Brighton’s new head coach Roberto de Zerbe will face the media on Tuesday – but what will the progressive coach of the south coast club achieve?
Unemployed after leaving Shakhtar Donetsk in July following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Italian had previously spent three years in charge of Serie A side Sassuolo – and earned impressive reviews for his style of football.
De Zerbe’s career as a coach so far
- 2013 to 2014: He started his coaching career with Italian amateur team Darfo Boario.
- 2014 to 2016: He joined Foggia in the third division, won the Italian Cup, and narrowly lost promotion.
- 2016: He spent two and a half months at Serie A club Palermo, but was sacked after a poor start to the season.
- 2017 to 2018: He recently joined the Benevento team, which was promoted to the Italian Serie A. De Zerbe earned praise despite his team’s relegation to the Second Division.
- 2018 to 2021: He was appointed manager of the Sassuolo team, leading the club to the eighth place in a row. He missed the Europa League against Roma on goal difference in 2021.
- 2021 to 2022: He took his first job outside of Italy in Shakhtar Donetsk, winning the Ukrainian Super Cup in September 2021. He left the role due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The 43-year-old is a fan of Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bessa, and a fierce demander in the game, earning two consecutive eighth-place finishes with young Sassuolo while backed by far fewer resources than the traditionally strong clubs in Serie A, all the while selling star players. during his tenure.
These circumstances are strikingly similar to Brighton’s emergence under Graham Potter, similarities that have prompted the club’s hierarchy to approach the innovative coach as their number one target as they aim to continue on an upward trajectory that has seen them finish fourth in the Premier League table. In the international rest period.
So what is De Zerbe’s style and what will Brighton offer? We explore the data from his final season in Sassuolo training and take a look under the hood…
The radar below compares Brighton’s returns in every game this season to Sassuolo in 2020/21 and reveals clear similarities: Tactically, teams are identical on nearly all attack metrics, with the exception of De Zerbi encouraging him to run more with the ball and use fewer. Quick breaks.
In the meantime, the radar below highlights the Italian’s possession-based style, and his preference for controlling games by keeping the ball and trying fewer long balls.
De Zerbe used the 4-2-3-1 method in 32 of his 38 Serie A matches during his final season at the helm, and proceeded to use it as his system of choice at Shakhtar. Potter started with three defenders in nearly half of the Premier League’s games last season, all but one – but Brighton’s side are well aware of the cash flow after three years under new Chelsea.
The chart below shows how this chosen system affected the average player positions, with defenders usually affecting the game above the pitch from pairing #6, while player #9 playing parallel to the three attackers.
Conversely, De Zerbi is unlikely to encourage high-frequency crosses or aerial play, as the stats below show his preferred style of playing the ball shorter and along the ground.
To illustrate the Italian’s achievements during that latest Serie A campaign, the table below ranks his players according to the Power Rankings algorithm – all with far fewer famous superstars at his disposal than his elite rivals.
This was the year that Manuel Locatelli also came out on top during Euro 2020 and made a huge move to Juventus.
Without a doubt, Sassuolo’s signature style was possession-based passing. The chart below highlights De Zerbi’s impact, as he records total possessions, touches, total assists, and second most assists in the final third – proving that tiki-taka style led to progressive play on the field.
The graphic below shows exactly where those passes are played and reveals a left-sided deflection up close to the opponent’s penalty area, where the most active distribution area is in the central area, within their own half.
New and advanced metrics further highlight how effective tactics are, with the club ranking second on the field in possession and accumulation attacks, while leading the division in open passing chains of 10 or more exchanges.
Sassuolo ranked around its final league position in 2020/21 for most offensive metrics, but led the way for dribbles – backed by Chelsea graduate Jeremy Boga who tried 153 times during the campaign – a total that only two other players in the division have bested.
The deeper left-hand side deflection mentioned earlier translates to a team’s attack of a third in this term, with a slightly higher percentage of their attacks coming down from that channel. However, there is a noticeable spread of risk imposed over each third – with major threats building opportunities from the flanks.
The goal and help maps below illustrate this and provide further evidence of De Zerbi’s preference for shorter passes from tight and wide positions, as well as encouraging his players to shoot from range and attempt blocks and direct passes from deeper central positions.
De Zerbi’s track record of bringing the best in their players, generating results and maintaining returns among the elite reflects what Brighton have achieved over three seasons under Potter, and the club can anticipate a new era of innovation with the Italian’s leadership. – while the seagulls are looking to keep their course and further disrupt the status quo.
What did the Brighton hierarchy say?
Brighton Chairman Tony Bloom said: “I am very happy that Roberto has agreed to become our new coach. Roberto’s teams play an exciting and brave brand of football and I am confident his style and tactical approach will fit in nicely with our current team.”
Head coach David Weir said, “Roberto has shown his undoubted ability through his work in Italy and Ukraine, and what he achieved at Sassuolo definitely stands out.
In his short stint with Shakhtar, he enjoyed even more success, leading the club to cup success and topping the Ukrainian league before the war brought his time there to an abrupt halt.
“We are delighted to welcome Roberto and look forward to introducing him to our squad as well as providing all the support he needs to advance his coaching philosophy and help the players continue their great start to the season.”
Vice Chairman and CEO Paul Barber added: “We looked at a handful of excellent candidates but Roberto was our first pick from the start and the only person we spoke to.
“It’s no secret that our president is constantly on the lookout for potential coaches, both here in our domestic leagues, across Europe and around the world as part of our succession planning work.
“We feel that Roberto is the perfect cultural and technical fit for Brighton and Hove Albion, and the right person to continue the club’s progress and work with such an outstanding group of players.”