Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi has revealed the inner workings of his coaching philosophy that led to Brighton’s 6th place finish in 2022-23 – their most successful season.
The seaside club secured a 4-1 victory over Luton Town in their 2023-24 Premier League debut, but De Zerbi has since unveiled the truth behind his clash with World Cup winning Alexis Mac Allister and treble-winning Pep Guardiola’s advice.
Despite their success, De Zerbi did not shy away from discussing the challenges that have beset his Brighton side.
Notably, the departure of key players, including the mercurial Alexis Mac Allister, who secured a move to Liverpool after the Argentina World Cup victory.
De Zerbi lamented the loss, praising Mac Allister’s fearless personality and his unmatched ball skills, inherited perhaps from his father’s association with the legendary Diego Armando Maradona.
Roberto De Zerbi formerly managed Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk before securing Brighton
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Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the boss recountered a clash with Mac Allister before a crucial clash with Newcastle.
‘Before a match with Newcastle, I told him: ‘Alex, you need to rest tomorrow, so you’ll go on the bench.’ The midfielder responded, ‘if you want to lose, make me rest.’
‘I hit back smiling and saying: ‘I am surely not second to you in terms of personality, now go out of my office.’
‘The following day, he was on the bench.’ De Zerbi added.
The Seagulls suffered a heavy defeat, with the boss recalling: ‘We suffered a heavy defeat, but we had been playing three games a week and the lad had a physical problem.’
De Zerbi, formerly of Sassuolo, is no stranger to the pressures of top-tier football, and he acknowledged the anxiety in his managerial journey.
The upcoming season, he declared, is the litmus test for Brighton’s progress, a season in which they must consolidate their standing and identity. The departure of star players Mac Allister, Colwill, and Caicedo weighed heavily, but De Zerbi asserted that the club’s soul remains resolute.
‘Anxiety has always accompanied me in this job,’ he said.
The seaside club secured a 4-1 victory over Luton Town in their 2023-24 Premier League debut
De Zerbi admitted his ongoing struggle with the English language. ‘I must improve my English,’
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‘We are beginning the most crucial season because we have to confirm ourselves. We lost three key players such as Mac Allister, Colwill and Caicedo.
‘Big clubs can’t buy our souls. In footballing terms, this Brighton side does not entirely reflect me, but we have the same soul.
‘I don’t feel the pressure of results. The only pressure is the one I put on myself. I want to improve the identity and playing style. One thing is certain: if we don’t play well, I’ll never say my players are sh**.’
Switching gears to training sessions, De Zerbi admitted his ongoing struggle with the English language. ‘I must improve my English,’ he confessed, as when worda falter, the boss relies on eye contact to communicate with his team.
Brighton have lost a number of key players during the summer transfer window, including Levi Colwill to Chelsea and Argentinian Alexis Mac Allister to Liverpool for a £35million fee
A pivotal moment in De Zerbi’s memory was a game against Pep Guardiola’s formidable Manchester City. After an early season struggle, including two draws and three defeats, a turning point emerged.
‘We lost 3-1 to Man City,’ De Zerbi recalled, ‘and my staff and I had doubts while preparing for the game. Be courageous or sit back?’
The fiery determination that defined De Zerbi’s career was ignited within him. In a cathartic outburst, he recounts: ‘I threw my mobile phone against the wall shouting: ‘I didn’t waste 10 years of my life. If we lose, I want to do it my way. We’ll play openly, attacking Man City in their box.’ Nobody had ever done it.’
His strategy impressed Pep, with the Man City boss lauding his ingenuity for the first time. The following week, Brighton’s went on to secure an emphatic 4-1 victory over Chelsea.
The Italian boss recalls Guardiola’s encouraging words, ‘if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me.’
Brighton will face Wolverhampton Wanderers at the AMEX Stadium in a bid to continue a winning start to the 2023-24 campaign.