How Roberto De Zerbi’s Time at Brighton Came to a Bitter End

It has been nearly two years since Roberto De Zerbi took charge of Brighton & Hove Albion in September 2022, replacing Graham Potter following the Englishman’s move to Chelsea. Since then, he’s guided them to a sixth-place finish (their highest-ever top-flight placement), an FA Cup semifinal and a first-ever European qualification. And yet, his time at the Amex has come to an abrupt conclusion.


De Zerbi had a varied 15-year playing career across 13 different clubs before retiring in 2013 and swiftly transitioning into coaching. He began his managerial career at Serie D club Darfo Boario and gained prominence by winning the Serie C cup with Foggia in 2016 and reaching the promotion play-off final. His significant break came with a move to Serie A side Palermo, although his tenure was short-lived, ending after three months after seven consecutive defeats.



The Italian’s next stint was with Benevento, where his attractive style of play earned praise despite the team’s relegation to Serie B. His managerial acumen truly shone at Sassuolo, leading them to consecutive eighth-place finishes in Serie A. In May 2021, he left Sassuolo for Shakhtar Donetsk, winning the Ukrainian Super Cup and guiding them to 47 points out of a potential 54 in the league.


However, just when it looked like he was set to win his first league title, the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced the 2021/22 season to draw to a close, with De Zerbi departing his post in the summer. After just two months out of work, De Zerbi made his way to the Premier League, where he has caught the eye with his free-flowing style of attacking football. He has even drawn praise from seasoned figures like Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who stated, “My admiration for De Zerbi grows every season. The way his teams play is always impressive. He has done, and is doing, a great job at Brighton.”


This season, Brighton have taken a step back in their progress, finishing 11th in the table, losing to Chelsea in the third round of the EFL Cup and falling to Wolves in the fifth round of the FA Cup, and finishing atop their UEFA Europa League group before losing to Roma in the Round of 16, and it has seen De Zerbi leave the club by mutual consent. In order to get the lowdown on Brighton’s decline, I spoke to Brighton fan @owen_bhafc:


  1. What was the mood like in the dressing room and among the staff during his last days at the club?


“A lot of the players have great relationships with De Zerbi. They’ve said so themselves.”



  1. How did his coaching style and tactics evolve over the two seasons, and did they become less effective?


“The overall squad became worse, in my opinion. It was always going to be a mammoth task to replace Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, and to a lesser extent, Levi Colwill in one summer while improving other areas of the squad. Throughout the season, we were overrun in midfield during games due to the lack of duel-winning ability in the pivot of Billy Gilmour and Pascal Groß, which is a step down from the previous pairing. De Zerbi made minor adjustments based on player availability, but his overall principles remained the same, which is admirable.”


  1. Were there any specific incidents, games, or conflicts that contributed to his departure?


De Zerbi always speaks his mind in press conferences. He regularly mentioned the positions he thought needed strengthening, which he did not always get. He voiced frustration about Caicedo leaving and felt his replacement, Baleba, didn’t play as many minutes as he perhaps should have. It’s rare for a Brighton manager to criticize the board’s decisions, so this likely didn’t go down well with the ownership.”


     4. Are there any concerns about the team’s stability and consistency in the short term?


“Thankfully, we’ve been down this road before when Graham Potter left. De Zerbi was even better, and I have full faith that Tony Bloom, Paul Barber, David Weir, and others have already identified the next manager. We have an entire pre-season for the new manager to get their ideas across, which De Zerbi didn’t have when he joined.”



  1. How will his departure affect the team’s playing style and tactics going forward?


“I don’t think the overall style will change much. Brighton prides itself on being a progressive club. The next manager will likely have similar principles to De Zerbi regarding building from the back and controlling the game, although it might look different on a micro level.”


  1. Are there any lessons or takeaways that the club can apply to future managerial appointments and departures?


“Only the club knows for sure, but De Zerbi’s unique personality contrasted with the more reserved Graham Potter. De Zerbi exemplifies our success in identifying upcoming talent, showing that our process works even when key figures depart.”


Roberto De Zerbi’s departure from Brighton can be attributed to several factors. The loss of key players like Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo weakened the squad, and replacements were not adequately integrated. De Zerbi’s outspoken nature likely caused friction with the board, particularly regarding transfer decisions.



Brighton’s management will need to ensure their succession planning is robust to maintain stability and continue their progressive playing style. The club’s ability to identify and integrate new managerial talent, as seen with De Zerbi and Potter before him, will be crucial for future success.


In a plot twist straight out of a football soap opera, Chelsea recently sacked Mauricio Pochettino. Yes, you read that right—another one bites the dust at Stamford Bridge. Fans and pundits alike are buzzing with speculation about who will step into the revolving door of Chelsea’s managerial hot seat next. And guess whose name is being bandied about? That’s right: Roberto De Zerbi.


Football journalist Fabrizio Romano has hinted that Chelsea’s next manager will be a young coach, and at 44, he fits the bill. Could the Italian maestro swap the seagulls of Brighton for the blue lions of Chelsea? Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure: the drama never stops in the world of football, and De Zerbi might just be the next star in Chelsea’s long-running managerial saga.


By: @Kadmiel_09

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Mike Hewitt / Getty Images