Lazio Roma – Internazionale: Early Signs of Sarrismo’s Ressurection (3-1)

Sky blue tops and the 4-3-3 system, Lazio Roma provided us with some déjà vu against the champions. Although far from perfection, Maurizio Sarri’s team produced some excellent moves, against Internazionale who failed to capitalize on their superiority with the switch.

Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker. 

Once propelled by Inzaghi, Lazio has converted to Sarrismo to take them to the next level. A summer of training ground issues and ultra unrest, from a chorus of Bella ciao, led to lower expectations before the season had started.

An inconsistent start to the season was ignited by a convincing win over rivals AS Roma; but a 3-0 defeat to Bologna, before the international break, highlights the trial and tribulations that come with Maurizio Sarri. The neat patterns within the 4-3-3 formation takes time and profiles to properly implement before Lazio can reap the rewards.

Inter are a team whose reliance on patterns, that grabbed the Scudetto, still see on-field success. Their financial losses are only topped by Barcelona, but Inter remained undefeated going into this game. Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku may have departed, but replacements in Simeone Inzaghi and Edin Džeko have, so far, enabled the 3-5-2 system to remain very effective.

Sarri made three changes from the team that lost to Bologna. Francesco Acerbi was sent off in that fixture, replaced by Patric in the center-back position. Toma Bašić started ahead of Luis Alberto, whilst Ciro Immobile returned and replaced Vedat Muriqi upfront.

Inzaghi made four rotations, to the starting eleven that beat Sassuolo. Denzel Dumfries and Hakan Çalhanoğlu came out for Matteo Darmian and Federico Dimarco, which saw Ivan Perišić move out of one of the wingback roles, to starting upfront. Roberto Gagliardini also returned to the midfield, whilst Džeko spearheaded the team, with Lautaro Martínez and Joaquín Correa on the bench.

 Inter play through early pressure

To press a 3-5-2 formation can be a difficult task, against a system with so many close options from deep and a switch across being so accessible. Lazio found such issues when they pressed in the game’s early phases.

Lazio pushed in a narrow 4-3-3 shape, which aimed to keep Inter’s buildup central. Pedro and Felipe Anderson moved inside as they triggered their press, to try and close down the center-backs’ passing angle.

What made Lazio’s press awkward was dealing with Inter’s wing-backs. Rather than be confronted by the fullbacks, Sergej Milinković-Savić or Bašić moved out of the midfield to further down the channel. Lucas Leiva was unable to cover such ground and Lazio’s shape in these moments was unbalanced. As a result, a passing angle from deep, towards the center of the field was opened and Inter were able to move into semi-transitional attacks from early on.

10th minute: Buildup to Inter penalty. Dimarco was able to perform a one-two with Gagliardini, who is left unmarked as Milinković-Savić was forced to confront the left wing-back. Lazio’s 4-3-3 pressing shape was forced onto one side, with a lot of space open on the switch.

Inter’s buildup to their awarded penalty was indicative of Lazio’s structural problems. Dimarco was pressed by Bašić and an easy one-two combination formed with Gagliardini. With Lazio pulled towards one side, Dimarco was able to switch play to Darmian, who headed the ball towards Nicolò Barella’s path back inside. Elseid Hysaj fouled Barella inside the area, for Perišić to convert from the spot.

 Persistent patterns create a balanced bout

After fifteen minutes, Lazio’s press was dialled down and their defensive set-up was more defined by the 4-1-4-1 medium block they had formed, rather than their pressing scheme. Inter’s back three, and Marcelo Brozović who roamed around between Immobile and the Lazio midfield, exchanged freely, but Lazio failed to solve their issues against Inter wing-backs.

Against Inter’s 3-1-4-2 buildup shape, the wing-backs were left free as Lazio’s wide players were pinned centrally, against both the wide central midfielder and strikers. Once the ball was switched out wide, attacks were supported by underlapping runs, whether that came from Alessandro Bastoni or Perišić, who roamed out of his second striker role, down the left or Barella’s direct third man runs on the right channel.

