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Roberto De Zerbi: Transforming Brighton and Captivating Europe

Roberto De Zerbi has become a dominant figure in European soccer, acclaimed for his strategic ingenuity and ability to turn underperforming teams into strong competitors. Since assuming leadership at Brighton & Hove Albion, he has not only stabilized the club but has also made it one of the most thrilling teams in the English Premier League. His influence has piqued the interest of major clubs across Europe.


Roberto De Zerbi

92 Build Up, Passing Combinations and Attacking Positional Practices Direct from De Zerbi’s Training Sessions

  • 152 Pages with Coaching Points
  • Replicate Roberto De Zerbi’s playing style. Train your players with a possession-based attacking style of play
  • U14 – Pro

Precision and Possession: The Core of De Zerbi’s Coaching Philosophy at Brighton

At the heart of De Zerbi’s coaching philosophy lies a steadfast commitment to possession-oriented soccer, defined by fluid ball movement and meticulous organization on the field. While initially experimenting with a 3-4-2-1 formation, De Zerbi has since established a more consistent approach using a 4-2-3-1 formation, reflecting his tactical flexibility and adherence to dynamic play.

This 4-2-3-1 setup allows Brighton to maintain a solid defensive foundation with four defenders, supported by two central midfielders who anchor the formation. These midfielders are pivotal in controlling the game’s tempo and distributing the ball effectively. Their positioning and passing abilities enable Brighton to dominate possession and orchestrate play from deeper areas on the pitch.

De Zerbi - 4-2-3-1 Formation
4-2-3-1 formation

In attacking phases, De Zerbi’s strategy shifts the team’s shape to resemble a 2-4-4 formation, where the full-backs push up high and wide, integrating with the midfielders and attackers. This transformation is crucial for creating overloads and exploiting width, which disrupts the defensive lines of opponents. The attacking midfield trio, positioned behind a lone striker, has the flexibility to interchange, drift wide, or push forward, complementing the striker who links play and presses defensively from the front.

Pay attention to what I’m going to say because I’m pretty convinced I’m right – Roberto De Zerbi is one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years.

Pep Guardiola

De Zerbi’s tactical nuances extend to how Brighton transitions into attack, often morphing into a 2-2-6 configuration as they advance into the opponent’s half. This setup is designed to maximize spatial exploitation and involves intricate passing sequences to penetrate defensive setups. Brighton’s style under De Zerbi emphasizes short, sharp passes that maintain a rhythm and look to unlock defenses without resorting to long crosses, reflecting a preference for ground play over aerial duels.

Defensively, Brighton adapts a mid-block strategy, shifting between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 during different phases of the opponent’s possession. This flexibility allows them to press effectively, with forwards splitting to challenge opposing full-backs, and midfielders adjusting to compact space or press as required. The central defenders and holding midfielders play a crucial role in this system, focusing on ball retention and building play from the back, ensuring stability and continuity.

Roberto De Zerbi’s tactical evolution at Brighton showcases his ability to blend rigorous possession tactics with proactive pressing to create a team that not only controls the game but also adapts swiftly to the unfolding dynamics on the pitch. This approach has not only enhanced the individual performances of players like Pascal Groß, who has transitioned into a versatile right-back under De Zerbi’s system, but also the collective efficacy of the team, propelling Brighton to new heights in the Premier League and beyond.

Highly sought after by Europe’s Top Clubs – Roberto de Zerbi (Photo: Vitalii Vitleo / Shutterstock.com)

The lone striker in this setup is not only tasked with scoring but also plays a key role in holding up the play and linking with the attacking midfielders who join the forward line. This role demands a player who can shield the ball, make intelligent runs, and press opponents when out of possession.

De Zerbi’s implementation of the 3-4-2-1 formation emphasizes controlling the pace of the game, applying constant pressure, and using smart positioning to outplay opponents. The challenges of this formation include ensuring the wing-backs balance their attacking and defensive duties effectively and maintaining the midfield’s shape while in possession and during transitions. De Zerbi’s tactical acumen shines as he adjusts the roles of his players based on the game’s flow and the specific challenges posed by different opponents, making Brighton’s play style not only effective but also a pleasure to watch.

Roberto De Zerbi – Key figure in the summer transfer market

During his time at Brighton, De Zerbi has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to adapt and succeed. He has infused the team with a proactive and inventive style of play that is not only effective but also entertaining. Under his guidance, Brighton & Hove Albion has claimed significant victories against top-tier teams, enhancing his reputation as a visionary coach.

Roberto De Zerbi taking Brighton & Hove Albion to new heights (Photo: Marco Iacobucci Epp / Shutterstock.com)

His evolution as a coach has not gone unnoticed by top clubs in Europe; he has drawn interest from elite teams such as Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona. Especially Bayern Munich is actively searching for a coach, especially in light of Julian Nagelsmann’s decision to stay with the German Football Association (DFB).

De Zerbi himself stated, “The most important thing is: What is the goal? What are we playing for?” said the Italian after a game against FC Liverpool.

He mentioned that he had already spoken with Brighton & Hove Albion chairman Tony Bloom and that further discussions about the club’s future plans would take place. “Then we will find a solution. But both of us need to be satisfied with it, the club and myself,” emphasized the 44-year-old, who also coaches national player Pascal Groß at Brighton.

Since joining Brighton in September 2022, De Zerbi, a former midfielder, took over from Graham Potter, inheriting a well-coordinated team. He quickly transformed Brighton into a side celebrated for its technically sophisticated possession soccer, known as the Seagulls, renowned for their tactical pressing and swift, precise passing.

De Zerbi’s methods have garnered admiration from figures like former Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, who regards him as one of the most influential coaches of recent times. His philosophy also resonates deeply with his players, including German international Pascal Groß, who credits De Zerbi for elevating the team’s performance.

Despite significant player departures this season, De Zerbi’s Brighton continues to excel in the Premier League and made a notable impact in the Europa League, topping their group before their exit in the knockout stages.

The speculation about De Zerbi’s future plans continues as he remains a transformative figure in soccer, potentially influencing the sport for years to come.


Roberto De Zerbi

92 Build Up, Passing Combinations and Attacking Positional Practices Direct from De Zerbi’s Training Sessions

  • 152 Pages with Coaching Points
  • Replicate Roberto De Zerbi’s playing style. Train your players with a possession-based attacking style of play
  • U14 – Pro

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