Roberto De Zerbi's Brighton have wowed the Premier League this season

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi says some of his best ideas come in his sleep

EVERYONE agrees Roberto De Zerbi’s FA Cup semi-finalists are playing dreamy football right now.

But that is quite literally the case, with the Brighton boss revealing some of his best tactical ideas have come to him in his sleep.


Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton have wowed the Premier League this seasonCredit: PA

The Beautiful Game obsessive has transformed Albion into one of the easiest-on-the-eye teams in the Premier League with his inventive instructions.

They have caught plenty of bigger sides napping with their approach, defeating Chelsea and Liverpool both twice this season, and are the bookies’ favourites to beat Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday.

The former Shakhtar and Sassuolo boss said: “The best ideas come exactly then, (in your dreams).

“Three or four years ago it happened that during the night I was waking up and writing down my ideas.

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“At Sassuolo, in the first season, I slept with a notepad and pen by my bed.”

Danny Welbeck explained on Saturday how creative De Zerbi drums three different tactical approaches into his side for every team they face – and the same will be for United.

While each squad-member, regardless of position or even if they are not playing, must know to a T what every other team-mate’s options should be when they are in possession.

One particular tactical quirk De Zerbi has brought in is wanting his players to control the ball with the sole of their foot to attract more pressure from opponents.

While Pep Guardiola has already lauded the Italian for “changing many things in English football”.

De Zerbi’s passion for the game has been obvious since he succeeded Graham Potter in September.

He has sometimes pushed it a bit too far on the touchline, copping two red cards and four yellows for his fiery antics.

Asked where all that passion comes from, the AC Milan academy product explained: “My dad [Alfredo], he transferred the passion of football when I was a child. 

Toughened up by hard stint in Sicily

ROBERTO DE ZERBI learnt from his nightmare spell as Palermo boss when deciding to take charge of Brighton.

It is hard to imagine given how well his Albion spell has gone, but De Zerbi was taught a harsh lesson in Sicily during the early stages of his managerial career.

He lasted just 13 matches with Serie A side Palermo, winning only one and losing eight in a row before he was sacked following a Coppa Italia penalty-shootout defeat to Spezia.

De Zerbi looks back now and realises the environment was all wrong for him at the Rosaneri, where the team were nowhere near as good as the owner believed them to be.

The Italian explained: “In Palermo, the owner thought we had a big team with big players but it wasn’t true.

“Now at Brighton I look at my players, (Lewis) Dunk, (Pascal) Gross, (Danny) Welbeck, (Pervis) Estupinan, (Adam) Webster, (Levi) Colwill, (Kaoru) Mitoma, (Solly) March, I feel good and I believe we can win. I trust my players.

“In Palermo, the squad wasn’t able to compete with De Zerbi and the other coaches.

“I was 37 when I went to Palermo, 37 to work in Serie A after two years in the equivalent of League One. I didn’t analyse well the situation.

“I thought, ‘Roberto, you have to go because it’s Serie A, you have to prove, to compete, to understand if you are able or not’.

“But if there aren’t the conditions… and I have to answer no.

“It helped me when I came to England. That experience was very important for me because I understood, and I decided not just for the prestige, to put your backside on an important bench.

“I want to sit where there are the right conditions for me to work.”

De Zerbi used that experience when he came to Brighton and explained to owner Tony Bloom during his interview that he would not be a replica of Graham Potter, who had left the club for Chelsea.

He added: “I respect a lot Potter but I am not Potter, and the first thing I spoke with Tony Bloom about was I wanted to understand if he wanted another Potter or Roberto, because I am not Potter, I can’t be Potter. 

“I can be Roberto and I can do what I know, what I believe, what is my idea.”

“First of all I’ve been a fan, fans in Italy are ultras, no? Then I’ve been a ballboy, then a youth player, then player and then coach. But myself, in football, started as a fan and I can’t forget when I’ve been a fan.

“The first thing I want to respect is the people who pay for their ticket, for their season ticket, when the fans go away to watch a game, it should be an honour for the players, for the coaches.”

De Zerbi clearly takes his responsibility to the crowd seriously, as he spends nearly all day obsessing over football.

With his wife and son still in Italy – though his daughter is studying in England – he spends most evenings with his staff, eating together and watching matches.

Doing something else to take his mind off the pressures of top-level coaching is of no interest.

The 43-year-old explained: “I’ve not understood how I could relax yet in my life but I feel good. 

“I don’t know for how many years I can work in football but it’s OK, I can work like this in football. I don’t love playing golf, or other sports, to relax. I don’t need that.”

De Zerbi’s attention to detail was clear by the way he spent two 18-hour days studying Brighton before his interview for the job.

He also spent time with inspirational figures Guardiola when the Spaniard was at Bayern Munich and Marcelo Bielsa during the Argentine legend’s time at Lille.

The Brescia-born chief has never had a chance to meet Sir Alex Ferguson but if the opportunity should arise, he would have one question for the legendary United boss.

De Zerbi explained: “I would like to understand how he could stay with the same team for so long. This is incredible. 

“It’s not easy because you can burn your brain every day working like that!

“I loved his Man Utd of Yorke and Cole.

“It was a team which transferred patience, ideas, qualities and blood.”

All those attributes have been on display for De Zerbi’s Brighton this season – and could well be the undoing of Erik ten Hag’s United on Sunday.

No wonder Seagulls fans are dreaming big given the visionary man they have in the dugout.