From 1999 to 2021, Simone Inzaghi spent the bulk of his career with Lazio. As a player, he was not known for being highly skillful yet the same cannot be said for his abilities as a manager, as he has blossomed into one of the best in Europe in a short period of time.
He added a Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana trophies to the Biancocelesti’s collection and brought Lazio back to the UEFA Champions League after a 13-year hiatus. In addition, they managed to advance to the Round of 16 in the European competition – a feat that had not been accomplished in twenty years.
Lazio club president Claudio Lotito is known for not spending nearly enough to compete with the likes of the other top sides in the league such as Juventus, Inter, Milan, Napoli, and Roma. However, Inzaghi managed to stay competitive thanks to getting the most out of the under-the-radar and cost-effective signings. Ciro Immobile, Lucas Leiva, and Luis Alberto are all clear examples; despite arriving at the club at a difficult period in their career, the Italian tactician elevated their game and allowed them to thrive.
While every manager has upsides, they also have flaws, and with Inzaghi, there were some glaring concerns with regards to how he managed Lazio. This past summer, he decided to part ways with the Biancocelesti and fill the void left by Antonio Conte at Inter. Although it was initially hard to accept, this was a move that made sense for both sides as he took the club as far as he could and change was needed for various reasons including a lack of squad rotation, tactical flexibility and opportunities for youth players.
Lack of Squad Rotation
Inzaghi was always reliant on his core players in marquee matches and European competition. Game after game he started players such as Francesco Acerbi, Immobile, Luis Alberto, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Leiva. However, one issue was his inability to use his bench players against the mid to lower table teams which was evident in the 2020/21 season and led to injuries and fatigue.
In 2020/21, Milinkovic-Savic appeared in 29 straight games across all competitions and played a total of 3491 minutes. The midfielder started to show signs of fatigue and this affected his performance. Immobile dipped in form at times and struggled to score as he also played a considerable number of minutes. Luis Alberto, Acerbi and Manuel Lazzari were also overused throughout the course of last season.
Inzaghi’s excuse was that he had limited options on the bench. However, when Lazio played teams such as Spezia, Crotone, Torino or Cagliari, Inzaghi was far too reluctant to use the likes of Andreas Periera, Vedat Muriqi, Mohamed Fares or Gonzalo Escalante.
Having a game off would have allowed players from the starting eleven to recuperate, rest and avoid ending up on the sidelines.
Lack of Tactical Flexibility
Inzaghi was extremely dependent on the 3-5-2 formation and rarely changed his tactics. He became predictable at times as many teams knew what to expect. Even when he had marquee players out of the lineup, he did not change his approach to matches.
In the 2020/21 season, he started players out of position in order to use his formation. Marco Parolo – who is a midfielder – played at centre-back or wing-back. Adam Marusic, who is a right wing-back, adjusted to become a left wing-back or centre-back. Meanwhile, Pereira was used as a striker, yet his natural position is an attacking midfielder.
The 3-5-2 had often been used to benefit players such as Alberto and Immobile, who strived quite well in this formation. However, change and adaptability has helped numerous managers become more strategic and have a tactical advantage over their opponents which would have benefitted Lazio.
Lack of Opportunites for Youth Players
The Primavera players were hardly given an opportunity under Inzaghi and this forced some players to leave. One notable player is Pedro Neto, who was sold to English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers. He has now become a recognizable talent in the English top flight.
Another example is Raul Moro, who was close to leaving Lazio as he was not getting playing time under Inzaghi. In Lazio’s final six matches in the 2020/21 season, they had no chance of moving up in the standings. However, Inzaghi continued to play players such as Senad Lulic and Parolo, who were past their prime.
Regardless of whether a player is ready or not to play in the top flight, when there are games with little significance, the experience and playing time would help them develop.