After a questionable transfer window and an abject defensive display last time out against Genoa, Roma already had something to prove in this historic derby against Lazio. Roma’s performance in this game would’ve done little to appease the concerned, despite the less-than-terrible 1-1 draw away from home.
Lazio demonstrated their European credentials in an impressive outing that highlighted the attacking talent within their squad. Outshooting their opponents by 23 to 11, the home side will be pondering just how they couldn’t find a winner against a side there for the taking.
This tactical analysis will illustrate and explain the tactics on display on this thunderous evening, offering a critique of the respective manager’s tactics. Our analysis will also outlay the main concerns Roma still have heading into the new Serie A season and where they must improve.
Lazio lined up in the very Italian 3-5-2 system with Lucas Leiva anchoring the midfield whilst Roma continued in their 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 formation.
After their porous display in the last game, Juan Jesus, seen as the weak link, was dropped from Roma’s backline and replaced by the newly-acquired youngster, Gianluca Mancini.
Lazio create wide Overloads
Thanks to Leiva’s role within their system, Lazio’s offensive-minded 8’s (Sergej Milinković-Savić and Luis Alberto) were free to position themselves high up within the half-spaces to create overloads down Roma’s flanks.
This exploited a weakness down Roma’s flanks as both Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Ünder were often slow to maintain their side’s horizontal compactness. This pinned Bryan Cristante and Lorenzo Pellegrini to the centre of the pitch as they couldn’t risk opening up space for Alberto who’d mirror Correa’s movements up-front whenever the Argentine would drop off the front line.
When either of the two wide-men moved to press Lazio’s backline, this exacerbated the issue as with the other winger slow to maintain the team’s shape this opened up large spaces in midfield for Lazio.
These spaces helped to create plenty of chances for Lazio even through less reliable offensive methods like long balls forward as Roma’s defensive shape was ill-prepared to contest the second balls against Lazio’s midfield runners.
Lazio also used the protection provided by Lucas as a method to push Milinković-Savić and Alberto forward into the wider areas to help with pressing the opposition. This helped to slow Roma’s progression up the field and prevented Roma from creating easy 2v1 overloads down the flanks against Lazio’s wing-backs.
Using the 8’s to press in this way prevented Lazio from having to use their strikers to drift into these wide areas and thus leaving them as a central threat upon any turnover. This allowed the strikers for Lazio to mark the Roma centre-backs out of the game meaning Roma didn’t have easy options on the ball to circulate possession, thus giving their possession a much more improvised and chaotic tone.
Pressing Roma’s full-backs in this manner increased Lazio’s chances of winning the ball higher up the pitch and creating more dangerous scenarios on the attack. In the instance above, with Cristante failing to drop in between the centre-backs, Federico Fazio and Mancini are left somewhat helpless in this 2v2 situation upon a turnover from which Alberto was able to profit from, scoring Lazio’s equaliser.
Roma’s formation ill-designed to cope with Lazio’s WBs
Lazio’s use of wing-backs was vital to ensuring Lazio enjoyed regular access into the Roma half. Not only because they helped to create the aforementioned overloads but also because it helped to isolate Roma’s strikers against the Lazio backline during the build-up.
With Lazio’s wing-backs pushing forward, it conditioned Roma’s wide men to be more conservative when pressing the ball, drawing them back in the process. This was because of the use of Lazio’s free 8’s and their two strikers in between the Roma lines which meant Roma’s full-backs couldn’t move forward to support their respective wingers, for fear of leaving the centre-backs exposed to the forward runners.
This obviously left Edin Džeko and Nicolo Zaniola outnumbered against the Lazio back three, allowing for easy circulation around and behind Roma’s first line of pressure. This tactic succeeded in pinning Roma to their own half for much of the game and thus forcing them to start their attacks from deep.
Consequently, this further limited the impact Ünder and Kluivert could have on the game as they were frustrated in the number of opportunities they had to use their pace and trickery inside the final third. It also meant Roma were often forced to attack the Lazio goal in a stretched shape and a lack of support from midfield runners as rarely did Roma enjoy significant periods of possession inside the Lazio half.
All these effects helped to contribute to Roma’s poor offensive performance in this game and quite frankly, they were lucky to escape the evening’s events with a goal from a dubious penalty.
Lazio’s system, tactics and application all proved to be much more aggressive from the start in this derby, leaving Roma’s fate at times in the hands of the Gods as Lazio continually rattled the woodwork on their way to a frustrating draw. Lazio’s system worked perfectly in nullifying Roma’s attacking threat and exposing their glaring weakness in defence.
Walking out of the game with an xG of 2.6 – 0.5, Roma still have plenty of room for improvement after the international break. Roma certainly has the talent in attack to create more offence in games such as this, however, the defence has suffered heavily in these opening two games highlighting both the systematic issues and lack of talent in these areas.
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