Stadio Luigi Ferraris hosted an action-packed game of football between Genoa and Lazio this weekend. This tactical analysis will break down the match which ended 3-2 to Lazio.
The match saw both sides create equal opportunities and they were both clinical with the chances they had. Genoa, led by Davide Nicola, looked to hold a large quantity of possession in their opponent’s half through short passing and attacked down the left-hand side. These tactics have been present throughout the season for the Rossoblù against sides they are capable of keeping possession against. Nicola has provided Genoa with a lifeline to get out of the relegation zone, as shown by their promising form in their last five games in Serie A. They have won twice and drawn twice in their last five, leading up to this match, with an impressive victory against Cagliari in those results. Lazio, managed by Simone Inzaghi, have been in an excellent vein of form for a long period of time now, garnering the greatest goal difference in the league in the process. This analysis will take a deeper dive into this game, and the clinical nature of both sides.
Genoa set out in a 3-5-2 formation which looked to dominate the middle of the pitch. Nicola’s side was fronted by Antonio Sanabria and Andrea Favilli. They looked to combine better than they had done thus far this season, combining to create just four goals between them. The aim of their attacking play was to deploy through balls in behind the Lazio defence, for one of the forwards to get on the end of, and potentially take a shot.
Regarding the defensive shape, Nicola had three central midfielders who are all capable of putting in a defensive shift in the form of Francesco Cassata, Lasse Schöne, and Valon Behrami. These players dictated the tempo and protected the back three consisting of Andrea Masiello, Adama Soumaoro, and Davide Biraschi. Genoa’s defence has looked abysmal in Serie A this season, conceding an embarrassing 46 goals.
Lazio, as always, also played a 3-5-2 formation, with Inzaghi looking to utilise the individual talents of his attacking players in order to outscore their opponents. Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo were the two strikers upfront and were supported by the two wingbacks, Jony Rodríguez and Adam Marušić, who had the duty of providing width in attack and defence. Although, in this game, they played far more centrally than usual, due to the side’s preference to attack through the middle in this game on the counterattack. The man largely tasked with chance creation was the fulcrum of their side, Luis Alberto, who was supported by Sergej Milinković-Savić, and provided cover by Lucas Leiva in a deeper midfield role. Milinković-Savić returned to the side after a two-week hiatus last week against Inter Milan, where he put in a man-of-the-match performance. In this game, he looked to build upon that performance and add to his eight-goal contributions from midfield in Serie A this term.
Genoa’s style of play
As stated previously, Genoa do attempt to keep possession in games where they feel like they are able to. Lazio are a flexible side, capable of keeping possession but they are also smart enough to give up possession in exchange for higher quality chances on the counterattack. Thus, Genoa finished this match with 59% possession whilst Lazio ended the match on 41%. After this result, Genoa find themselves in 18th position in Serie A, so we can understand that their ability to keep possession has worked to little effect this campaign, in terms of gaining points. In this match, Schöne was particularly good at dictating the tempo and attempting to protect the backline. Throughout the 90 minutes, he had a 96% pass completion rate, with 64 accurate passes, which was the most of any Genoa midfielder. He was eager to receive the ball and attempt to create chances for his side, also providing three-shot assists for his side. This helped Genoa win the midfield battle through short passes and allowed them creative freedom on the ball.
There were multiple occasions during the match where Genoa were dictating the tempo in midfield and created chances through their passages of short-passing play. First, on this occasion, we see Cassata on the ball in Lazio’s half, with relative freedom to roam around with the ball at his feet. He dribbles inside the field and picks out a long-ranging pass that finds the feet of Peter Ankersen on the right flank. While the ball settles and Ankersen dribbles towards the edge of the 18-yard-box, Cassata has been making a run towards the centre of the 18-yard-box himself.
In this position, Cassata had the option to either go for goal or pass onto a nearby teammate. He clearly felt confident in that moment as the former was chosen. He struck the ball with the inside of his boot with a perfect balance between power and precision. The ball flew into the top right, leaving little for Thomas Strakosha to do in this situation. This was Cassata’s first Serie A goal of the campaign, and what a way to open his account it must be said. He has struggled this campaign for consistent minutes for Genoa, and when he has had a chance, he has not exactly taken it.
In another instance, we see Genoa create chances due to the lack of Lazio pressure on their midfielders. In this analysis, we see new arrival Iago Falque on the ball about to whip a ball into the box. He is allowed the time to set his body right to send a delivery of high quality due to the lack of pressure from the Lazio defenders. It is clear that Inzaghi instructed his players to stand off Genoa’s players and instead look to block the passing lanes. On a few occasions match, this led to Lazio letting up a decent quality chance for Genoa to score and it is something Inzaghi should consider.
The ball is chipped towards the far post, for substitute Goran Pandev to try and get on the end of. Manuel Lazzari is tasked with marking and recovering the ball off of the Macedonian, but he instead concedes a penalty. Domenico Criscito was the man to step up and he fooled Strakosha into diving the wrong way, whilst he places the ball down the right-hand side of the net.
