There was a language barrier, confusion among players and a sea change in the way Brighton players were training when Roberto De Zerbi arrived at the club a year ago. As Lewis Dunk recalls, it was “a carnage two weeks” as the Italian ripped up the tried-and-tested coaching methods of Graham Potter.

Speaking through an interpreter, De Zerbi’s changes were radical. Relatively unknown in the Premier League, the methods which saw him stand out as a promising coach at Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk were now at the Amex Stadium, with a level of detail unseen in English football.

His brand of football looks risky as Brighton pass their way through the opposition press but as Dunk explains, it is all rehearsed. Every day at training, every scenario at every angle has a walk-through with the precision of a West End play. When Dunk receives the ball in his six-yard area, he has rehearsed his way out depending on the angle of the players chasing him down.

But it was not so easy a year ago when De Zerbi arrived. “If I am being honest, the first couple of weeks were horrendous … I wouldn’t say horrendous, they were baffling. The first meeting when he went in, I was so confused – who to look at, what to listen to, and you slowly pick up. Basically don’t listen to the manager, wait for the translator to speak and you get there in the end.

“Training changed dramatically, we worked on a lot of different stuff and the first couple of weeks were a really hard transition, we were fourth in the league when Graham left and we were flying with him and it was a strange time for him to go and then Roberto came in and it was a carnage two weeks.”

The result for Brighton under De Zerbi was a place in Europe, while Dunk has earned back his England squad place, five years after making his debut against the USA. He started his career trying to emulate the blood and thunder of John Terry but, now aged 31, has been reshaped by De Zerbi, who calls him one of the top-five centre-backs in Europe.

“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?’” Dunk said.

“The style of play, really. And when to release the ball. All our games now are about pressure, playing with opposition teams when they’re pressing high and pressing low. When to pass the ball, the timing of that and the timing of movement. Before, I didn’t really know about that. It’s all about the finer details.

“It’s rehearsed – don’t worry about that. We rehearse it every day. That is our training. I couldn’t play this position, but now know every position on the pitch and where they should be. The time they should move and what angles they should give. We practise it that much that we know every scenario. One presses from this angle and one pressers from that angle. We know where the ball should go to reach past the pressure. We know it inside out and do a lot of hours on it.”

It is no surprise that De Zerbi’s success and brand of football is catching the eye of other clubs across Europe. When the next big job comes up among the Champions League elite, he will inevitably be discussed in boardrooms.

De Zerbi’s football is a new way of playing, but with a very focused goal of getting his most effective attacking players in the right positions.

“It probably looks to the fans, especially at home games, looks scary when we pass around the six-yard box – sounds crazy – but we know the idea of the pass or what we are gaining from it,” said Dunk. “Like he says, we are not doing it to look good, we are doing it to score at the other end and we are doing it to get [Kaoru] Mitoma and Solly March in one-v-one positions. So there is a method behind the madness.”

Dunk thought he would be part of the England set-up regularly when initially called up in 2018 but had to wait for his second chance. For England, he has always been a fan, cheering on players who he now plays with.

“Of course I had England shirts growing up. I was in Portugal with my friends one year and Welbs [Danny Welbeck] was playing against Sweden and he scored and we had the full kit on. I have got a picture and now I am his captain at Brighton,” he said.