Roberto
De Zerbi suggests Brighton could sign “an attacker and midfielder” in Pre-West Ham quotes
Roberto De Zerbi said there is a "very good atmosphere" around Brighton ahead of their weekend clash (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

On the eve of a clash with one of their favourite opponents in the Premier League, Brighton are surely at the strongest point they have ever been in the club’s history.

Leading the Premier League after two matches, the Seagulls have thrilled in consecutive 4-1 wins against Luton and Wolves and are in a hugely advantageous financial position after the sales of Alexis MacAllister, Robert Sanchez and Moises Caicedo.

West Ham are the latest visitors to the American Express Stadium on Saturday evening, with the Hammers seeking their first Premier League win against the south coast side at the 13th time of asking.

In his latest press conference on Friday afternoon, Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi voiced optimism ahead of the clash, as well as teasing supporters of some positive news on the transfer front.

With just six days remaining before the summer window slams shut – coincidentally on the same day the Seagulls will find out their Europa League Group Stage opponents – it signals a huge week for the club.

  • Two transfer targets

De Zerbi used his press conference to signal that the club are eyeing up two further signings in the summer transfer window, primarily to fill gaps left by a serious injury to Julio Enciso and the departure of Moises Caicedo.

He said: "I would like to build a stronger squad. We have another six, seven days and we will look at an attacker and midfielder.

“Without Julio, I think we need another attacker, and a midfielder because we lost Caicedo. It's not fair to speak about other players [at other clubs]. We have many options."

These comments appear to support rumours circulating this week of the club’s interest in two midfielders – 19-year-old Carlos Baleba, of Lille, and Arsenal’s Albert Sambi Lokonga.

While Baleba is understood to be the priority target, it is thought Brighton have a better chance of securing 23-year-old Lokonga, who spent the second half of last season on loan with Crystal Palace and has not featured in a matchday squad for the Gunners this term.

Another target is thought to be Uruguay under-20 captain Fabricio Diaz, who operates in the same deeper midfielder role, but De Zerbi did not comment on any specific targets.

  • Enciso out for lengthy spell

The main concern for Brighton fans ahead of the West Ham clash surrounded Enciso, who suffered a serious injury in training earlier this week.

Paraguayan journalist Roberto Rojas reported on Thursday that Enciso had suffered a tear of the meniscus cartilage in his knee that would rule him out for four months, with De Zerbi confirming the news.

He said: "We will be without Julio for a long period. Unfortunately this can happen in football.

"I am sorry for him because he was playing really well, it is a shame. In football sometimes, it's normal."

The lengthy lay-off could see Enciso miss six World Cup qualifiers for Paraguay and only return around the point of Brighton’s busy festive schedule, when they may face six matches in 17 days from mid-December to New Year’s Eve.

Considering the 19-year-old’s swift rise to first-team action and his crucial role since entering the side, the injury is clearly a big blow.

It may mean more game time initially for new signing João Pedro, and as De Zerbi hinted, the recruitment of another attacking player to compete in that position.

  • Ferguson gets the nod

The boldest statement made in De Zerbi’s conference was to name Evan Ferguson in his starting line-up for the upcoming match.

It was a significant vote of confidence in the 18-year-old forward, who has seven goals from his first 22 Premier League matches, averaging a goal every 143 minutes.

De Zerbi said: "Tomorrow, Ferguson plays in the first eleven. We have no other team news.”

By refusing to name any other starters, the Seagulls boss will keep plenty of tricks up his sleeve, with Pedro, Kaoru Mitoma and Solly March the favourites to start but Danny Welbeck, Adam Lallana, Simon Adingra and Facundo Buonanotte also being options in attack.

Interestingly, Brighton’s social media accounts also shared images of Andi Zeqiri in training this week, with the Swiss forward potentially set for a return to the side as well.

"We are in a very good condition, we have worked very well this week. There is a really good atmosphere around the club," said De Zerbi.

  • Hammers pose a threat

Following their impressive 3-1 win against Chelsea last weekend, West Ham arrive at the Amex with renewed optimism and a bolstered squad.

James Ward-Prowse made a starring debut at the London Stadium, while Mexican midfielder Edson Álvarez is in line to make his first start in this meeting.

New signing Konstantinos Mavropanos is ruled out with an injury, but De Zerbi stated how impressed he was by the quality of the Hammers as a whole.

"West Ham have many good players and it will be a tough game, but we have big motivation,” he said.

"We need to keep playing well. We want to win. Our record this season is not 'real'. We could score more, we can improve more."

With six wins and six draws against West Ham since joining the Premier League, Brighton may feel their chances of extending an impressive unbeaten record are in good nick.

However, De Zerbi reminded fans of how important it was to consider the context of the match, with increased attention on the Seagulls given their rampant start to the season.

"Tomorrow, we want to win to stay top of the table and take another three points - but then we will focus on Newcastle."

"We can play better, score more, create more and at the same time, can concede less. We have to think in the same way together.”

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