20th minute: Inter’s 3-1-4-2 buildup versus Lazio’s 4-1-4-1 medium block. After beating the first line, Inter were still able to cause problems due to their central pinning, which created a lot of space for the wing-back.

Inter were able to move the ball into the final third effectively, however, their forms of shot creation were not as fruitful. Many of these phases were concluded by a cross towards the back post or an acute shot from a bad position. Inzaghi’s team could move into the final third with great speed but formed very little substance in front of the goal.

Although Lazio’s shot taking was also sporadic, their routes through Inter were from classic Sarri-team patterns. Up-back-and-through combinations formed down the right channel, where Lazio based a lot of their phases throughout the game. With Pedro coming out of the left side and roaming in central positions, Lazio was able to create a close passing circuit and kept the ball effectively in these areas.

23rd minute: Up-back-and-through pass combination from Lazio. Felipe passes the ball to Milinković-Savić who drops into space (Grey ball, first pass), who then passes to the free man Adam Marušić (Black ball, second pass) before Felipe Anderson was able to receive in more space against Dimarco.

What caused Inter danger was the positional freedom both Pedro and Felipe Anderson were given. Both wingers could take up wide positions to receive on the turn, or take up central positions in the build and pull center-backs apart with their movements.

Pedro and Anderson caused issues in the buildup, but the more dangerous phases came on transitions. Both had the one-versus-one ability to skip past counterpressure and the versatility to exchange positions between them.

With either sides patterns flourishing, a balanced affair was created. The game state didn’t change throughout, as both Lazio and Inter had phases where they were able to find their creative outlets. However, poor shooting kept this a close game.

 Lazio find the finishing touch

The second half started similarly to the first, with good spells of early Inter pressure but unable to capitalize on the semi-transitional moments that they got in. Lazio had pretty movements, created by their neat passing circuit, but failed to open up Inter’s backline as much as they would have wanted.

However, after the hour mark, Lazio was able to find their finishing touch, by any means necessary. From a corner kick, Patric’s header struck the arm of Bastoni to award the second penalty of the match. Ciro Immobile dispatched his penalty to even the scores, which was followed by a flurry of changes from both managers, without changing structurally.

The more curious of these changes was Inzaghi’s decision to put Dimarco and Darmain down the same channel, with Dimarco replacing Bastoni as the wide left center-back and Denzel Dumfries coming on the opposite flank. The desired effects of this change did not take place, as Dimarco didn’t underlap during the phases that they had.

In the final ten minutes, the feistiness was turned up to crazy levels, sparked by Lazio taking the lead. With Dimarco down injured, Lazio continued to play on with Anderson dribbling the ball down the channel. Immobile’s shot was saved but Anderson was in the position for the rebound, which created the grandest of penalty box scuffles. Just the four yellow cards dished out.

Lazio put the game to bed in injury time, through an excellent set-piece delivery from substitute Luis Alberto, which connected with Milinković-Savić’s head. Drama was still produced after the full-time whistle, as Luiz Felipe was sent off after jumping on former player Joaquín Correa in the post-match celebrations. Vintage Calcio.


Another important victory at the Stadio Olimpico for Lazio, this time against the reigning champions. Sarri’s team have pulled two big performances against Roma and Inter, but need to find the consistency to build a proper run for the top places.

Inter have finally lost a Serie A match under Inzaghi. Financial losses will continue to gloom over this team, and the summer of sales has dealt Inzaghi a bad hand, but this team is still well organized structurally. However, quality needs to align itself with the quantity, and Inter needs to make more of such patterns if they are to avoid defeats like these.

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Joel Parker (21) is an Everton fan. Whenever he’s not watching his beloved Everton, Joel spends his time analyzing all sorts of football. Chief editor and Founder of Toffee Analysis. [ View all posts ]


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