Liverpool just saw how rivals Manchester City can continue dominating in the Premier League long after Pep Guardiola exits the club, potentially in 2025.
Liverpool arch-rival Manchester United have endured a miserable start to the new season, losing three of their first five games for the first time in the Premier League era.
On Saturday, the Red Devils suffered their first home league defeat in over a year, falling 3-1 to Brighton, which was incidentally the last side to beat them at Old Trafford.
The pick of the Seagulls’ goals was surely Pascal Groß’s second, not necessarily because of the finish (however clinical it was), but because of the 30-pass masterpiece that preceded it.
It felt like a goal that epitomized everything manager Roberto De Zerbi is about. Since the Italian came aboard at the Amex Stadium a year ago, Brighton ranks second in the league for average possession (62 per cent), according to Match of the Day.
His players are experts at retaining the ball but they are also incisive and ruthless when the moment arrives, ranking third for touches in the opposition box (1,228), second for expected goals (74.7), first for shots (624) and third for goals scored (76).
Predecessor Graham Potter had already done an exceptional job, but De Zerbi has taken Brighton to another level entirely.
“The football that we are seeing from Brighton right now is out of this world,” Sky Sports pundit and Liverpool icon Jamie Carragher said as he broke down the victory against United. “Is it a shock? I don’t think any result Brighton get now is a shock.
“I think we are watching one of the best teams in the Premier League and certainly one of the best managers.”
De Zerbi has proven himself to be a true tactical genius capable of beating the best sides in the division on his own terms and outwitting the best coaches. He’s now defeated United and Chelsea twice and overseen 3-0 thrashings of Arsenal and Liverpool.
The 44-year-old has done this with a fraction of the resources, overseeing a squad that cost only £166m to assemble, the sixth-lowest figure in the division.
It’s no exaggeration to say that, if he keeps this up — and all the underlying numbers suggest he will — this could be one of the all-time great Premier League managerial efforts, given this disparity between resources and achievement, and the level of tactical innovation.
As a result, De Zerbi is bound to be on the radar of elite clubs, probably including Liverpool, but it’s Manchester City who may have a vacancy first, with Pep Guardiola reportedly insistent that he will be leaving the Etihad in 2025 when his contract expires (according to The Guardian).
For Liverpool, this would represent the worst-case scenario, giving City the platform to continue its dominance even beyond the long-awaited departure of Guardiola, the man who has taken a top team and made it a near-unstoppable juggernaut.
We’ve seen what De Zerbi has done with what City would consider small change, so imagine what he could do with the backing of state wealth in Manchester.