The match saw plenty of opportunities but lacked the killer instinct in the final third. Lazio, led by the highly-rated Simone Inzaghi, looked to build out from the back and break down the flanks. These tactics have stayed consistent throughout this season, to great effect. A young manager, he has impressed this season with limited expenditure, and his team has been a pleasure to watch this term. Parma, managed by Roberto D’Aversa, have also impressed massively this campaign with their counter-attacking style of play. This analysis will dive deeper into this game, and the wastefulness of each side.
Parma set out in a 4-3-3 formation which sought to utilise their strengths. The popular modern-day formation was fronted by Gianluca Caprari, Andreas Cornelius, and Juraj Kucka. New arrival Caprari was able to come into the starting XI and show his new manager how he can get back to his best form, just like when he was back at Pescara. The focus was to cross the ball in to Cornelius who would add to his tally of eight Serie A goals in just 829 minutes this term.
Regarding the defensive shape, D’Aversa had a defensive midfielder, Gastón Brugman, protecting the back four from dangerous attacks by Lazio. Parma looked to use their pace on the break to expose the likes of Francesco Acerbi at the back.
Lazio played a 3-5-2, with Inzaghi hoping to break down Parma’s midfield by escaping their high press through throwing enough men forward to overload the midfield space. Luis Alberto and Marco Parolo operated the two free 8 roles, with Alberto pushing further forward than his Italian compatriot. These two would hope to progress the ball forward towards their overlapping wingbacks, Jony Rodríguez and Adam Marušić. The two wingbacks would operate spaces high up the field, in order to cross the ball in for the front two of Felipe Caicedo and the genuinely elite Ciro Immobile. It was very clear that Inzaghi’s side would start their attacks through Alberto, who would endeavour to link up with Immobile in an attempt to create chances.
Parma’s patterns of play: counterattack
Anyone reading this should know that Parma focused on utilising the space in behind to perform counterattacks on multiple occasions during a match. To great effect, they will almost certainly improve on last seasons 14th place league finish. Specifically, they often look to use Hernani in midfield, and his ability to progress the ball up the pitch with his dribbling. In this match, he would link up with Kucka, who usually operates in central midfield, to provide combinations to get past the Lazio defence. The reason for this decision by D’Averso is because Parma was largely outclassed by the talent that Lazio possess in midfield, therefore focusing on attacking down the flanks rather than through the middle. In order to win the battle in midfield, Parma had to bypass that battle. Parma not engaging in a battle they were aware they might not win, was a smart move, in theory.
There were multiple occasions where these tactics were played out throughout the match. First, on this occasion, we see the ball comfortably cleared by Lazio, which is intercepted by Matteo Darmian. We see Darmian head the ball towards Hernani who is operating the space on the right flank, where he is found often throughout this match. He knocks it on towards Kucka, who takes a powerful shot on goal, saved by Thomas Strakosha. Through tactical instructions, we can see that Parma perform a very quick break of play. This is their preferred passage of play, rather than to battle for possession against a side who has enough quality to play them out the park. This tactic allowed Parma to create chances that Lazio was not prepared for.
In another instance, we see this fast and direct style of play happen again in a slightly different scenario. In this analysis, Darmian is receiving the ball from his opposite teammate, Riccardo Gagliolo. A brilliantly weighted and timed long ball, it must be noted. Darmian takes the ball down and immediately looks to cross the ball into the area just ahead of Cornelius’ path. Instead, the ball is lofted too far ahead and headed away by a Lazio defender, but is deflected towards midfielder Jasmin Kurtić (left of screen), who shoots the ball just over the bar.
Whenever an opportunity was created down the right flank, it seemed to be the chances of their highest quality for them in this game. This is also where the majority of their chances originated from, as they sought to take advantage of Jony’s poor positioning at times. During this match, they did have a high shot frequency when in possession, attempting 19 shots throughout the 90 minutes, however, they only had a pitiful four shots on target. This more-so was indicative of the types of chances they were creating, rather than poor finishing of their attacking players. This is evidenced by the fact that Parma’s starting midfield had an equal amount of shots to Parma’s starting attack (four).
