Roberto De Zerbi explains his tactical changes against Sampdoria and admits he’s getting ‘sleepless nights’ thinking about whether he’ll stay with Sassuolo next season.
This was the Neroverdi’s fourth consecutive victory and keeps them in the running for seventh place.
“We weren’t that pretty today, but we did get a very important and difficult victory,” De Zerbi told DAZN.
“The win in Milan was weighing on us a little and we weren’t our usual selves, which makes it an even better victory to me.
“We’ve already got one more point that last season with five rounds to go. It’s not over and we want to keep pushing.”
It was decided by a Domenico Berardi bicycle kick, but De Zerbi surprised by fielding a 3-5-2 formation to begin with, going back to his usual 4-2-3-1 with Jeremie Boga’s introduction at half-time.
“Marlon was more advanced out of necessity, not the desire to do something different. If we had started like that, I wouldn’t have had any options to come off the bench and change gear,” explained the coach.
“Unfortunately, Samp were pressing hard and didn’t give us time to transition from one system to another. There was still 45 minutes left and I thought we could push more for 45 minutes than the whole 90.
“When you have the ball against Sampdoria, that’s when you need to worry. So we moved the ball less quickly than usual because we were afraid of losing it and conceding on the counter. That’s why we were a little slow in the first half.
“After the break, we made some changes and went back to the classic system. We are sometimes called horizontal passers, but when we do that, it’s because we are preparing to potentially lose the ball. So when we go a bit more horizontal than usual, it’s not a waste of time, it’s to move it around.
“What I like about my team is that we can chop and change the players, yet they always know what they need to do and the side largely works the same way. We need everyone over 38 rounds.”
Maxime Lopez is growing into an impressive figure in the Sassuolo midfield and has now been bought outright from Olympique Marseille.
“He is not very strong physically, but he wins back the ball regularly because he’s smart and anticipates the passes. I think if he can speed up his thinking on transitions, knowing when to get the ball back and immediately spark an attack, then he can become a complete midfielder.”
De Zerbi was asked about the big question, whether he will stay at Sassuolo or accept a reported offer from Shakhtar Donetsk.
“Aside from eighth, seventh or sixth place, I look to the rapport, to what these players, the club and the fans have given me. It’s not our final position that will make the difference.
“Clearly, it’s complicated to do better than we are right now. I can assure you it would be reductive to choose whether I stay or not based on our position in the table.
“Without mentioning other clubs, I do want to consider this really carefully, because in the past I made decisions on instinct and I want to really think about it this time. It is giving me sleepless nights.”