Simone Inzaghi – Lazio – Tactical Analysis

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The slightly less famous Inzaghi brother, Simone Inzaghi, is quickly becoming a notorious figure in Serie A, leading Lazio’s charge toward the 2019-20 Serie A title. In his four seasons in charge of Lazio, Inzaghi has had an impressive win record of 55%. This season, the former Lazio player has reached unbelievable feats, leading Lazio to second place in the table, a single point behind Juventus. In fact, Inzaghi’s team have not lost a Serie A match in 21 games. With the help of the top scorer in Europe’s top 5 leagues, Ciro Immobile (27 goals), S.S. Lazio also have the best goal differential in the league (+37), having scored 60 goals and conceded just 23. Their statistics are impressive, but so too is there incredible use of the 3-5-2 formation and variety of methods for creating chances. Here is a Tactical Analysis of Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio.

SYSTEM OF PLAY: 3-5-2

Lazio S.S. 3-5-2

Lazio operate in a flat 3-5-2, that will occasionally expand into a 3-1-4-2 with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto pushing forward ahead of Lucas Leiva. However, it is more commonly a 3-5-2, and Leiva himself is far from just a stay at home defensive midfielder who screens and shields the back-three. In defense, the system becomes a 5-3-2. On occasion, Lazio may also opt for more of a 3-5-1-1 system, where Joaquin Correa plays in behind Immobile. Remarkably, Lazio’s midfield is so strong that there hasn’t been room for their club captain Marco Parolo in many matches this season. Parolo was the top appearance maker of all four of Lazio’s top midfielders in 2018-19, but instead has been forced to play a peripheral role this season and bide his time from the bench.

In goal, Thomas Strakosha is the only player to start all 26 Serie A matches this season. The back-three are often made up of Stefan Radu, Francesco Acerbi and Luiz Felipe, with wing-backs Manuel Lazzari and Senad Lulic often completing the back-five defensive structure. The front-two include league leading goal scorer Ciro Immobile, and the versatile Argentinean Joaquin Correa. Frequently used alternatives include Felipe Caicedo in place of Correa, Adam Marusic in place of Manuel Lazzari and Patric in place of Luiz Felipe.

Despite any personnel changes, Lazio rarely change their shape, sticking true to their trusted 3-5-2 and 3-5-1-1.

BUILDING OUT FROM THE BACK 

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Lazio’s build-up is not quite a meticulous as many other teams. They prefer a quicker build-up when possible, looking to engage their central midfielders – Luis Alberto and Sergej Milikovic-Savic as early as they can. Alberto and Milinkovic-Savic are both very capable dribblers and creators, so it is unsurprising why they would want their two star midfielders on the ball as much as possible. But this is easier said than done and a lot more complex than it may seem on paper. Francesco Acerbi will often be the one attempting to engage the central midfielders, as Lucas Leiva drops deep toward him and the other two centre-backs get wide. Lazio’s outside centre-back’s in this case often do not get as wide as you might expect, nor do they situate themselves in the same line as Acerbi. Instead, they get a little bit higher, forming a triangle in order to aid in the quick combination play.  If Acerbi wants to break away from the pressure, he also might advance higher up the pitch as the triangle between the back-three becomes inverted the other way.  This can then allow Acerbi to be the point of a diamond with the goalkeeper Strakosha at the base, if the ball is passed back to the keeper.

Throughout this process, Milinkovic-Savic and Alberto look for space in between the lines of the opposition’s press. But this is something that every team does, not just Lazio. So what makes them particularly unique? Lazio will often favour overloads in their build-up and play through the middle of the pitch more than any other team in Serie A.  Alberto, Milikovic-Savic and Lucas Leiva may therefore be found all on the same side of the field, causing further chaos for the opposition. The overload allows the midfield trio to play in close proximity to each other, allowing for quicker combinations and one-touch combination-play. Lazio still have their width in Senad Lulic and Manuel Lazzari (the wing-backs), but their depth is more important to their build-up. Notably, Lazio’s 3-5-2 formation aids in their ability to play through central areas, while still maintaining the necessary width with their two-wing-backs.

According to WhoScored?, Lazio also attack down the middle of the pitch more than any other team in Serie A (tied with A.S. Roma). However, when they do go wide, Senad Lulic is often the man to be found, and Alberto and Lulic will link up down the left-side to create chances. Importantly, Lucas Leiva may also aid in Lazio’s ability to find the central midfielders by dropping toward one side of Acerbi. This in turn opens up space on the other side of the ball for one of the two central midfielders, if not both.

DEFENSIVE PROWESS

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Last season when Lazio finished in 8th place, the club conceded 46 goals, and had a goal differential of +10. Simone Inzaghi has completely turned that around this season and their 23 goals conceded remains the lowest in the league up to this point. The stable 5-3-2 system in defense allows Lazio to have several numbers behind the ball. The back-three are physical and intelligent with their positioning, allowing Lazio to rarely concede goals from crosses. Lucas Leiva also remains a key element to their impressive defensive record and one of the top midfield destroyers around. He made a name for himself as a tough tackler during his time at Liverpool and reached a remarkable season high of 5.7 tackles won per game during his 10-year spell with the Reds. Although Lazio have enjoyed more possession this season, Leiva has continued his tough tackling nature with 2.6 tackles and 2 interceptions per game. That’s the joint fifth most in Serie A rather than his usual place at the top of the throne for tackles, while he’s the current bronze medallist for combined tackles and interceptions in the league this season.

