On the record with Roberto ahead of Leeds

Head coach on Leeds, the battle for Europe and the strength of his squad.

By Bruce Talbot • 11 March 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Roberto De Zerbi was pleased to see Moises Caicedo commit his future to Albion.

On making history and qualifying for Europe …

Isn’t speaking about making history - reaching the final of the FA Cup or the Europa League - dangerous for a coach? Because if you lose, it's a failure. For me it will not be a failure because if you fight and you are serious you set your targets higher. It's not arrogance, it's not talking too much, it's so you can improve and ask more and more and more of yourself.

On trying to achieve fourth place…

We hope, we have a dream. I think we know very well we can write a new history of the club and for us it’s very important and a very nice challenge. We know it’ll be very difficult but now we have a complete squad with many young players progressing, and we are stronger.

On the importance of the senior players…

Lallana, Gross, Jason Steele, Veltman, Welbeck - this is the secret of Brighton. It's not the style of play, it's not the scouting, not the coaches. It's this part of the team. They explain to the young players the right attitude, the right mentality, the right style of work every day in the training sessions.


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De Zerbi's Leeds United press conference

On the growing connection between the club, players and manager with the fans this season?

It is not just important, it is crucial for us. I think playing in our stadium now is amazing. The players feel the same about this and the atmosphere. I know very well how important the fans’ support is for us. The relationship with our fans feels natural.

On intimidating atmosphere such as Elland Road…

I played in Napoli, which is very, very hot and I was in Foggia as a coach, another big stadium, a hot stadium. For us today it is better to play in a hot stadium like Leeds. We are lucky to be coaches and to be players and to work in football when you feel this emotion in these stadiums.

On Evan Ferguson’s progress…

Evan is playing well, and he is improving with the ball and how to do more with [ball] possession. He is a very smart guy and for him it is clear, because if you are serious and work hard every day you can play well in every game. They [Ferguson and Danny Welbeck] can play together. Maybe today, I don't know. We are ready to play with two strikers, or two No10s without strikers.

On Robert Sanchez’s reaction to losing his place…

I have spoken about my relationship with Moises Caicedo, but one of my best relationships in the dressing room is with Robert Sanchez. I have to do my work and in this moment I prefer Jason, but only for our style of play. We are stronger because we are 20, 22 players at the same level, they have the same quality, motivation and ambition and that means we are stronger.

On Jakub Moder’s return from injury…

Yesterday I spoke with him, and he feels better. I don’t know if he is able to play again this season, but he is improving. On Thursday he was on the pitch and I watched him play with the ball with the physical coaches.

How missing out on Europe with Sassuolo inspires him…

I still think about that season. We finished level on points with two goals less than Roma and didn't qualify. I think we are stronger than Sassuolo and for me that experience has been important to make sure we improve and not make mistakes.

That’s why when you are winning 1-0, 2-0, you have to continue to play. You can settle for the result at that moment. If you can score three or four goals, you must try.