Is Roberto De Zerbi’s possession-based style outshining Pep Guardiola ? A mazing what De Zerbi said …

Brighton is set to face Man City, with Roberto De Zerbi’s possession-oriented strategy proving to be more fruitful in terms of goals this Premier League season than any other team. City enters the match on the back of three consecutive losses and a lackluster performance against Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola experienced his first league defeat at the hands of Arsenal, signifying a potential shift in the balance of power. It was also the lowest number of shots taken by a Guardiola-led team in a league game in over a decade.

Meanwhile, Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton recently drew 2-2 with Liverpool, cementing their status as the highest-scoring team in the league, a distinction usually associated with Guardiola’s sides.

Both managers have built their playing philosophies around possession, but currently, De Zerbi’s approach seems more comprehensive. When they face off at the Etihad, it might be Brighton playing more expansive football, while City’s recent stylistic evolution has hit a roadblock.

Guardiola’s teams have historically been ruthlessly efficient, averaging nearly three goals per game over nearly 900 matches since his debut at the Nou Camp 15 years ago. There has always been an underlying pragmatism and a desire for in-game control. However, his decision to adopt a backline with four center-backs earlier this year deviates from his traditional playbook.

After securing a historic treble within months, it appeared to be another moment of brilliance, but underlying creative statistics, while still strong, did not match Guardiola’s standards. Results are now catching up, with significant drops in shots, entries into the opposition box, and, most importantly, goals.

Guardiola acknowledges the trade-offs, but concerns escalated after the defeat at the Emirates, where City’s xG (expected goals) was one of the lowest under his management. The absence of Rodri, one of the Premier League’s most crucial midfielders, through suspension contributed to their losses, but it is also indicative of City’s long-term trends.

Despite their recent setbacks, writing off City would be a bold move. A wounded Guardiola tends to be at his most dangerous, but this season presents additional mental challenges as the team has already achieved so much.

Brighton, led by De Zerbi, offers a significant challenge. Guardiola praised De Zerbi as one of the most influential managers of the past two decades. A win for the Seagulls would see them leapfrog City in the standings.

Historically, Guardiola has shown generosity toward opposing managers shortly before dismantling their strategies. This may still be the case, despite City’s declining goal output. De Zerbi’s style combines elements of Guardiola’s possession with the verve of vintage Klopp, resulting in an exciting brand of football.

Brighton’s possession game differs by inviting high pressing from opponents rather than pulling their defenders out, which sets it apart. While opposing teams may eventually adapt, Brighton continues to score goals consistently, maintaining a remarkable record of not being shut out in over a year.

While Brighton is not expected to surpass Man City in the league standings, De Zerbi’s accomplishments with limited resources and in the absence of last season’s midfield core are impressive. His tactical philosophy represents a significant departure in the league’s strategic landscape since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and Guardiola almost a decade ago.

Just as Guardiola redefined old ideas in the past, De Zerbi now threatens to challenge Guardiola and his contemporaries in the same manner.

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