Roberto De Zerbi takes charge of Albion for the first time when they take on Liverpool tomorrow.
The Seagulls have won, drawn and lost very closely twice in their last four visits to Anfield.
A lot has happened since they were last on the field – under Graham Potter against Leicester City.
All sorts of analyzes have been made about what De Zerbi might or might not do as his successor.
But analysis, numbers and charts are finally giving way to action tomorrow with a few things we’ll be paying attention to.
Twenty-seven days after their last game, how many line-up changes does the new boss make compared to Graham Potter’s last team?
New head coaches can be conservative. Potter himself did NOT start exactly NONE of his summer signings in his first game at Watford, instead making a debut for Dan Burn that Chris Hughton had never used in the league.
Hughton, the last new boss to take over during a season, made four changes in his first game but one was the return of Gordon Greer from a knee injury, a change caretaker Nathan Jones may have made himself.
Will Lallana return?
Adam Lallana was a proud man as he applauded the away and home fans after last season’s game at Anfield.
He was in good form before getting injured recently but that looks too early to start.
He was at times effective in guiding and organizing the press in the Old Trafford win and is potentially a really useful asset at Liverpool.
An obvious topic of conversation. If Albion went to Anfield under Graham Potter, we’d expect to see three at back and full-backs.
Attacking runs from Marc Cucurella and Tariq Lamptey put Liverpool ahead of the Kop last year, resulting in a goal and a disallowed goal for Leandro Trossard.
But Lamptey’s run was like a sub. Albon started that day with a back four.
De Zerbi’s track record is a four. That seems to point to Joel Veltman at right-back (as he was last season), albeit with an instinct and awareness to grope closer to his centre-backs when needed.
Of course, always remember that when Pervis Estupinan plays on the left, there is a very fine line between full-back and full-back.
The double twist?
We keep hearing about the importance of this midfield duo to De Zerbi’s plans and Albion appear well placed there with Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister in fine form individually and as a pair.
Both were away from de Zerbi on the training ground for much of de Zerbi’s first week.
From this perspective, an order to simply do what they did might be appropriate.
This forces them to contend with the fatigue of their travels (which is more true of Mac than Moi).
play from behind?
There are signs that Albion will continue to play from behind, but will be longer – and look shorter.
How far we see that at Anfield remains to be seen, but Liverpool are hungry and will smell their prey.
Albion played with fire in front of the Kop last season and were lucky not to be burned by a grueling third goal as they faltered on the ball.
They need to be crisper and faster this time because Liverpool will be looking them in the face.
The Trossard Roll?
By general agreement, Leandro Trossard played as a false nine at Anfield last season.
Did he really? Or was he really just a nine that didn’t look like a nine.
Potter has carved a very effective niche for the Belgian coming from wider and deeper in recent months.
During Chelsea’s game against Salzburg, it was amusing to hear a commentator suggest that Raheem Sterling had been given “the Trossard role”.
Where does he fit now? Somewhere in those three working off the frontman seems obvious, and if he stays on the left flank those improved defensive qualities may well be tested by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Proud Mancunian that he is, Danny Welbeck is likely to be given just as warm a welcome from home fans as he was at Elland Road at the end of last season.
He has not played at Anfield for more than five years and his work in filling Virgil Van Dijk will be fascinating.
Welbeck impresses with his movement and footballing IQ but was injured at the time of this game last year.
Off the pitch?
Potter’s assistant Billy Reid was in very good spirits ahead of last season’s Anfield game.
When Jurgen Klopp went outside to study Albion’s warm-up from the halfway line, Reid was there and engaged him fully in a long conversation.
I never asked if it was intentional to get Klopp’s attention or if Reid was just being social.
And what’s the point of watching Klopp anyway?
However, he didn’t see much of the Albion warm-up that day.
The battle between the trainers will be a great one, with De Zerbi likely to be a tad fiercer than his predecessor (and the one before him and the one before him and the one before him).
Any other business?
Anfield can be a cauldron on European nights and a pause in action might have whetted the appetite. But it can also get quiet on run-of-the-mill Saturday afternoons.
Maintaining possession and winning it back early will frustrate the locals and perhaps spoil some one-off visits. Oh, that’s football.
away we go…
No logical relevance, but fans love an omen.
Or maybe some memories to talk about on the long train ride north.
(Oh sorry, forgot – don’t mention the trains!).
Many will leave with memories of great first-game wins away for Hughton at Brentford, Potter at Watford, Gus Poyet at Southampton and even Martin Hinshelwood (no offense Martin – circumstances were difficult at the time) at Burnley.
Russell Slade and Oscar Garcia also started with early goals on their away debuts before losing 2-1 at Leyton Orient and Leeds respectively.
Let’s see what this one brings.
https://www.theargus.co.uk/sport/22952498.liverpool-v-brighton-look-de-zerbi-debut/?ref=rss Liverpool v Brighton: What to look out for in De Zerbi debut