The Seagulls are only just getting started under Roberto De Zerbi, despite some believing that this is the pinnacle of the abilities at the football club.
One year ago to the week of the AEK test, De Zerbi was named Brighton manager. Since then, it very much feels like the boss has become 'part of the furniture', and the most obvious figure at the forefront of the South Coast successes.
However, despite an incredible year, and not to mention start to the season, the head coach is still beginning his reign at the club.
Albion came back from 1-0 down to beat Bournemouth 3-1 in the Premier League, bouncing back from the 3-2 defeat in their opening Europa League game against AEK Athens. AEK stunned the Albion at The Amex, which often proves to be a blessing in disguise under the Italian mastermind of De Zerbi.
De Zerbi exclusively spoke to VAVEL at this week’s press conference on Kaoru Mitoma’s first goal after coming from the bench to secure the points against the Cherries at the weekend.
“Yes, first of all, the first goal of Mitoma is the best goal in my career.
It showed the character, the attitude, the quality of the players. The attitude to want to score, and strong character.”
The determination of Ansu Fati to open the chance for Mitoma to grab his second goal of the season spoke to the significance of ‘Roberto De Zerbi Ball’, with Mohamoud Dahoud’s intelligent flick to find Mitoma’s underlapping run.
Dahoud is an additional example of a player who will progress slowly under De Zerbi. The manager said his idea of football is ‘different, not difficult’, and to learn this style; it is simply a case of intelligence and willingness to learn and trust the ability of the player.
De Zerbi explained:
“He [Ansu Fati] played well, but he is not at his best yet, but he [did play] well. João Pedro played very well in the second half. But it was different in each half, not because Ansu Fati played in the second, or Evan Ferguson played in the first. It was because we had to change something in the way we were playing.”
The reality of the current Brighton team is the simple fact that it is very ‘new’. Facundo Buonanotte, Bart Verbruggen, João Pedro, Evan Ferguson, and Ansu Fati are all players who will require a lot of time to progress. The average age between them is just 19.6 years old. Just take that in for a moment.
Buonanotte was greeted with plenty of harsh critics from the Albion faithful to his performance. Yes, perhaps a poor game, but as reflected on the rest of the squad in the first 45 minutes on Sunday. Confidence will be one of the most important aspects of learning and trusting the style of play that the entire squad, not just first eleven needs to learn and adapt to. Within months to come, it will not be long before certain critics will turn into die-hard fans of each player and idea.
The evergreen reminder remains: back the players, and give them time.