Last weekend, Serie A wrapped up matchweek 35 of the season, which saw Lazio host Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico. Both teams had a lot on the line coming into this game as they looked to secure European football next season. Before the match, Atalanta were a mere point ahead of AS Roma in fourth place. Lazio were in eighth, but only a point off a Europa League spot. With the season drawing to a close, both teams were aware that a result was imperative. This tactical analysis will look at how the match played out using statistics and analyzing how each team approached the match.
Lazio lined up in their expected 3-5-2 formation. Ciro Immobile found himself in the starting lineup again, after starting on the bench the previous game. Senad Lulić was forced to miss out due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Lulić has become key for Lazio this season, with head coach Simone Inzaghi starting him in thirty-one league matches. Inzaghi was forced to play Adam Marušić on the left, out of his preferred position on the right.
Atalanta also lined up as expected, in a 3-4-1-2. While the 3-4-1-2 is what Gian Piero Gasperini has used the most this season, he has recently started using a 3-4-2-1. Going back to using two strikers allowed Atalanta to put Lazio’s defensively frail back three under pressure. Gianluca Mancini, one of Atalanta’s key defenders started on the bench, presumably to rest him. Berat Djimsiti took his place.
Lazio’s strong start
Lazio found themselves ahead after only three minutes. They dominated possession and attempted to pass the ball quickly to tire out Atalanta’s press.
While Atalanta did not seem to tire, Lazio used a combination of quick passing, through balls, and quick switches between flanks to beat the press. Eventually, this led to a throw-in in a dangerous area, and eventually the goal that put them 1-0 up.
Being 1-0 down away from home so early in the match did not faze Atalanta’s players. From the third minute to the twenty-second minute (the time in which they were in a losing position), Atalanta had 59% possession, and had seven shots on goal, as they looked to equalise. They constantly created chances by putting balls into the final third, with 81% accurate passes to the final third, and 89% accurate progressive passes, all from a losing position. They pinned Lazio back in an attempt to get themselves back in the match.
Atalanta’s plan of attack was to allow Alejandro Gómez to drop a bit deeper and pick up the ball from the centrebacks. A Lazio midfielder would often follow him out to try and mark him. This would leave spaces that Atalanta would exploit. One of Gómez’s main strengths as a footballer is his ball control. In this match, he completed 80% of his dribbles, making seven progressive runs with the ball.
After Atalanta’s equalizer, it was clear that the hosts were a bit frazzled. Atalanta sent wave after wave of attack, looking to score more goals.
Atalanta were excellent on the night and fully deserved the 1-3 victory. However, Lazio fans will feel hard done by the fact that all three of Atalanta’s goals were errors made by their own defender, Wallace. The Brazilian defender only won 33% of his defensive duels, 50% of his aerial duels and did not make a single successful tackle.
Atalanta’s first came from Zapata, who Wallace should have been marking more tightly. Atalanta’s second goal came from an error on his part. Attempting to play out from the back, he passed the ball straight to Gómez, who made a simple lay off for Timothy Castagne to score. Atalanta’s third was an own goal, Wallace accidentally heading it into his own net.
The defender has shown some potential this season, but this game will be one to forget.
Lazio’s change of formation
In an attempt to at least garner a point from the match, Inzaghi decided to switch to a 4-2-3-1. His logic was to put an extra attacker, to try and score a goal or two. In the 79th minute, Inzaghi made a substitution, pulling off a defender, Bastos, and putting in Pedro Neto. The 19-year-old was only making his third appearance for the club at the time, and it was clear that Inzaghi wanted someone with pace and someone who would be a bit more direct, to pin back Atalanta’s defence.
However, with their comfortable lead, Atalanta were able to defend compactly, and not let another goal in.
Atalanta in the Champions League
Atalanta have taken Serie A by storm this season, rather unexpectedly. They have repeatedly been able to get results, even when conceding first, like this match against Lazio and earlier in the season against the likes of Napoli, Chievo, and Fiorentina. Gasperini has them playing entertaining, attacking football, which has been compared to how Ajax have played this year. The club lead the league in most goals scored with seventy-five goals to Juventus’ sixty-nine. Should they get over the line and qualify next year, Gasperini will hope that he is able to keep his star players and add some quality depth in order to compete in what would be the club’s first ever appearance in the Champions League.
Atalanta turned out to be too strong for Lazio. Champions League qualification is now in their hands, as the reliance on other clubs fade, as long as they can keep picking up points. Lazio still have a chance of Europa League football though. They recently beat AC Milan in the Coppa Italia semi-final. The Milan victory saw them through to final, where ironically they will be coming up against Atalanta. Lazio can also qualify for the Europa League through the league. But for either scenario to work, they will have to improve their form if they want a chance at European football next season.