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Lazio: Their defensive system in 2019/20

Lazio have been one of the most defensively solid and consistent sides in Serie A this season. Simone Inzaghi men have only conceded a total of 23 goals from 26 league games so far during the 2019/20 season, making them the most successful defensive team in Serie A this year. 

This tactical analysis piece will examine Lazio’s defensive system and provide a scout report of the fundamental characteristics used within Inzaghi’s tactics when his side are playing without the ball. We will highlight how Lazio set up out of possession and outline the defensive qualities that have helped them maintain an excellent defensive record in this analysis. 


Controlling the central areas 

One of the most important aspects of Lazio’s defensive structure is their ability to assemble and maintain a numerical superiority at the centre of the pitch when out of possession. This is mainly achieved through the positioning of their midfielders and attackers, who adopt a shape which inhibits the passing lanes and options for the opponent when building out from the back. More specifically, this shape created by Lazio gives them a compact defensive block as well as dominance of the central channels. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics The image above provides a perfect example of how Lazio likes to control the centre of the pitch when the opponents are building out from the back. As we can see, both Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto are pressing Roma’s backline, while simultaneously screening any potential passes towards the central areas, which forces Roma to play that ball to their full-back. While this is happening, the two central midfielders Sergej Milinković-Savić and Lucas Leiva will push forward and adopt a slightly more advanced position so that they are marking Roma’s creative players. This then forces the full-back to play the ball back to the centre-back where play is then recycled. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics It is only when the play is recycled that Lazio can achieve their numerical superiority. As we can see in this image, Lazio has five players in the centre of the pitch compared to Roma’s two, this giving Lazio greater control of the central areas as well as some coverage in the wide channels. For instance, the three central midfielders will be able to screen any potential passes in the centre of the pitch, while the two wing-backs will be in a position to shift towards the opponent’s full-backs upon the switch of play. Alternatively, they can also drift more centrally if extra coverage is needed. This type of positional movement serves to give Lazio extra bodies in the midfield, which ultimately helps to boost their central superiority even further. 

The next image provides us with another example of Lazio’s numerical superiority structure. Albeit similar to the previous image, this one does provide a clearer picture of how the defensive block can nullify the opponent’s attacking approach and tactics. 

Instead of pressing their opponents aggressively in an attempt to win the ball back quickly, they decided to adopt a more patient approach through which they will be able to maintain control of the central areas. As a result, their two forwards, Immobile and Ángel Correa, dropped in a bit deeper to help add extra numbers in the centre of the pitch. From this position, they were able to shadow the movements of Roma’s centre-backs (Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini) to delay their next move, while also allowing Lazio to create a 5v3 advantage in midfield.

Thus, as a result of their off-the-ball positioning and in particular the positioning of their strikers, they were able to essentially cut off the passing lanes towards Roma’s midfielders as well as isolate the full-backs out wide, making them redundant in this play and therefore not a viable passing option for Roma. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics Even so, there have been occasions where the opponents have beaten Lazio’s defensive block, yet because the midfield is so tight and compact that any opposition attacker who receives the ball is immediately surrounded by three or four Lazio players. This, however, means that they will struggle to do much with the ball upon receiving possession. As we can see below, Edin Džeko receives the ball from his centre-back.Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics As this phase progresses, Džeko is immediately surrounded by three Lazio players, who force him to alter his attacking objective: now, he must focus on protecting the ball from the Lazio pressure. This gives Lazio enough time to re-group and re-structure as the Roma forward is eventually dispossessed by one of the three Lazio players. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics

Defensive block 

As highlighted above, Lazio have the confidence to allow their opponents to have possession without pressing too aggressively. Instead, they focus all their energy on maintaining control of the central areas and making it difficult for their opponents to play through them.Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics The fixture vs AC Milan provides us with a great example of their defensive structure and passivity, as we can see above. In this image, the defensive line sits back quite deep and narrow, while the two holding midfielders adopt a position just outside the D so that the central passing options can be blocked. As a result of this position, AC Milan is quite restricted with their attacking options, which forces them to play the ball out wide to the unmarked winger. 

After the pass is made to the winger, the next move is quite easy for Lazio to predict. Either a cross will be made into the box or the ball will be passed back into the midfielder.Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics Nonetheless, as this phase of play progresses, a cross is played into the box, which is dealt comfortably by the Lazio defenders.Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics This scenario highlights how Lazio’s central overloads forced the opponents out wide to a less-favourable attacking position, where the only choices are to play the ball in the box or play the ball backwards. Interestingly, Lazio’s defensive passivity invites the opponents to make the cross into the box, as the central channels are still in control of Lazio’s midfielders, who can pull off any pass between the lines. As a result, the defensive shape of Lazio manipulates the opponents to take riskier passing options as the simple and more straight forward options are hard to access and utilise during a game. 

Pressing tactics 

Despite Lazio adopting a passive approach for a large amount of time in games this year, certain situations do trigger pressing actions and a more aggressive approach. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics The image above perfectly portrays Lazio’s press. In this image, we can see Genoa’s right-back and midfielder linking up together. However, because of the press, the right-back is forced to go back to an area with less pressure, which temporarily isolates the midfielder. During this, Felipe Caicedo is able to take the ball away from the Genoa player and start his team on the attack. 

We can see another example of Lazio’s press being applied in the image below. During this, the press has forced the left-back to play the ball back towards his centre-back, who is then immediately pressed by Immobile, who forces the centre-back to find his next passing option as quickly as possible. However, due to the majority of the short passing options being blocked by central overloads, the centre-back struggled to find a viable passing option. As a consequence, this centre-back was forced to play a long ball, gifting Lazio with possession. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics In the next scenario, we can see that the ball has been played to the right-sided centre-back from a goal kick. Yet, because Lazio are able to maintain an overload in the centre of the pitch, the centre-back’s only realistic passing option is towards the right-back. Furthermore, as Lazio have a numerical superiority in the middle of the pitch during this phase of play when the ball goes towards the full-back, they can afford to commit players into the press without leaving themselves too exposed if their press is beaten. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics In the image below, we can now see the full-back with the ball at his feet. Due to his wide positioning and Lazio’s numerical dominance, the player from Genoa is pressed aggressively by Luis Alberto and Caicedo. While this is happening, the nearby teammates will work to cover any of the right-backs’ potential passing options. Lazio 2019/20: Defensive system - Scout report tactical analysis tactics Thus, as a consequence of the press, the Genoa defender is forced to play the ball back towards the centre-back. As this ball is played backwards, the players from Lazio will continue to apply their press, hoping that the opponent will then be forced to play the ball long or, even better, make a mistake in possession. 

It is important to note that the pass to the full-back is an essential pressing trigger for Lazio, because the full-back is severely limited in terms of where he can pass the ball. As a consequence, it makes the task of covering all the possible passing options much easier for Lazio to execute, which in turn increases their chances of winning the ball back.


From this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, it is very clear that Lazio are a defensively dominant side in Serie A with exceptional organisation and dedication to keeping their opponents at bay. Lazio’s defensive tactics have a heavy emphasis on central overloads, intelligent pressing as well as smart off-the-ball movements. 

Overall, their defensive system has helped them out massively this season, which is exactly why they have been able to keep up with Juventus and Inter thus far in the campaign. Yet, with several games still to be played in Serie A, only time will tell if Lazio’s defensive approach can really help them win the scudetto.