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Kaoru Mitoma


Kaoru Mitoma’s incredible form is proof of how Roberto De Zerbi has changed Brighton

There is no better Premier League club at identifying talent than Brighton. The Amex Stadium has become one of the best finishing schools in European football in recent years with the likes of Ben White, Leandro Trossard, Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella all passing through the south coast club. The conveyor belt never stops rolling. Kaoru Mitoma looks to be Brighton’s next superstar with the Japanese attacker finding top form since returning from the 2022 World Cup. The 25-year-old scored a stunning goal in the 2-2 draw against Leicester City and has also found the back of the net in recent matches against Arsenal and Everton.

Brighton lured Mitoma to the club from Kawasaki Frontale while Graham Potter was their manager, but the Japanese winger has come to embody Roberto De Zerbi’s Seagulls side. The Amex Stadium outfit have grown into one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the Premier League with Mitoma arguably their greatest threat.

This is reflected in Brighton’s impressive record of 19 goals in their last six matches in all competitions. De Zerbi’s shift to a 4-2-3-1 formation has done a good job of pushing players like Mitoma and Solly March closer to goal with the Seagulls getting the most out of the attacking players within their squad.

Brighton aren’t necessarily a better team under De Zerbi, but they are certainly more entertaining to watch with the Italian coach more willing to unleash his attacking threats than his predecessor ever was. Potter’s footballing principles still underpin the team at the Amex Stadium and De Zerbi has built on them.

Mitoma is an electrifying presence in the Brighton attack. His Man of the Match performance against Liverpool demonstrated all that the 25-year-old offers the Seagulls with Trent Alexander-Arnold given all sorts of problems. Mitoma’s greatest quality is his directness and willingness to take on opponents in one-on-one situations.

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Of the players who have made more than 10 Premier League appearances this season, only Allan Saint-Maximin (3.9), Said Benrahma (2.6) and Samuel Edozie (2.3) have averaged more successful dribbles per 90 minutes than Mitoma. He has become a key part of the way Brighton create and score goals this season.

Under Potter, Mitoma never had the freedom to dribble past opponents. In fact, the Japanese international barely featured in the Premier League before Potter’s switch to Chelsea. Potter prefers his attackers to construct intricate attacking sequences whereas Mitoma is more direct in his approach.

Of course, Brighton’s attacking form is down to much more than just Mitoma, as influential as he is. De Zerbi has unlocked another area of March’s game with the 28-year-old now operating higher up the pitch after playing as a wing back earlier in the season. The Brighton manager has challenged both March and Mitoma to hit double figures for goals.

Evan Ferguson has also benefited from the way De Zerbi is setting up the Brighton attack with Danny Welbeck enjoying a career renaissance. However, none of these players have a ceiling as high as Mitoma’s. At 25 years old, there is time for the Japanese international to reach an even higher level.

Potter’s departure to Chelsea prompted fears that Brighton could fall away after such an impressive start to the season, but the success of players like Mitoma suggest they could climb even higher and stay there. It says a lot about the way Brighton is run that Trossard has only just left for Arsenal and few at the club are concerned. Why would they be when they have Mitoma?

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