Lazio secured a hard-fought three points away to Genoa at the Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris in Matchday 25 of the 2019/20 Serie A. The tactical analysis for this match shows that Simone Inzaghi got the plan right to overcome Davide Nicola’s Rossoblu. The three main factors for this outcome were playing well on the left side of the pitch, switching the play when needed, and using Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as a target man.
Lazio on the Left Side of the Pitch
Above is Lazio’s defensive heatmap. In a game where Lazio was forced to defend and break on the counter, you can see the preferred wing to distribute to was the left-hand side. Stefan Radu and Jony worked well together to start the counterattacks. Radu made the most tackles in the Lazio backline and perhaps this is why the counters started on the left-hand side. Also notice that, compared to the game against Inter, the Biancocelesti’s wingbacks played a much more defensive role. This may have been due to the absence of defensive pillar Francesco Acerbi.
Luis Alberto’s heatmap confirms the left-hand side preference of the Lazio counter-attack. Alberto played a much more concentrated role on the left side of the pitch, unlike Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who drifted around the pitch more freely. Although there was a clear preference to start attacks on the left, this freed up space on the right-wing, and just two minutes in Lazio exploited this space.
Switching the Play
Lazio Score Early
After a good Lazio press, Genoa was forced into a long ball that was picked up by Thomas Strakosha. As per usual, he played the ball short to the central defender, which in this case was Denis Vavro. As mentioned earlier, Lazio favoured the left-hand side of the pitch; Radu picked up the ball and made a move forward.
As Lazio played out on the left, the Genoa defense pushed over with the Lazio midfield. However, Adam Marusic remained on the right. Radu switched the play; the ball was intended for target man Milinkovic-Savic.
However, the ball was over hit, and Marusic was called into action. He won the header against Domenico Criscito and it fell to Felipe Caicedo. Adama Soumaoro stepped inside to try and intercept the ball, but this was a mistake. Marusic saw an opportunity and made a run in-behind Soumaoro. Andrea Masiello tried to cover this run; Criscito was left way behind the action.
Marusic still had a lot to do. Soumaoro and Masiello sandwiched him in; however, they both slipped sideways, and Marusic on his way down managed to find the top corner. Lazio found themselves 0-1 up against Genoa after just two minutes. This is the perfect example of how a switch in play can cause defensive problems.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: Target Man
As mentioned in the analysis of Lazio vs Inter in Matchday 24, Lazio often found themselves needing a ‘Plan B’. This ‘Plan B’ was to use Milinkovic-Savic as a target man. This plan, however, is not just a last-ditch effort when nothing is working. It is used in conjunction with ‘Plan A’, which is to play the beautiful football that we have all fallen in love with over the course of the past few seasons.
In the image above, Milinkovic-Savic brought the ball down well and found himself in a great position. Marusic was making a great run down the right putting doubt into Criscito’s mind; Caicedo could go either way of Criscito. The league’s top scorer, Ciro Immobile, was able to run into any space that he wanted, and Soumaoro had to deal with Milinkovic-Savic.
Milinkovic-Savic, perhaps luckily, nutmegged Saumaoro; this played Caicedo in-behind. Criscito pushed over to cover and Davide Biraschi comes to tackle Caicedo. Note: Immobile realized that there was space opening up on the edge of the box and Marusic ran into acres of space on the right side of the box.
Caicedo was tackled, but the ball fell straight to Immobile who took a touch, and fired it into the bottom left corner. There were a couple of bits of good fortune for this goal. However, Immobile found space and Marusic created doubt in the minds of the Genoa defense. From the ball leaving Strakosha’s boot, it took only 13 seconds and 9 touches to score this goal.
Danilo Cataldi: the Good and the Bad
Lucas Leiva has been the heartbeat of the Lazio midfield for a couple of years now. He has shown his great defensive qualities as well as the ability to launch counter-attacks. Anyone who steps into his shoes is likely to be criticized as it’s difficult for anyone to reach his standards. However, with Simone Inzaghi not wanting to risk a Leiva red card, Danilo Cataldi came on as his replacement.
Cataldi switched off leaving Francesco Cassata a lot of space on the edge of the area. Taking nothing away from Cassata’s strike, Cataldi should have been closer to his man, not allowing the young Italian to get his shot away. 1-2 Lazio. Cataldi made up for it, however, with a great free-kick on the edge of the box. The free-kick came from a quick counter-attack with Joaquin Correa bursting forward and running half the length of the pitch. It is to be noted that the substitution (Correa on for Caicedo) allowed this counter to take place. This is because Correa has superior pace and dribbling than the Ecuadorian; this was a great tactical move from Simone Inzaghi.
Lazio Hold On
After the third goal, Lazio settled down and defended well. Denis Vavro impressed, despite a few early “anywhere but your own net” clearances, but overall he a solid performance. This came as a welcome surprise after a poor UEFA Europa League campaign for the young Slovakian. A late penalty put Genoa within one goal again. Nothing really to be said about this goal, as VAR awarded the penalty and its hard to disagree with the decision. The only reason to not give the penalty is if it hits Lazzari’s leg before his hand. Genoa’s fans then created a tough atmosphere for the Lazio players in the final five minutes. Lazio stayed composed though and held on to win the game 2-3. It is also to be said the Lazio traveling support were amazing, often you could hear them over the home supporters. After the game, most of the team fell to their knees in exhaustion. This squad is willing to give everything for the shirt, and the Lazio supporters are responding to this.
Lazio used the left flank well and switched play at key times to create opportunities. Milinkovic-Savic being used as a target man continues to work well when there are no other options available to Strakosha. Cataldi showed us his best and worst sides, but after just coming on the pitch, maybe he can be excused for not being up to the pace of the game. Finally, Lazio showed just how far they have come defensively. It can be argued that four of the back five were not the first choice. However, they were composed throughout the game. Although they conceded 2 goals, the first was a great finish from range and the second was a lucky penalty. After playing two teams who match Lazio’s formation, Inzaghi’s men move onto a home fixture against Bologna who prefers a 4-5-1 formation. How will this affect Lazio? It will be tough to find space in the final third but we will have to wait and see how Inzaghi changes his tactics.