Adam Virgo is confident Albion have found a perfect successor to Graham Potter in Roberto De Zerbi.
The former Albion player commentates regularly on Serie A and had the opportunity to watch our new head coach’s Benevento and Sassuolo teams in action.
On the pitch, Adam sees a lot of similarities in approach between De Zerbi and Potter’s playing style, while off the pitch, he’s confident that Roberto’s focus on player development will come to the fore.
“That Sassuolo team had players like Stefano Sensi and Matteo Politano who were signed by Inter Milan. Merih Demiral went to Juventus. Manuel Locatelli, he brought on loan from AC Milan and then signed permanently – everyone was raving about him at the Euros and now he plays for Juventus. You’ve also got [Domenico] Berardi who is a regular in the Italy team.
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“It will be good for the Albion players, because they will get a different perspective of how the game is played. People might argue that Roberto doesn’t know the Premier League, but his style of play will suit the Premier League. Italian football can be quite slow, but Roberto’s teams move the ball really quickly, they play with an identity. He likes to setup his team with a 4-2-3-1 formation, or a 4-3-3.
“You see the respectable pundits who cover Serie A have had their say and all of them reckon this is really strong appointment, there’s no red flags.
“There are certain managers who aren’t necessarily working at a Champions League team, but have worked wonders. Graham Potter worked at Swansea City before he worked in the Premier League, so the argument that someone ‘doesn’t know the league’ is a bit rubbish, in my opinion. From what I have read and speaking to Serie A experts, nobody is saying ‘this is a really left-field appointment’, for me he’s earned that move.
“Brighton fans can be very excited about this appointment. There’s always an element of risk, any managerial appointment there’s that. Manuel Pellegrini went to West Ham having won the Premier League and the League Cup, that didn’t work out, Rafa Benitez went to Everton as a Champions League winner and that didn’t work out. You have to give managers time and respect to develop players and you know Roberto will get that with Albion.”
Virgo sees similarities between De Zerbi and a couple of managers currently working in the Premier League.
“If you look at managers like Graham and Eddie Howe, where they’ve worked in lower leagues and with players that aren’t at elite level, as well as with smaller budgets, but you can see the identity in the team, Roberto is of that mould.
“Sometimes there’s only so far you can take a team forward. So maybe people will look at his managerial record of seven clubs in nine years, but two of those clubs have historically gone through a lot of managers and at Sassuolo the time came to an end before having a great opportunity to take over at Shakhtar Donetsk.
They are a Champions League side, a team you could understand why he would join. Aside from the finance and pulling power of a club of that size, they pride themselves on their ability to bring players through, so Roberto fit into that and I am sure that will carry on at Brighton.”