Weaker starting XI – better progress: Roberto De Zerbi’s verdict on Brighton’s 2023-24 efforts
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Albion sold key players Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo to Liverpool and Chelsea respectively for a combined £150 million, while centre-back Levi Colwill returned to Stamford Bridge after a season-long loan on the south coast.
Head coach De Zerbi feels the Seagulls are doing better than last season as they are competing for Europe and are in the Europa League knockout stages - whilst having a lengthy injury list and losing more of their top players than any other Premier League team.
After the Brentford win, he said: "Last week I said we had to transform the problems into opportunities. I think we are playing very, very well without a lot of important players. Today (Wednesday) we were without 10 important players but we are staying at the same level as last season. This season I think the first XI is not so good as last season, in the future it can be better."
When Mac Allister and Caicedo left, Brighton signed the likes of Carlos Baleba, Mahmoud Dahoud, and James Milner to bolster their midfield, whilst also strengthening in attack with Joao Pedro, Simon Adingra, and Barcelona loanee Ansu Fati
With Colwill's return to Chelsea, Albion recruited defender Igor Julio and Jan Paul van Hecke has come on leaps and bounds, too. While De Zerbi feels the first-team is not at its full capability right now, they have a lot of potential.
"At the moment, [Carlos] Baleba is not [Moises] Caicedo yet. Igor [Julio], in terms of knowledge of the play, is not [Levi] Colwill yet; he can become [that] but not at the moment," said De Zerbi.
"For that, I think we are doing better than last season because last season we reached the Europa League, we reached a big target but this season we have 25 points in 15 games, we have 10 points in the Europa League from five games. We are fighting, we lost three important players and only one team lost three important players... Brighton."