of possession and relied on counter-attacking opportunities when in possession. However, de Zerbi has completely transformed Brighton’s style and shape on the pitch. He has commonly deployed a 4231 system with the focus on defending high up the pitch and pressing the opposition in their own defensive third to create dangerous opportunities. Brighton recently lost Leandro Trossard to title-chasing Arsenal but de Zerbi has coached Kaoru Mitoma to become one of the Premier League’s strongest performers after being rarely utilised by Potter.

Improved results

Potter’s time at Brighton was an overall success however he never managed to maintain a position in the European spots during his time with the Seagulls, and de Zerbi looks like he could deliver just that. Potter’s Brighton were often a strong transitional team that left space in between the midfield and defensive lines upon losing possession.

The stronger teams often had no issue creating chances against Brighton, but the Italian coach has changed that. De Zerbi has instructed his team to initiate a press when they first lose possession and this has allowed them to suffocate teams and allow defences little time on the ball to play out from the back. Brighton’s team under Potter would have likely backed off and vacated space in front of their midfield in order to get men behind the ball. This change of approach was rewarded against Liverpool twice in recent times when Brighton earned victories over Jurgen Klopp’s side in the league and FA Cup.

Ultimately de Zerbi’s approach is brave and fearless in and out of possession. It gives his team the confidence to go toe-to-toe with the strongest teams in the league. The same tools were available during Potter’s tenure but the English coach set up his team with much more discipline and took fewer risks. De Zerbi is eclipsing Potter’s achievements at Brighton after just a matter of months. Delivering European football to the AMEX would already make him a legend on the South coast.

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