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Roberto De Zerbi’s style of play and what it means for Liverpool ahead of Brighton test

After a slow start to the season, Liverpool will be desperate to secure three points on Saturday, however they face a tough opponent in Brighton who they have defeated just once across the last four meetings.


After nearly a month without a Premier League fixture, Liverpool return to action this weekend when they welcome high-flying Brighton to Anfield.


The Reds have made their worst start to a new season since the 2015/16 campaign after winning only two of their opening six league encounters. They did bounce back from a heavy Champions League defeat to Napoli though by securing a late 2-1 victory over Ajax at Anfield before the international break.


Jurgen Klopp’s men will now look to build some momentum in the league and try to claw back some of the gap between them and the division’s early pacesetters. Brighton, though, represent a far from ideal opponent in which to try and start a winning run.


They have lost only one of their opening six league matches and start the weekend inside the top four, just five points behind top-of-the-table Arsenal, with a game in hand. Not only are they in great form, but they also boast having gone undefeated in each of their last two visits to Anfield (W1, D1).


A big question, though, and a potential source of optimism for Liverpool, is how will they fare now without the new Chelsea boss Graham Potter. His philosophy on the south coast was heavily centred around fluid and expansive football. He made use of good technical profiles and coached them to be apt at making clever movements off the ball to help create overloads and expose team weaknesses.

One of the many occasions Brighton had success in beating Liverpool’s offside trip during the 2-2 draw at Anfield last season

One of the things they exposed well against Liverpool, particularly in last season’s 2-2 draw at Anfield, was beating the Reds’ high defensive line. On several occasions, late runs from deep saw Brighton attackers beat the offside trap and get through one-against-one on Alisson’s goal. The Seasiders registered six shots on target in that game, the joint most Liverpool faced across the whole of last season.


With Potter now gone, it’ll be interesting to see whether new manager Roberto De Zerbi can help implement a game plan that brings about similar success.

De Zerbi attracted most of his initial plaudits at the Italian side Benevento where he instilled a possession-based and attacking style of football. He suffered relegation from Serie A during his only season in charge, yet his commitment to playing this brand of football attracted the attention of fellow Serie A side Sassuolo.Shakhtar Donetsk's Italian coach Roberto De Zerbi

Roberto De Zerbi made his name with Sassuolo before joining Shakhtar Donetsk
He applied the same footballing approach there, which brought relative success, helping Sassuolo achieve top eight finishes in two of his three seasons in charge. De Zerbi left at the end of the 2020/21 season to take charge of the Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and guided them to the top of the division before the season was aborted due to the war with Russia.
Not only has the 43-year-old built a promising CV, but we’ve seen from their gradual rise and moves in the market that Brighton are a very well-run club that make a lot of clever strategic moves. It’s likely they’d have drawn up a list of potential Potter replacements some time ago, and De Zerbi is sure to have been high on that list.
What this all means for Saturday’s clash is that we should not expect any major sweeping tactical changes to how Brighton approach the game, based at least on how De Zerbi’s teams have played in the past.
They may move away from Potter’s favoured back three to a back four, given that’s what De Zerbi has most often used with previous clubs, but the strengths that have made Brighton so dangerous at Anfield in previous meetings, things like confidence in possession and good movement off the ball, should still be prevalent. As a result, Klopp’s men should be prepared for another tough afternoon.

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