This article is a tactical analysis of Lazio’s key victory over Inter in Matchday 24 of the Serie A, which will be broken down by four categories: the first is the Nerazzurri’s aerial threat, the second is the ‘Jony vs. Candreva’ battle, the third is the Biancocelesti’s terrific pressing, and the fourth is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s ‘Man of the Match’ performance.
Inter’s Aerial Threat
As you can see from the first image above, Lazio chose a balance of man-marking and zonal marking against an Inter side that boasts a great aerial threat with Diego Godin, Stefan de Vrij, and Romelu Lukaku. This corner was the first clear chance of the game and sounded the alarm bells for the Lazio defense. From the first image, you can see Stefan Radu is marking Lautaro Martinez and Luiz Felipe looks to be marking de Vrij, leaving Francesco Acerbi to mark Godin.
This was not the case, however, as de Vrij made a dummy run towards the back post dragging Acerbi with him. This left Luiz Felipe out of position, having to run through Martinez to attempt to stop Godin from having a free header. Radu stayed with his man Martinez; Luiz Felipe did well to put enough pressure on Godin to stop the effort from going on target.
Inter had a further five corners; none of which were up to the standard of the first, either being played short or in the six-yard box where they were easily cleared. Considering the threat that Inter poses in the air, Antonio Conte must have been disappointed with the delivery of their corners.
The ‘Jony vs. Candreva’ Battle
The 3-5-2 has been the formation of choice for Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio for a number of years. The wing-back position is key to the success of this formation. However, to be a wing-back in this formation, you have to be quick on the break and also have the fitness to track back after an attack. Under Conte, Inter has adopted the same formation, allowing for the comparison between wing-backs in this game. The heat map above is fairly damning for Jony. He spent most of his time in the opposition’s final third, yet he only managed 17 accurate passes – according to WhoScored.com – during the game. Candreva who has had a similar transformation to Jony – formerly playing an attacking role before being moved into a more defensive one – had a very easy game. His heat map shows his strong fitness levels moving up and down the pitch well, playing most of his game in the middle third.
Inter Strike First
As described earlier the ‘Jony vs. Candreva’ battle was a key part of the game. The first picture above shows Jony getting into a good crossing position with Ciro Immobile, Felipe Caicedo and Milinkovic-Savic all waiting to receive the cross. However, the cross was not up to standards and Ashley Young picked up the ball outside the area.
Notice Candreva’s position in the second picture above; he is still running towards his own goal and ends up just yards away from Jony.
Lazio was then backtracking, as seen in the third picture. However, the left side had been cut off well by Adam Marusic and the back three were picking up the two Inter strikers. Candreva could hardly believe his luck at the space he had found on the right-hand side, as although he started his run near Jony, the left wing-back is nowhere to be seen. Candreva then shot – which was the wrong option – but the shot was so powerful that Thomas Strakosha could only beat it away to a fortunately placed Young who put the ball away. 1-0 Inter.
Many were hopeful that Jony could grow into this role and be a solid back up option for Senad Lulic. In previous games, he has shown positive signs and maybe he just needs more time to adjust to this new role. This was a tough test for him and he was not up to standards; should this mean Inzaghi looks elsewhere for a Lulic backup?
Lazio’s Second Half Press
From a free-kick, Inter decided to play it back to Daniele Padelli. Inter got the ball onto the left-hand side, and Marusic decided to initiate the press. Immobile picked up Marcelo Brozovic and Milinkovic-Savic ensured that Nicolo Barella could not pass the ball back to Milan Skriniar. This forced Barella to run back towards his own goal and eventually pass it back to his keeper.
Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile, and Caicedo all then pressed Padelli, who is not the most assured of goalkeepers. All he could do is smash it out for a Lazio throw in a dangerous position.
The throw was taken backward as Lazio decided to hold onto possession. Inter would not regain possession until they took the kick-off after the equalizer.
Although the equalizer was a penalty, we cannot forget the build-up to it. Luiz Felipe picked up the ball just inside the final third. He played an intelligent ball into Caicedo’s feet, although this ball would have been easily cut out by Martinez if he read it right.
Vecino opted to close Caicedo down which left Luis Alberto in space and in a dangerous position. Milinkovic-Savic then made a great run into the box and there is no better man to find him than Luis Alberto.
This ball over the top was similar to the one against Juventus, although that one was from much further away. Unlike Juventus, however, Milinkovic-Savic did not get to the ball.
Instead, Skriniar made a last-ditch effort to clear it. In the mix was also Padelli who felt he needed to come for the ball.
With the ball sent over the top, the threat of Milinkovic-Savic was enough for a calamitous couple of seconds, resulting in de Vrij giving away the penalty which Immobile calmly converted.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: ‘Man of the Match’ Performance
Anyone saying Milinkovic-Savic does not turn up in big games will be eating their words now. Scoring the winning goals against Juventus and Inter, the Serbian has become the big-game player at Lazio. His heat map showed that he played most of the game in an advanced role on the right-hand side. When compared to Luis Alberto on the left, it shows that Milinkovic-Savic was pushed over on the wing more and was usually further advanced than his fellow midfielder. Sergej won a total of eight aerial duels which is equal to the entirety of Inter’s five-man midfield. There’s no denying Lazio’s ‘Plan B’ is pushing Milinkovic-Savic further forward and playing balls in the air for him to bring down. Once he has done this, the usual outlet is Lazzari on his right-hand side, and we all know what he can do. Although his goal came from a bit of a scramble at the back, he showed composure to move the ball into space before striking the ball into the back of the net. Without that movement, the shot would have likely been blocked.
This great victory has shown that Lazio deserves to be where they are in the table. Although, the squad depth is slightly worrying. Backups haven’t shown they can perform up to the standard required, Jony being the prime example of this as he was outclassed by Candreva. However, this is not the time for worrying. Lazio stopped a great Inter side from creating chances, especially in the second half with the press. Tactically Inzaghi is improving day by day. The substitutions were perfect. Correa for Caicedo was expected, as was Cataldi for Lucas (yellow carded) but, Lazzari for Jony and making Marusic play on the left was the best decision Inzaghi could have made. Lazio was much more capable with these two wing-backs. Don’t be surprised to see them both start next Sunday. We are witnessing statistically one of the best Lazio teams in Serie A history. With this in mind and the mentality instilled by Inzaghi, who says Lazio cannot go all the way to win the Scudetto?