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There can be no doubting the impact that Roberto De Zerbi has made at Brighton & Hove Albion this season. When Graham Potter left the Amex Stadium for Chelsea in the early months of the Premier League campaign, there was a sense that it would signal a free fall, especially when Todd Boehly snaffled up most of his backroom staff as well. There seems to be a belief among bigger clubs when looming hawk-like over the perceived smaller beasts that their relative success is all about 'the guy or guys' – and so they will go all out to make 'the guy' their guy when oftentimes it is the system they really want.

There has been plenty of talk in recent seasons about the mathematical approach Brighton and Brentford have taken to recruitment, a method championed by each of their respective owners Tony Bloom and Matthew Benham, two men who just happen to be professional gamblers and who have introduced sophisticated algorithmic software that helps identify ideal fits for club style. It is the future of football, of course. It emerged earlier this week that Tottenham are now in discussions with betting experts with a view to producing a similar scouting system to replicate the ones at Brighton and Brentford.

The use of this highly productive AI is being tested in new ways all of the time in football. A few years back, I spoke to Svend Graversen, the sporting director at Midtjylland. The Danish club was due to face Celtic in Champions League qualifying and was in a degree of relative upheaval with a number of players set to depart. Graversen suggested that one of the things clubs could do better was work on ways to assess whether a player would be a good fit for the culture they would be walking into at Midtjylland and added that his club was looking at ways to turn this into measurable data.

“What we are looking into is trying to understand how people can interact better with each other, and also learn the playing style that we have faster and quicker but also the individual performance,” said Graversen. “This is what we are looking into now: how people learn and can we combine that with the culture we have.”

Of course, the old scouting methods still have a prominent place at these clubs and scouts, coaches and management will eventually get eyes on any prospective signing before agreeing to press the button. But there is also a confidence that often it's a matter of just confirming what staff already know – because it has yielded dividends in the past with a slew of successful in-house examples to draw on.

The Herald:

It helps explain why there was no panic at Brighton when Potter departed for Chelsea because – using Bloom's magic black box – there were a list of candidates already sitting waiting for the club's perusal, much like how Brighton had Yves Bissouma's replacement in place (Moises Caicedo) before he even left for Tottenham and were able to sign Pervis Estupinan from Villarreal to offset the loss of Marc Cucurella to Stamford Bridge. The Ecuadorian left-back has had a sensational season.

And that's where De Zerbi comes in. He has taken the untapped potential of the players at his disposal and melded them into a fluent, exciting system which is fun to play in. Much like Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

It was interesting to note Guardiola's fulsome praise of his opposite number ahead of tonight's Premier League encounter between his City side and Brighton. The Catalan called him “one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years” and compared him to a Michelin starred chef adding that he borrows ideas from him. “In Catalonia, there was (the restaurant) El Bulli by Ferran Adria, the best cook for many, many years and he changed completely the cuisine,” he said. “I think the way Brighton is playing is something unique, it’s special. It’s one of the teams that I try to learn a lot from.”

It might just be that Brighton have alighted on the perfect symmetry with their mathematical system and the genius of De Zerbi.