BRIGHTON -- Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi says his side are "ready to go forward" without Moises Caicedo after the in-demand midfielder asked to leave the club.
Arsenal saw a £60 million bid for Caicedo rejected earlier this week while Chelsea's offer of £55 million earlier in the month was also given short shrift by Brighton, who told the Gunners over the weekend that they do not want to sell the Ecuador international. Arsenal have yet to make a second offer but that is expected to change between now and the deadline on Tuesday.
Asked whether Brighton should acquiesce to Caicedo's wishes, Roberto De Zerbi said, "Caicedo is a very, very good guy. I can understand him, when you are 21 and you receive the request of a big, big team that are playing in European competition.
"I would like him to finish the season with us but we are ready to go forward without him."
Caicedo played no part in Brighton's 2-1 win over Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup, his club having instructed him to stay away until the window is closed and his future has been resolved. The 21-year-old's released a bombshell statement on Friday night, pleading with owner Tony Bloom to grant him a way out of the Amex Stadium.
"I was surprised but I can understand where the mistake started," said De Zerbi, who wants Brighton to strengthen their squad between now and the transfer deadline after losing Leandro Trossard to Arsenal already this month. "Moises is a good guy. I think [he was maybe influenced by others]."
Even without Caicedo, Brighton were too good for Liverpool, inflicting a second defeat of the Reds in 15 days thanks to an injury-time strike from the excellent Kaoru Mitoma. Both manager Jurgen Klopp and Andrew Robertson noted that their side had not been as poor as the 3-0 defeat in the Premier League earlier this month. The latter, however, seemed to have few complaints over the result, bemoaning the trajectory of a campaign where the Champions League is Liverpool's last hope for silverware (and winning it may be the best avenue to qualification to next season's tournament for the ninth-placed Reds).
"This season has been nowhere near good enough," said Robertson. "At the start of the year, we wanted a fresh start but that hasn't happened. We've been worse. In the league, we haven't been good enough and now we're out of both cups now.
"You can't put your finger on one thing, it's more than that. You can tell we're not as confident in front of goal and in defense we are a wee bit open. We had two clean sheets coming into today but then go and concede two goals. We need to get the confidence back, it's easier said than done, and that's how we will get results."