'He knows' - Roberto De Zerbi makes honest admission over Evan Ferguson future after hat-trick heroics and reveals how Ansu Fati and Carlos Baleba fit into equation
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The Irishman was in the right place, at the right time to open the scoring after Billy Gilmour’s powerful shot was fumbled by Nick Pope.
The second goal was far more difficult, with the striker finding the bottom corner from distance. The third found the net via a huge deflection but came from Ferguson’s confidence and eye for goal.
"On Evan Ferguson, I am really delighted today but not for the goals,” De Zerbi said, post-match.
"We can be happy now because we won the game but I am really pleased for the performance.
"Especially in the first half, he played very well. He found the right position between the lines. He received the ball from JP Van Hecke or Lewis Dunk or Billy Gilmour. Newcastle defended 4-4-1-1 so there were open spaces to receive the ball for the striker.
"He understood that position very well. He's working to complete his qualities, which is not only to score.
"He can become big, big, big. His qualities are enough to become a great player.
"He can be top scorer in Europe. Born in 2004, no? I don't know how many young players score this type of goal in their career.”
Having lost three key players in Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister and Levi Colwill, De Zerbi was asked if he was pleased the transfer window slammed shut before Ferguson’s heroics.
“Yes, that's good news,” the Italian said.
“Yes [clubs will want him] but it's normal for Brighton to sell their players. The most important thing for Brighton is not to keep the most important player but to find a replacement. This is the right work we have to do.
“He knows the way to score in incredible [ways]."
De Zerbi was also asked if it will be difficult for new recruits Carlos Baleba and Ansu Fati to fit straight into the team, with the current starting XL playing at such a high level.
The 44-year-old replied: “They will be very important for us. Baleba is a unique player in terms of characteristics in this team. Fati is a player that can help us reach the upgrade.
“I love to play with the ball for 90 minutes. We are working on this part. I am happy because we have a lot of young players with big talent. Buonanotte and Enciso [for example]. Mitoma is older but still a very big talent.
"We now have Baleba and Ansu Fati, only on loan, but nothing changes. I work in the same way, with the same passion and attitude.
“We played one of the best games in my time today. You have to consider the opponent – one of the best teams in the Premier League. I am very, very happy."
On the performance of Billy Gilmour, De Zerbi continued: “The same as Evan Ferguson, he [Gilmour] is improving a lot. We are working a lot.
"We’ve had a lot of meetings to speak about the details on the pitch. The second and third goals were fantastic because we work in that situation when the ball is on their centre back.
“It's fantastic when you can see your work and the improvement of the players during the game.”