De Zerbi buys into Klopp style on Liverpool audition but another loss gives Brighton boss work to do

Jason Soutar
Liverpool vs Brighton: Roberto De Zerbi is greeted by Jurgen Klopp before a match.
Roberto De Zerbi is greeted by Jurgen Klopp before a match.

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi bought into Liverpool’s high-octane, vibrant style on what many might deem an audition to be Jurgen Klopp’s successor – and even fell victim to the Reds’ trademark result.

That intro could have been written after Danny Welbeck opened the scoring inside 90 seconds. There has been an inevitability about Liverpool this season. Going behind has almost become a part of the system. It feels weird when they win without duress these days.

Liverpool win from behind again

It was said in October that winning like this was not sustainable; it somehow seems to be as we enter April and is epitomising the never-say-die attitude this team has always had under Klopp, with that elevating to a level nobody thought was possible following the German’s decision to step down.

Said decision saved a dismal January right at the death and has given us plenty of rumours about who will replace Klopp in the Anfield dugout.

The club’s former midfielder Xabi Alonso was the name on everyone’s lips with Bayer Leverkusen in frightening form this term and news of his call to stay with the German outfit was timely following Brighton’s trip to face Liverpool on Sunday.

Seagulls head coach De Zerbi has always been in the frame, even when Alonso was the frontrunner, but he is going to be spoken about a lot more about replacing Klopp following the Spaniard’s decision to take Leverkusen into 2024/25.

READ MORE: Five reasons Liverpool should be glad they dodged a bullet with Xabi Alonso…

The job De Zerbi is doing at Brighton has been spectacular up to this point, despite their patchy form this season. Guiding the club into Europe for the very first time and outdoing everything Graham Potter did are his top two achievements, with his style of play seeing the Italian receive the utmost praise from fans, pundits and his peers.

Brighton’s current style is not completely reminiscent of Klopp’s Liverpool but there are similarities and De Zerbi has earned the right to be linked with the Anfield job.

His timely trip to Merseyside was a good chance to show the Liverpool supporters what he is capable of, going into the fixture unbeaten against Klopp, winning two of their four encounters – including a 3-0 Premier League win at the Amex last season.

As touched on, the audition got off to the best possible start when Welbeck latched onto a defensive mix-up to smash the ball into the top corner within 90 seconds.

Of course, as expected, Liverpool relentlessly knocked on the door and were creating plenty of chances, mainly through ex-Brighton favourite Alexis Mac Allister, who was the best player on the pitch.

Luis Diaz was the man who drew the Reds level after showing incredible anticipation, pace and timing to volley the ball into the top corner.

It was a frantic, high-octane first 45 minutes at Anfield with De Zerbi clearly buying into what Klopp is all about, looking for Simon Adingra to target young right-back Conor Bradley at every possible sniff. You could not take your eyes off it and the Reds fans in attendance will appreciate that.

What they would not have been appreciating was Mohamed Salah’s poor finishing, which is something we have become accustomed to seeing. He often misses chance after chance before scoring a crucial goal to save the day and Sunday’s clash was no different: a personal Premier League record of 12 shots finally delivered the winner.

Found expertly by Mac Allister, he slotted into the bottom corner and secured Liverpool’s 26th(!) point from a losing position in 23/24, which is quite frankly bloody absurd.

If there is one thing De Zerbi and Klopp have in common, it is being able to bring the best out of Mac Allister. The former helped him become a regular starter for world champions Argentina and earn a move to the Reds. He took a while to get up and running thanks to being played out of position but Wataru Endo’s emergence in defensive midfield has helped unlock Mac Allister and Sunday’s showing might have been his best under Klopp.

It was another defeat for Brighton, who are now ninth in the Premier League, a whopping 14 points behind Tottenham in fifth, which could end up being a Champions League spot. If it is, Albion are only six points behind Manchester United in sixth and a potential second consecutive season in the Europa League.

De Zerbi surely needs to get his side back on track if he wants to get the Liverpool job over reported top choice Ruben Amorim, with a strong end to the campaign crucial to giving himself a fighting chance. Result aside, though, there was plenty of evidence of the Italian’s managerial credentials and some of his similarities to Klopp.

Manager talk aside, another hard-fought victory for Liverpool sees them go top of the Premier League table above Arsenal, who I think have a game this weekend. Not too sure.

READ MORE: De Zerbi opens door to Liverpool with ‘I can’t stay any longer’ Brighton contract admission