Lazio Roma – AS Roma: A Derby Capitolino Full Of Woodwork Hits Symbolizes The Struggles Of Both Roman Teams (1-1)
In a post and crossbar fest, Lazio stood out as the better team in a match that had little worth of notice, besides the problems that have been tormenting Roma for the last two years. A Kolárov penalty was cancelled out by Luis Alberto’s equalizer, as only an offside call saved Roma from losing to their city rivals.
Tactical analysis and match report by Kareem Bianchi.
AS Roma versus S.S Lazio. The most passionate derby in Italy kicked off for another edition. No other derby in Serie A can bolster the sheer passion of the Romans, and this has manifested itself every season in the “Derby Capitolino”.
Throughout their history, the two sides from the capital have had sporadic spells of success, which gave the derby a different feel, as over time it acquired a trophy-like status, something the fans can boast about with their rival friends until the next encounter. “Lulic 71” is what Lazio fans still refer to when reminiscing the captain’s goal in the 71st minute of the 2012-13 Coppa Italia success over their arch-rivals. In some ways, that sunny afternoon at the Olimpico can still be felt in the streets of Rome.
Whereas fans were filled with a mix of excitement and worrisome, the new Roma manager Paulo Fonseca probably stood on the latter half of the spectrum. While a victory would have signalled a good start to the cycle, however, a loss could have made his journey a steep climb already.
The Portuguese manager fielded the same eleven as in his team’s Serie A opener against Genoa, except for Juan Jesus, who was replaced by Gianluca Mancini. Simone Inzaghi, too, on the back of a thrashing 3-0 win over Sampdoria, only replaced one player: Marco Parolo made room for Lucas Leiva.
Lazio immediately put Roma under pressure with a couple of consecutive corners from which Lucas Leiva hit the post on a volley. In the first five minutes of the game, both teams hit the post, but little did we know that both teams would have gone on to hit the woodwork a total of six times.
On Roma’s buildup, Lazio would try to cover the center to direct the ball circulation wide, from where Roma were rarely able to access the center. Most of this was due to Lazio’s defensive compactness and Roma would play ineffective passes down the touchline for Edin Džeko to chase.
Neither team was particularly aggressive in pressing, as their main objective was to cover the center, although Lazio could open passing lanes towards central areas more easily by playing down the wing and accessing the attacking midfielders. Joaquín Correa and Sergej Milinković-Savić would occupy the two halfspaces, If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. with Luis Alberto either remaining deeper on Lucas Leiva’s line as support or stepping up to be able to combine immediately.
Roma used Zaniolo to mark Leiva, usually the player to trigger the short combinations between the attacking midfielders in Lazio’s 3-5-2 / 3-4-2-1 formation, but with Roma’s nominal wingers staying quite high and tracking back sporadically – Ünder in particular – Lazio could still achieve numerical superiority in midfield with Joaquín Correa and Sergej Milinković-Savić’s positioning.
Roma’s 4-4-2 shape versus Lazio’s 3-4-2-1 formation. Notice how Ünder fails to track back.
Lazio’s superiority in midfield was the main reason behind their chances, as they could combine in tight space to push the opposition defense deeper and then find a free man to shoot from the edge of the box. In response to this structural issue, Fonseca instructed Cengiz Ünder to drop into the midfield line for it to be able to shift more effectively and reduce the space on the far side.
When unable to combine their way forward, Inzaghi’s men were not hesitant to resort to their usual shortcut, also known as the long-ball to Milinković-Savić, who would head the ball down onto the path of onrushing attackers. Lazio’s biggest chance in thirty minutes came from such a long-ball situation, as Immobile pounced onto a Savić knock-down, only to hit the crossbar. Shortly after, Correa hit Lazio’s post for the second time in the game.
Roma sink in Lazio’s deep waters
Roma were slowly pushed deeper as the match went on, as Lazio kept combining their way into the penalty box. This approach was not particularly effective at creating big chances, although it did force Roma to step back even further.
Lazio’s equalizer followed a similar pattern, as Immobile dribbled his way into the box, pushing Roma’s defense towards the goal and freeing Luis Alberto just ahead of the defenders for him to shoot from the penalty spot.
The goal was a deserved one considering the three times that Lazio hard already hit the post during the first half and the way Roma had been pinned around their penalty box. The result remained uncertain, though, as both sides showed vulnerabilities that could be exploited from one moment to another. Lazio were often caught unprepared on counterattacks, while Roma struggled to cope with their opponent’s multiple attacking players between the lines.
Given Ünder’s uninspiring display, Fonseca chose to bring Pastore on around the 67th minute to play behind Džeko, thus moving Nicolò Zaniolo to the wing. Roma’s occupation of the field did not improve though, as Pastore was usually positioned too high and far away, making him unavailable to receive the ball. Moreover, the ball circulation was too slow to create any openings, despite having the fullbacks high and wide to stretch the defensive block. The positioning from the center-backs and double pivot 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. was not optimal either, since they both occupied the same vertical line, cutting out passing options from each other and facilitating the defense’s covering duties.
As in many of the recent Roman derbies, the performances from Roma and Lazio lacked a spark. The recent matches have been more of an emotional bearing rather than a thrilling and exciting rollercoaster. This may be the result of Roma’s continuous decline over the years, from which they are still attempting to recover after Monchi’s disastrous spell in the Italian capital. Previously, at least in Serie A, the derbies used to be dominated by Roma, who had established themselves as the leading team in the city. Now, their attempts to get back on track are still looking futile, and although Fonseca seems like the ideal man for the job, the defense looks individually incapable of dealing with offensive pressure.
Lazio, on the other hand, despite drawing a match from which they certainly deserved more in terms of scoring, are going in the right direction, building upon positive results year after year and aided by smart signings from sporting director Igli Tare. This year might be the season in which Lazio finally reach the Champions League after getting so close in the last Serie A editions, yet, at the same time, being so far.
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