Former Shakhtar head coach Roberto De Zerbi is becoming an increasingly popular figure in the English Premier League. The 43-year-old Italian arrived to work with Brighton only in September last year, when the ex-coach of the Seagulls Graham Potter accepted an invitation from Chelsea, and has already managed to show his best side. In 2023, Brighton played five matches in which they won four wins with one draw, and the goal difference was 16:5. In other words, on average, De Zerbi’s wards scored three goals per game against their opponents, and conceded only one at a time.
The most vivid memories of recent weeks, if we talk about Brighton, are, of course, the two victories of the Seagulls over the giants of English football, Liverpool. First, De Zerby’s team knocked out the Reds in a league game – 3:0, and then ruthlessly eliminated the opponent from the path in the FA Cup – 2:1. If we add to this a 3-3 draw, which was recorded on October 1 last year at Anfield as part of the confrontation between Liverpool and Brighton in the 9th round of the Premier League, and in De Zerby’s debut match in this tournament, then it turns out that that the Italian coach, along with Zinedine Zidane, has the best statistics of games against the Reds with Jurgen Klopp at the head.
The German coach of “Liverpool” for two weeks must have experienced the effect of déjà vu. When on January 14 the Reds unexpectedly burnt away in a match against Brighton (0:3), everyone was just discussing the excellent game of the De Zerby team, confirmed by excellent statistics. “The Seagulls” in that match controlled the ball much more (62% vs. 38%), more often hit on goal (14:6) and hit the target (9:2), and also showed an excellent transition from defense to attack with the help of short passes . Liverpool was not ready to oppose anything to this, and something similar happened to Klopp’s team two weeks later – on January 29, the Merseysiders lost again (1: 2), leaving the FA Cup, and again they controlled the ball less, hit on goal less often and not as intensively as the opponent, they pressed…
Jurgen Klopp, in his second fight of the year against Brighton, looked like an annoyed stepfather who is desperately and struggling to get his naughty stepson back on track. The German coach went out of his way to prove that the devastating defeat to Brighton in the championship was an accident, and Klopp needed the Cup victory like air to shut up the irrepressible critics who popped up from all sides in various British media.
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“I didn’t turn into a bad coach overnight. I have probably never been as good a coach as they say about me, but I’m not as bad as they say now. Last season was incredibly intense, we fought for four trophies. If we didn’t have so many injured, then in the Premier League we would have 4-5 more points. I am sure we will fight to the end for a place in the Champions League, this is not a brilliant, but quite a normal season, ”Klopp said, as if making it clear that he was incredibly tired of everything that has been happening around him in recent weeks and months.
Jurgen, now in his eighth year with Liverpool, seems to simply want to convince everyone around him that he deserves to remain in office even if the club changes hands. At the moment, absolutely nothing threatens Klopp’s positions, and at least until the end of the season, he will probably retain his post, and with it, the opportunity to rehabilitate himself for a by no means brilliant start to the season.
Right now, Liverpool are already 10 points away from fourth place – the so-called “Champions League zone” … In addition, Klopp’s team has already been eliminated from both domestic cups, and in the Champions League playoffs, the Reds will have to fight Real Madrid ”, which will certainly be considered by bookmakers as a favorite in both matches. If on March 15 Liverpool end their way into Europe’s most prestigious club competition, even Klopp’s most vocal sympathizers will be forced to admit that the 2022/23 season has been another period of lost opportunity in the Reds’ history.
It is obvious that already in the summer, Liverpool, especially if it acquires a new owner, will try to update the squad by inviting young and talented performers. Even last summer, there was serious talk about Jude Bellingham, but the Reds did not have enough consent from the owners for a solid investment to carry out this deal. If in the summer of 2023 Liverpool bosses (current or new) still decide to transfer players of Bellingham’s caliber, then they need to be sure that it is still worth continuing to invest in Klopp’s project, and not look for German replacement.
Jürgen has no doubt earned the right to another chance, but whether such a decision would be the best for both himself and the club is becoming more and more uncertain. It is no coincidence that Andy Robertson looked as unhappy after Brighton as his mentor, saying that despite all the work done, after the World Cup, Liverpool, obviously, really only looks worse.
In a situation where Liverpool have to look for a new mentor, the choice of club bosses may well fall on Roberto De Zerbi. The ex-coach of Shakhtar got a great chance to “show off the goods”, and in head-to-head matches against the “Reds” the view turned out to be perfect for the Italian. When, after a match against your team, the opponent’s mentor declares that it was the worst game for his wards, it is difficult to imagine a better description in a resume.
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It is also striking that after the matches with Brighton in English expert circles there was only talk about Liverpool’s hegenpressing – more precisely, about how much De Zerby’s wards looked better than Klopp’s team in this aspect. In addition, the Italian has already proved to everyone that he is imbued with an incredible rebellious spirit and moral conscience. When the war broke out in Ukraine, De Zerby, who had an offer to leave the country quickly, refused to leave exactly until all the Shakhtar legionnaires and their families were safely evacuated.
Once at Brighton, De Zerby uncovered new talent in a team that most felt had already played to their limits under Graham Potter. One of the clearest examples is the 25-year-old Japanese winger Kaoru Mitoma, who, under the previous mentor, has never been announced in the starting lineup during the current season in the Premier League, but under De Zerbi has already scored four goals in the last six fights. 18-year-old centre-forward Evan Ferguson also got his real shot at Brighton under De Zerby and now has 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 games to his credit.
In terms of likely continuity, it’s important that De Zerby’s teams have the same kind of gangster spirit that Liverpool had in their heyday under Klopp. Yes, the style may differ slightly due to different circumstances, but the Italian coach has proven that he can successfully convert his ideas into success not only in a short period at Brighton, but also while working with Shakhtar and, of course, Sassuolo “.
Sometimes, in order to quickly improve the state of affairs, it is not at all necessary to destroy what the entire team has been working on for so long and scrupulously for a number of years. Sometimes it’s enough just to have a fresh look from the outside, which helps to see what others simply cannot see, and De Zerby, perhaps, could provide this to Liverpool.
Although it is hardly worth writing off Jurgen Klopp right now. The German has a reputation as the top manager of our time for a reason, and he is still able to change the course of events even when they look frankly gloomy. But in the event that the leadership of Liverpool still decides to change the coach, the current Brighton coach potentially looks almost an ideal candidate for the role of the German successor.
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