Maurizio Sarri left the Lazio dugout for the first time with a win under his belt, beating newly promoted Empoli 3-1 at the Stadio Carlo Castellani on Saturday evening to kick off the 2021/22 Serie A season.
I Biancocelesti’s goals came from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Manuel Lazzari and Ciro Immobile. The performance, though, was far from flawless. In the fourth minute, Filippo Bandinelli opened the scoring. Milinkovic-Savic quickly equalised then set Lazzari through to score the second. Immobile finally sealed the three points just before half-time.
Sarri’s arrival raised expectations
A lot of expectations and questions marks arose when Sarri was announced, as illustrated by bet365 bonuskod usage or, more accurately lack of. Simone Inzaghi, who had been at the blue side of the capital since 2016, had left for Inter and his shoes are likely to take some filling.
Le Aquile now have to switch from playing with a 3-5-2 that usually shared the possession relatively evenly with opponents, to now playing a 4-1-4-1 obsessed with keeping the ball – a change that might be slightly uncomfortable for some of the older players in the squad.
For that reason and more, Lazio are lucky to have collected their first three points of the season so quickly. Empoli had 16 shots, doubling Lazio’s, and had the same number of shots on target (four).
Sarrismo at Lazio involves a four-man midfield, all agile and quick dribblers with decent vision and passing capabilities, overall similar in skill but contribute differently. Sitting behind them is an anchor who can shield the defense but also recycle the moves and initiate fruitful passes forward.
At the point of attack is Immobile who is one of the best at moving off the ball and can link up well with the midfielders around him. Finally, the full-backs usually have the green light to go up the pitch and support the attack.
Transitions and turnovers
Recovering the ball as quickly as possible is crucial for Lazio under Sarri. This is why the four midfielders with the striker pressing on their defence troubled their buildup, forcing passes to the side towards the touchline and/or imprecise long balls.
Becoming a double-edged sword, should it work, they keep the ball for longer and in vital areas of the pitch. Should it backfire, gaps would be left between the lines and they could become more vulnerable.
The best illustration for that is the first goal, Elseid Hysaj was high up the pitch to put pressure on right midfielder Nicolas Haas, while Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro and Felipe Anderson were on right back Petar Stojanovic.
With the Lazio left-back dragged out to the other half of the pitch, the rest of the Empoli forwards stretched and outnumbered the Lazio defense who were trying to cover for Hysaj, Bandinelli became open and, to open the scoring, he had time to compose himself and get his head up before finishing.
The intention of Sarri’s style is to bring goals and football played with a swagger, but it’s hard to implement with a side that has been playing a certain way for five years. The potential is very much there with the likes of Immobile, Luis Alberto, Felipe Anderson and Milinkovic-Savic but will likely take time to bear fruit.