This was a strong performance by Genoa, against a side who, in many people’s eyes, should be first place in the league. They were always going to concede against the second-best attack in the league, so the decision to create chances through a high amount of possession was understandable. Employing a low block would have invited pressure and put them in a situation where it would be hard to score. Teams have tried this tactic against Lazio before and they have largely failed. Nicola can take plenty of positives from this game, as this was a largely even encounter, evidenced by the fact that they both had seven shots from open play each.
Throughout the course of this season, Inzaghi has impressed in Serie A by getting great performances out of his best players. This is a feat that should not be understated, with plenty of coaches across Europe struggling to get even standard performances out of elite players (Zidane with Hazard, for example). Through this, they have scored 58 goals so far this season and if they continue at this rate, they will reach around 90 goals at the end of the Serie A season. They largely have Immobile to thank for this, due to the unbelievable clinical nature of his finishing this season, breaking records as he goes. Immobile became the first player in 61 years to reach 27 Serie A goals after 25 matches as Lazio aimed to reach the top of the table. Further analysis will be compiled on Immobile later on in this tactical analysis, as he provided the goods again in this game. Here, we will dissect how Lazio looked to create their greatest chances.
Lazio were happy for Genoa to keep possession of the ball, instead of looking to gain the ball back at every opportunity. Specifically, they allowed this in the midfield space. When Genoa came towards their defensive zone, Lazio stole the ball from them often. Ștefan Radu had a particularly good game in this aspect, putting in a combined five tackles & interceptions and producing ten clearances to boot. He did his best to keep out Genoa, however, one of his defensive partners, Denis Vavro, did not have the greatest game in this department, making zero tackles & interceptions. Nonetheless, this allowed them to create high-quality opportunities on the counterattack.
In this instance, we see Radu on the ball who received the ball after a recovery was made by another Lazio defender. Radu does not hesitate and sprays the ball wide towards Marušić, who collects the ball and completes a quick one-two with Caicedo. He takes the ball and runs between two Genoa defenders and manages to use his strength to fend off their pressure. Before losing his balance and falling over, he produces a powerful shot past loanee Mattia Perin into the top-right corner (see below).
This instance of play started with Radu and is finished by Marušić within ten seconds. This is indicative of the patterns of play we see for the rest of this match, relying on the individual nature of the Lazio players. They did not look to waste time when creating their chances and finishing them off.
Later on, in the game, we continue to see these fast breaks of play as Lazio attempted to lengthen their lead in this game. In the second half, the Lazio team were struggling to create chances with frequency as a whole. They were limiting themselves to very direct passing and didn’t allow for much interplay between their attackers. In this image, we see Alberto occupy the ball just inside Genoa’s half as he looks to push the ball up the field. He did this throughout, as shown by his 11 progressive passes during the 90 minutes.
This through ball eventually finds Joaquin Correa, who is being pressured by the veteran Masiello. Correa uses his ingenuity to find the space in order to release a shot on goal, which is palmed away by Perrin. It is a decent effort by Correa, who looked to surprise Perrin with a near-post effort, however, he was ready for the opportunity. This pattern of play happened in a few scenarios throughout the match and Lazio were generally very clinical with the chances they made for themselves in the game.
Lazio did not create the number of chances they usually would in Serie A this season. They only managed 12 shots during the game, whilst they usually produce 16 shots per game this term. Alberto still did a great job of creating opportunities for others; however, it was the rest of his teammates who nowhere near matched his output of five key passes. Inzaghi’s side were clinical during this tie but they should not take this performance for granted. They were not at their best, and they should look towards tweaking certain parts of their chance creation to become a more efficient attacking side.
Ciro the hero
Immobile moved to Lazio from Sevilla back in 2016 for a fee in the region of £8.5 million. His performance against Genoa was a representation of why he is so important to the Biancocelesti; he provided the goods when it was necessary, by any means possible. For the majority of this campaign, he has been the go-to guy whenever Lazio need that one goal to squeeze past an opponent. Not to say he isn’t impartial to the odd hattrick or two either.
Here, Caicedo lays off the ball for Immobile to pick up the ball and run at the Genoa defender. He dribbles past him with relative ease and shoots past Perrin and into the bottom right corner. It was almost as if he foresaw the whole event before it had even happened, that is how decisive he looks in these situations.
Immobile was not heavily involved in this game but he did take two shots and provide two key passes with his 39 touches on the field, which made for an efficient performance. Think of Immobile as a slightly more well-rounded Mauro Icardi. A pure-bred poacher, with other well-rounded attributes meaning he can perform well in with Inzaghi’s tactics. At 30 years of age, he is unlikely to leave Lazio, which means he has a chance of breaking Silvio Piola’s historic record of 139 Serie A goals (Immobile has 94). Hopefully, during his peak years, he will help Lazio win their first Serie A title since 2000.
Overall, we can see that Genoa were slightly unlucky to lose this game, as Lazio were just the more clinical side. This was reflected in the Expected Goals metric, which leaned 1.48 to 1.44 in favour of the home side. Nicola should take the positives from this game and run with them. Their defence was much improved in this game compared to the rest of the season, and their attack outperformed xG. This should give them confidence that they do have the ability to outscore their opponents in the bottom half of the table at least. Inzaghi should understand that Lazio did not perform close to their best in this game and Immobile dug them out of a hole again. However, at the top of the table, with the quality of players Lazio possesses, they are going get the luck they deserve sometimes.