HIGH PRESS OR MID-BLOCK? 
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There is some debate as to whether Lazio more frequently utilize a high press system or a mid-block. When Lazio implement a high pressing system, Immobile and Correa/Caicedo are essential to winning the ball back high up the pitch. The near-sided wing-back and near-sided central midfielder are also essential to Lazio’s high press and will often contribute to the diamond shape that any time might use to win the ball back. Leiva’s decreased numbers in tackles and interceptions may not only be down to his team having more possession, but also his team utilizing a higher pressing system this season than in the past. With Milinkovic-Savic and Alberto situating themselves higher up the pitch on opposition goal kicks, the opposition are forced to go longer more frequently than they might desire, leading to losses of possession that don’t even need to involve the tough tackler.  That said, Inzaghi’s men also frequently engage their opposition lower on the pitch, remaining compact and difficult to break down. Immobile and Correa will often drop in defense to create numerical superiority in central areas rather than pressing their hearts out. Lazio are therefore very capable of changing their defensive approach based on their opposition.

ATTACKING PROWESS

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Despite their focus on penetration in central areas, Lazio also utilize the left-hand side frequently in attack, with the right-side being slightly less favourable. The wing-backs are rarely inverted, which is unsurprising given the 3-5-2 shape that already includes a plethora of players that can aid in the attack in central areas. When it comes to creating chances from crosses, Lazio are a bit like Manchester City in that they love to flood the box. Immobile is a master of timing his runs and will often leave his opposition defenders with nobody to mark, simply because he positions himself close to his midfielders and then waits for the right moment to dart inside and finish like the specialist he is.  Crossing opportunities are also the rare moment when the opposition wing-back will often be inverted, and take up a position as one of the five-six players inside of the box. Interestingly enough, Lazio’s attackers also situate themselves very close together on crosses. This might aid the crosser in picking out a target zone to play the ball into, while it also has potential to cause chaos for the opposition if two players were to suddenly swap spots. Although crossing’s not a feature of their play to the same extent as a team like Napoli or Atalanta, it is something that will always cause a threat for whoever Lazio come up against, simply because of Immobile’s movement and the sheer strength and size of players like Minkovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo.

SERGEJ MILINKOVIC-SAVIC
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Lazio also make use of Milinkovic-Savic’s strength through the use of longer passes. A player like Luis Alberto or Marco Parolo may frequently come deeper to pick up the ball, while Milinkovic-Savic frequently comes closer to his team’s strikers. He’s not your typical Marouane Fellaini or Andy Carroll type and likely much better with his feet, but he is extremely capable of holding up play and using his 6’3 frame to aid in connecting with the front two (who are also quite tall). The Serbian has won 3.6 aerial duels per game, more than double of any of his teammates, and the joint 6th highest in the league. Like crossing, the long-ball approach for Lazio is also not their most frequent method for creating chances in attack, but another method in which they have the potential to cause chaos for the opposition.

CIRO IMMOBILE
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With Ciro Immobile in their squad, Lazio can also simply implement the strategy of “Get the ball to Immobile” as a method for scoring goals. Immobile is a master of the one-touch finish, and has probably the best off-the-ball movement of any forward in Serie A. His link-up play is also quite remarkable, as evidenced by his 7 assists and 47 chances created so far in the league. But scoring remains Immobile’s specialty. With 27 goals this season, he has more than anyone in Europe’s top 5 leagues. With that incredible tally, it is worth noting that 45% of Lazio’s goals come from the Italian striker. Comparatively, Jamie Vardy has scored 33% of Leicester’s goals, while Lewandowski has netted 34% of Bayern’s goals. Both men are also current top scorers in their respective leagues. So Lazio are far from a one-man-team, but it is undeniable the importance that Immobile has had on their rise to the top of the league table. For more on Immobile’s cleverness and how he scores so many goals, check out our Ciro Immobile Tactical Analysis.

LUIS ALBERTO
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In conjunction with Immobile’s heroics, it would be unfair to downplay the role that Luis Alberto plays in Lazio’s attack. The Spanish midfielder’s seamlessly transitioned into a left-central midfielder from where he’s been used throughout his career, as a ‘number 10’. The position has allowed Alberto more time and space on the ball, where his flicks, tricks and through-balls can all live and thrive. He has more touches and passes than any other Lazio player this season, while also leading the league in chances created (75), through-balls (10) and assists (12).

Overall, Lazio’s ability to attack in so many different ways allows them to be such a fluid team. They can engage impressive dribblers and chance creators like Immobile or Luis Alberto at any time if they’re having trouble breaking down the opposition, they can go long and utilize Milikovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo, or they can utilize the wing-backs and deliver crosses into the box. With so many different methods for creating chances, it’s unsurprising that they have scored 60 goals this season, the second most in Serie A.

CONCLUSION

Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio have been one of the surprise stories of European football this season. Lazio currently sit in second place in the table, one point behind Juventus, and have conceded the least amount of goals in the league. The reliance on the two central midfielders is an important element of Lazio’s play, but their variety of methods for creating chances is perhaps the most intriguing thing about Inzaghi’s side and his use of the 3-5-2 formation. Whether or not they can weather the storm and come out as Serie A winners remains to be seen. But for now, they remain well and truly within the hunt to end Juve’s long-standing streak as Serie A winners.


So there it is! A tactical analysis of Simone Inzaghi’s impressive 3-5-2 system with S.S. Lazio. Be sure to check out more of our Tactical Analyses and share in the comment section below or on Twitter @mastermindsite which manager and team you’d like to see next. Also be sure to check out WhoScored.com. They are not a sponsor by any means, but the best footballing site around for football statistics and essential to gathering the statistics used for these analyses. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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