Lazio cancel out Parma’s efforts
In contrast to some managers in Serie A, such as Maurizio Sarri or Antonio Conte, Inzaghi has shown flexibility in his approaches to different matches. Whilst in their 5-1 victory against Sampdoria, they dominated possession with 61%, in other games he is willing to adjust the team to concede some possession, in order to be more ambitious with their play. In this game, Inzaghi also looked to take advantage of the counterattack, and this is how they created their best goalscoring opportunities. Here, you can see how Lazio looked to create their greatest chances.
The high press from Parma focused on blocking the passing lanes to the middle of the pitch and forcing the play down the flanks. However, certain tactics cannot stop certain players, with the certain player in this game being Luis Alberto. A tactical analysis of his performance will be covered further down, but he was uncontainable in these 90 minutes of football. In this image, he bypasses the press from Parma and completes a pass towards his teammate, Joaquin Correa, who continues to dribble up the pitch.
In the same passage of play, further up the field, Manuel Lazzari picks up the ball and plays a great through ball towards Immobile. The brilliant weight of pass by Lazzari in combination with the pure pace of Immobile led to a chance of high quality being created. Unfortunately, this was a chance which Immobile uncharacteristically spurned. Speaking of uncharacteristic, this was evocative of his 90 minutes on the pitch in this game. He took five shots, however, a shocking four of these attempts were off target. He did provide three key passes, so perhaps he was acting as more of a support striker in this game, however, he should be doing better with those chances that he had.
As we can see from this result, without the goals from Immobile, there are not many other players in this side who can score instead. The only other regular starter with more than 5 goals in the league is Correa, with six Serie A goals.
Again, in this image we see Alberto, on the ball down the right flank. This came from a progressive pass by Lucas Leiva, which Alberto took and continued to complete take-ons and move by his opponents with relative ease. He whipped the ball into the danger area, which was knocked down to Caicedo, who coolly converts within the six-yard-box. This was not the perfect delivery by Alberto, but whenever the ball enters that zone, there is always a danger of conceding for Parma.
Is Luis Alberto deserving of a Spain call-up?
It is certainly hard to argue otherwise with the form he maintains this season. His performance against Parma was hard to ignore, particularly against a side who looked to double up on him at any opportunity. For the majority of this campaign, if the Spaniard is not contributing directly to goal with either a goal or an assist, he is certainly contributing to other factors of play.
Here, he picks up the ball centrally and performs a body feint, followed on by a splitting through ball to Immobile, who narrowly misses his chance. This is just one example of his match intelligence during this match. He occupied the #10 space, aware that he would be able to receive the ball in this zone and potentially do some damage in the final third.
Alberto was unlucky not to register a goal or assist during this match because his efforts were deserving of such. His creativity during this tie was unparalleled, providing four key passes during the 90 minutes. He was unlucky not to register an assist in the moment pictured above, as this is an opportunity Immobile has tucked away on many other occasions this season. In addition to this creativity, he also took four shots, in an effort to provide the attacking impetus during this tie. He also completed four dribbles which were often deep progressions, taking his side from his own half and into the final third of Parma’s side.
In summary, Luis Alberto was the fulcrum of this side in these 90 minutes. Lazio attacked through the middle of the pitch, in order to Alberto on the ball as often as possible. This is evident by his 93 touches during this match. Liverpool sold Alberto to Lazio for just £6 million, which can certainly be seen as a bargain in this market for his consistent performances over the past few seasons.
Overall, this was a good matchup. Expected Goals had this down as a deserving defeat for Parma, weighing in at 2.13 to 0.76 in Lazio’s favour. Lazio are always an interesting side to watch this season. Not only do they have the best attack and joint-best defence in the league this season, but they also have a tactically agile manager in Simone Inzaghi. He would definitely be happier of the two managers after this match, although D’Aversa will be happy with some of his sides attacking efforts.
Lazio were unlucky not to score another in this game, as they wasted a few golden chances. Despite those missed chances, Lazio got the job done and they go 18 games unbeaten in Serie A, a club record. This is something their squad should be very proud of achieving, and hopefully, they take this momentum into their next game in order to challenge for the Scudetto.