Roberto De Zerbi hailed Brighton’s 6-0 demolition of Wolves as the “best performance of my career” after admitting his players “suffered a lot” following their Wembley heartbreak.
Brighton bounced back in style after defeats to Manchester United at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals and Nottingham Forest, despite key players Kaoru Mitoma, Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo all starting on the bench.
Deniz Undav, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck all scored twice to record their biggest win in the top flight.
“It was the best performance in my career as a coach. I’m used to watching this level of the game, we scored six goals but if we speak about the level of the play, we are playing a very high level of football,” he said.
“We have to get used to playing 90 minutes against every team not thinking too much about the result during the game. If we are winning 3-0, we have not changed anything in our head and we have to push again, again, again. This is the most important step for us. When I speak about mentality I’m only focused on that.”
Brighton are firmly in the hunt for European football, sitting one point behind seventh-placed Liverpool with a game in hand. De Zerbi says they “deserve” to achieve their aim and that Saturday’s performance was born from their Wembley disappointment.
“I have to be proud of my players and the club the same, and the fans must be proud. This victory started at Wembley and not today,” he said.
“Today we showed pride, we played well but it’s not enough playing fantastic football to win. We suffered a lot after Wembley because we deserved to win. We suffered a lot in Nottingham because we played with our heads still at Wembley.
“Today you watched the reaction, you have to put your attention on this, not only the game. The players are not like the players in the PlayStation or robots, they have a soul, a heart and in those five days they suffered a lot.”
De Zerbi was forced to rotate with the match being their third game inside a week but his replacements more than stepped up to the mark.
“We are enduring a tough period, playing so many games, we are not used to it. It was good and right to give Mitoma, Mac Allister, Caicedo one game to recover,” said De Zerbi.
“Billy (Gilmour), Undav had the opportunity to show their quality and feel important like the normal first XI. Gilmour was the best player on the pitch. After the game, I must admit that possibly in the past I made mistakes with him and Undav because I didn’t give them more possibilities to play. It’s difficult.”
Lopetegui: I didn’t recognise my team
Wolves looked a shadow of the side that beat Crystal Palace in midweek and the hammering on the south coast was a far cry from their run of three wins from four coming into the match, leaving Julen Lopetegui dumbfounded about their sudden drop in performance.
“It is not easy to make an assessment or analysis about the match because it’s a very bad day for us,” he said.
“We suffered very early, two goals we have to avoid. The first one, we had 10 players behind the ball and we can do better. The second goal, we lose the ball and after that, it’s hard for us because they have more confidence. Against this kind of team, it’s very important to not only do good things but not suffer two very easy goals.
“It has been a very hard day for us but the responsibility is with the coach, me. We are sorry a lot for the fans. We have to be ready for the next fight, we are in the middle of a battle. Today we lost one battle but not the war. We have to continue to achieve our aim.
“We have not done anything yet. We have to get more points to achieve our aim. Today we have played against a very good team and made the task easy for the opponent in the first 20 minutes. I don’t recognise my team today. My players are better than they have shown and we have to be aware of that.
“The matches are not about what you have done in the past. We have not competed in the way we can. All of us are frustrated and me, as the coach, more than anyone. I am guilty more than ever today. This is my responsibility. In the same way, the players have to know they can do better.
“We have to remember that four months ago we were bottom with five points to the next team.”
Brighton’s remaining fixtures
May 4: Man Utd (H) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
May 8: Everton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 5.30pm
May 13: Arsenal (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 18: Newcastle (A) – Premier League, kick-off 7.30pm
May 21: Southampton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm
May 24: Man City (H) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
May 28: Aston Villa (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
Wolves’ remaining fixtures
May 6: Aston Villa (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 13: Man Utd (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 20: Everton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Arsenal (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm