This game was a real “six-pointer”, if Lazio won, they would go seven points clear of Sampdoria, if they lost, the gap would be reduced to just one. Both sides came into this Serie A match after disappointing recent league form, losing to teams languishing near the relegation zone. Lazio were looking to redeem themselves after a home defeat to Chievo Verona, and Sampdoria needed to make amends after a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Bologna.
In this tactical analysis, we take a look at some of the key points from the match.
Sampdoria kept their usual 4-3-1-2 formation, making only two changes from their previous match, both being in central defence. Fullbacks Nicola Murru and Jacapo Sala pushed up high to provide the width, allowing Albin Ekdal and Gastón Ramírez to stay central and support Grégoire Defrel and veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella.
Lazio kept persisting with their 3-5-1-1, the away side also made wholesale changes from their previous match, two of these were due to suspensions, Sergej Milinković-Savić and Luis Alberto both saw red last time out. Ştefan Radu went off injured against Chievo Verona and did not return. Patric, Adam Marušić, Milan Badelj, Riza Durmisi, and Ciro Immobile were dropped from the starting XI.
Sampdoria in possession
Under Marco Giampaolo, Sampdoria have received praise for their attractive, possession-based system. The home team adopted a high-risk system in this match by attempting to dominate possession against Lazio, a traditionally much better side.
This approach worked, with Sampdoria having the lion’s share of the possession with 56% of the ball. In the build-up, the defensive line would move up as a unit, with the fullbacks not taking up advanced positions if their centre backs were on the ball. They would wait for the ball to progress into the midfield to make a run. This ensured no space was left in the wide areas in defence in the event of a negative transition.
This gave said centre backs many options to pick a pass. When Lazio pressed Sampdoria, they would wait until the home side advanced into Lazio’s half until they would press in a front three which was narrow in order to prevent incisive line-breaking passes.
Lazio would only press higher when the Sampdoria defence had a sustained passage of play. Lazio’s wide men would drop in the back line, creating a back five. Lucas Leiva would drop deepest of the midfield trident.
Lazio in possession
Because Lazio did not have the majority of possession, many of their attacks were fast breaks out wide. Correa would drift out to the left to provide width on that side due to Senad Lulić’s more defensive position. Felipe Caicedo would drive down the middle, looking to score from a cross. Rômulo stayed high and wide on the right unlike his counterpart, and when the ball was played on the left side, Rômulo would drift centrally towards the edge of the Sampdoria box.
Sampdoria go down to ten men
Going into the halftime break, Sampdoria looked truly dead and buried. Ramírez received a second yellow shortly before the interval, and they were 2-0 down. Sampdoria did not change formation, they played in the same shape but with one player missing, becoming a 4-3-2. Strangely, Sampdoria were the much better side during the second half. This was due to them being forced to press more carefully, and in turn, more effectively. The entire dynamic of the match was changed when Quagliarella reduced their deficit to just one goal. Sampdoria were in the driving seat for the rest of the match. Sampdoria will rue their biggest chance missed when Defrel missed an open goal following a counter.
Football is a funny game. Lazio looked to be in clear control at half time. They had a 2 goal advantage as well as a numerical one. But Sampdoria seemed to rise from the dead with ten men and run Lazio very close. In the end, Lazio will be the happier of the two teams, going seven points clear of their opponents as they look to secure a UEFA Europa League position, but Sampdoria will take many positives away from their much improved second half.