Having spent much of his time out on loan and racking up only nine Premier League appearances, 2016 saw Lazio acquire Luis Alberto from Liverpool on a permanent deal. Alberto’s time with Liverpool turned out to be a disappointing Premier League career for the young Spaniard who looked to have a fresh start and find his feet in the Italian Serie A. Since his departure from Liverpool in 2016, the 27-year-old has become a staple in the Lazio squad and has developed into one of the league’s highest performers while massively outperforming his xA of 4.97. While slightly underperforming relative to his xG, Alberto currently leads the league with a whopping 11 assists in just 17 appearances; more than double his xA.
During this scout report of Luis Alberto, we’ll dig deep into his positional role, areas of influence and the technical qualities that he brings to this in-form Lazio team.
From the below heat map, it’s clear to see that Alberto has a strong influence on the left-hand side of the pitch, mainly in the attacking half. As a left-sided attacking midfielder in Lazio’s typical 3-5-2 formation, it’s impressive to analyze Alberto’s areas of greatest influence and see just how influential he is to Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio side.
Luis Alberto 2019/20 season heat map to date.
To dissect Alberto’s general positioning further, the below image links his general positioning to the location of his key passes in the season so far. As can be seen, the left half-space and the 30-40 yard range is a largely impactful area for Alberto in creating goal-scoring opportunities. As a three-man central midfield is an incredibly popular trend in the modern game, tactics to occupy the half-space have naturally become part of the evolution of the central midfielder’s role as they search for space to impact the game. Alberto, however, shows comfort in extremely wide areas which is reviewed in this tactical analysis.
Luis Alberto’s key passes show a heavy emphasis in the left half-space.
When looking to create chances to score goals, there are not many better opportunities a team will get than exploiting an unbalanced opponent when the ball is won (attacking transition). What Alberto does incredibly well is he identifies these situations, positions himself in good spaces to be the first passing option, then delivers leading passes which can often help to create some good goal scoring opportunities.
In the following two images, it’s easy to see through the space he has on the ball and the organization of the defending team that Alberto is looking to deliver an early ball in behind and launch a counter-attack for Lazio.
Alberto’s early ball in-behind the Leece back-line puts Joaquín Correa in behind on the counter.
Alberto again looks to get Lazio in-behind early as Leece are caught in transition with a high backline and space in-behind.
The Killer Pass
As with all great playmakers, the likelihood of having high-quality supporting runs ahead of the ball is higher when Alberto picks up the ball. With his exquisite passing range, Alberto often finds well-timed runs through a combination of tactically adept vision and variety of highly executed passing techniques.
The below image shows Alberto on the ball again in the left half-space and approximately 45yards from goal. With Juventus looking relatively balanced and organized, it would be easy to think there is little threat to the away sides goal. Through masterful vision and execution, Alberto puts a deadly ball in-behind for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic which put Lazio 2-1 up in the game.
A stunning Alberto pass in-behind a well organized Juventus helps put Lazio 2-1 up.
The beautiful thing about high-level playmakers is they often possess a special ability to take multiple opponents out of the game with a single pass, often contributing to either a goal or the build-up of it. Alberto appears to have this quality in abundance and has an incredible ability to thread a ball through multiple lines and in the narrowest of windows. It truly is like ‘the eye of a needle’. A technical and tactical nuance of being able to play these types of passes is that the passer often needs to apply disguise in order to freeze an opponent or manipulate their momentum. Alberto does this impeccably time and time again which is a huge contributor to his ability to create so many scoring chances for Lazio.
Less than a minute into the Lazio vs Leece fixture and Alberto is already pulling strings: threading Correa into a goal-scoring position which ultimately earned the home side a corner.
From a deeper position this time, Alberto plays a double split taking an incredible four Juventus players out of the game and putting Lazio behind the back-line.
While footballers are often taught to carry the ball when space is available, top players recognize that this isn’t always the case. With every touch on the ball, the opponents will look to regain organization which often means narrowing up and protecting central areas. Top players recognize the constantly narrowing window and play the ball in-behind before it closes. The below image shows once again that Alberto possesses both a high level of technical quality, as well as the tactical understanding of ‘when’ to play the pass.
Alberto shows an excellent understanding of ‘when’ to play the ball in behind the opposition and again takes two players out of the game while doing so.
A fascinating aspect of Alberto’s game to analyse is how he creates space for himself which is illustrated in the below image. As the most popular formations in the modern game are variations of a 4-3-3, Alberto uses the holes to his advantage.
In Lazio’s 3-5-2, the wing-backs often offer width in attack similar to that of a traditional winger. As part of the back three, the left-sided centre back can often shift over into the positional zone of a traditional full-back. With the positional shaping of the two aforementioned teammates, they often become marked by the opposition full-back and wide-forward respectively. This then creates a ‘hole’ for Alberto to play in the space between the two positions, pulling him into a wider position into the flank (rather than operating in the half-space). From this position, Alberto has the ability to find early passes in-behind or carry the ball in off the line to draw pressure.
Alberto’s positional acuity allows him to receive the ball in space, giving him the option of launching an early attack behind the opposition’s defensive line.
The tactical brilliance of this positioning causes an incredible headache for opposition central midfielders who are tasked with marking him. If their positioning is too narrow, Alberto gets on the ball. If they go too early, Lazio possess the option of playing into the front two early who are in a tactical 2v2 duel against opposition centre-backs.
At present, Luis Alberto is largely outperforming the expected assists metric and is enjoying a fruitful season as a Lazio player. The system Simone Inzaghi has employed is allowing Alberto to impact games and create challenges for opposition players. In addition, this analysis details the technical and tactical qualities that Alberto possesses which are helping Lazio rack up the goals this season.
Although Alberto is currently playing at an excellent club, it’s possible that some of Europe’s biggest clubs will be keeping tabs which may equate to interest in the midfielder. If Alberto continues to trend, the summer transfer window could be interesting for the in-form midfielder.