The eyebrows that were raised when Brighton and Hove Albion replaced Graham Potter with Roberto De Zerbi have been put firmly in their place over the past 12 months.
On Sunday 18 September – a year ago – and 10 days after Potter left for Chelsea, the Seagulls announced that their new boss would be a little-known Italian.
Albion chairman Tony Bloom identified De Zerbi as his next managerial target some time before, having been impressed by his work in Italy with Benevento and Sassuolo and then in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Arriving at Brighton with little English and big boots to fill, it was perhaps not surprising that some saw it as a risky move by Albion’s poker-playing owner.
But once again Bloom has upped the ante and now the key question is how long the Seagulls will be able to hang on to De Zerbi.
There were murmurs when the new head coach failed to win any of his first five games in charge. Then came the crucial result, thumping Potter’s Chelsea 4-1 for his maiden victory. He hasn’t looked back.
His Premier League highlights included doing the double over Chelsea and taking three points off Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.
De Zerbi’s dynamic approach also led Albion to beat Liverpool in a run to the FA Cup semi-finals, ended only on penalties at Wembley in the defeat by Manchester United.
Brighton finished the season with their highest placing – in sixth – and secured European football for the first time in the club’s history with a place in the Europa League.
And this season Albion have picked up where they left off, winning four of their opening five matches, including back-to-back 3-1 wins over Newcastle United and Manchester United.
The results have come even though the club has again sold a number of their star performers, with Moises Caicedo and Robert Sanchez off to Chelsea and Alexis Mac Allister joining Liverpool.
But unearthing young players with potential, developing their talent and selling them on for a significant profit to reinvest in potential stars of the future is central to the Brighton model.
Marc Cucurella, Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard, Ben White and Dan Burn have all left the Amex for bigger Premier League names in recent seasons – and the likes of Kaoru Mitoma and Evan Ferguson are sure to be on many wishlists.
The no-nonsense De Zerbi has clearly had a big effect on his players. Seagulls skipper Lewis Dunk opened up on the Italian’s methods after regaining his place in the England squad.
Dunk said: “Football-wise, since the new manager at Brighton has come in, I see football in a completely different way. I picture it in a different way and that is the biggest thing.
“Football is not what I thought it was. Just how we play now. The idea of what I did before, I thought it made sense. But when you learn something completely different, you believe in it and this makes sense.
“You think, why didn’t I know this? And why didn’t I do this before?
“(I) know every position on the pitch and where they should be. The time they should move and what angles they should give. We see it every day and it makes life simpler.”
That attention to detail and precision is at the heart of De Zerbi’s footballing philosophy, with Brighton widely praised for their attacking panache and high-energy game.
Balancing trying to take another step forward in the Premier League this season with the demands of European football is a new challenge for De Zerbi.
But, based on the past 12 months, Bloom’s gamble appears to have paid off – and it would be no surprise to learn that De Zerbi has found the right formula.