Lazio came out winners in a Coppa Italia thriller against Inter Milan. The Romans bought their ticket for the semi-final by defeating Nerazzurri at San Siro on penalties. Lucas Leiva bagged the deciding goal and crowned his overall good match with the winner. From a tactical viewpoint, both Simone Inzaghi and Luciano Spalletti made pretty big errors in match preparation.
Inzaghi sent his team out in a 3-4-2-1 formation with Senad Lulic and Adam Marusic as wing-backs and Stefan Radu as the left centre back in Lazio’s three-man defence. The plan was for Lulic to overload the right side of Inter’s defence where Spalletti started Danilo D’Ambrosio and Joao Miranda. Therefore, Radu was placed left to help Lulic get up and cover the space he would leave in behind.
Playing the cards wrong
This isn’t anything new, Lazio play most of their matches like this because of Lulic’s incredible stamina. He’s able to go up and down his side an insane amount of times and Simone Inzaghi uses this whenever he can. Also, the plan for building the attacks was simple, get the ball to Leiva or Luis Alberto and go wide. Later it was shown that this kind of plan isn’t something Lazio should do so often. We will get to the part that explains why soon.
Spalletti decided to start without Ivan Perisic and Matias Vecino which came as a little surprise for the viewers. Instead, he gave chance to Matteo Politano and Roberto Gagliardiani and played the cards just how Inzaghi wanted him to play them. His basic 4-2-3-1 was just what Lazio needed to free the marauding beast in Lulic. The Nerazzurri coach wanted to win the battle in the midfield with Gagliardini and Marcelo Brozovic and then make chances through possession. His plan was spoiled by Lazio’s midfield who managed to steal the ball an incredible 21 times in the first half.
Lazio’s sterile domination on the flanks
Marusic’s (13/18) and Lulic’s (2/3) record of duels won show almost everything that one needs to know about the game. Lulic was marauding forward winning the space and Marusic held the fort. The problem wasn’t Lulic entering Inter’s final third but what to do then. His crossing was bad (3/8) and when he realized that it wasn’t going to work he just stopped crossing. You would often see him marauding past D’Ambrosio and then returning the ball back to Alberto or Ciro Immobile. What’s the point of domination on the flanks if you don’t cross the ball in the box? That’s the question that was left unanswered by Lazio’s team on San Siro.
Spalletti and his team had just what they needed to get into the opponent’s box. But once they were there it looked like they had no idea what to do next. He realized that and tried to help Lulic and Alberto with Immobile to outnumber Nerazurris defensive structure on the right side. For that cause, Immobile had to play in left halfspace to create a fuss and get the ball in behind Miranda. That worked out a few times but Samir Handanovic was playing on a whole other level and Caicedo’s (Correa 88′) chances were denied. Handanovic was named the man of the match by Sofascore because of his 9 saves and that accolade was completely deserved.
Marcelo Brozovic alone in the dark
The Croatian midfielder was the next best Inter player after the incredible Handanovic. Brozovic started the game as one of the two defensive midfielders when defending. In attack, he dropped deep as a lone defensive midfielder and dictated Inter’s attacking play as the shape turned into more of a 4-3-3. Brozovic is always the key when Inter looked to build out from the back and today that was also the case. His calmness and press-resistance were vital in this regard.
He managed to deliver 10/13 long balls and win back five balls. Also, he made12/22 successful duels in the middle of the field showing once again how important he is for this Inter side. When one sees his 10 quality placed long balls it looks impressive but it actually highlights Inter’s biggest problem in this match. Joao Mario who played in front of Brozovic and Gagliardini (Vecino after the first half) wasn’t able to connect the midfield and the attack of the Nerazzurri. Everything that Brozovic and Vecino did well in the back was destroyed by Mario’s inability to create. Icardi was totally cut off from the midfield and Inter’s attacks depended solely on how good the ball that Brozovic sends will be.
This is not the way to win a match so Spalletti benched Mario for Lautaro Martinez in 81′ but it was too late for him to make a difference. He brought them the creative sparkle that they needed but before they caught a firm grasp, Lazio scored and their tactic was broken into pieces.
Above you can see the situation when Inter won the ball and Brozovic was needed to play the ball into space for Candreva. A typical counter-attack action for any football team but one thing wasn’t right and it occurred so many times in this match.
Brozovic got the ball to Candreva but Icardi was marked by Miranda and Joao Mario was too late to win the space that got opened up by D’Ambrosio going high. Skriniar comes out at Candreva and it’s game over for Inter’s action. Same scenario with Joao Mario being late and all over not 100% in the game repeated a few times. It was the main problem for Inter’s attacking build-up.
One mistake to ruin them all
The game was almost over, Lazio had a semi-final on their hands and then Sergej Milinkovic Savic fouled D’Ambrosio and gave Inter a chance to get back in the match from the penalty spot. Icardi scored and a shootout was on the cards. Like that wasn’t enough, Radu got himself a second yellow card for fuming on Rosario Abisso.
Simone Inzaghi showed what he thought about Savic’s move by removing him from the list of players that were on supposed to shoot. Strakosha triumphed after stopping Lautaro and Radja Nainngolan from scoring and Lucas Leiva sealed the victory but it’s clear that this match had no winners.
SMS proved himself to be too big of a liability with his totally unnecessary foul on D’Ambrosio. Inzaghi’s tactic was revealed as sterile domination that needs changes as soon as possible. Spalletti can’t be satisfied with the way his team looks like when they come up against the structured defence. There are a lot of questions to be raised about some players like Politano and Gagliardini. I’m sure that they will keep him up at night in his quest to defend an advantage that Inter has over Milan in Serie A. Coppa Italia gave us a hint of what the Serie A spring could look like. If that’s so, we’re in for a thriller.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the January issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.