Serie A saga: Promising start to first full season at Lazio

In my previous post I outlined the extensive rebuilding work that I did with an ageing Lazio squad, having taken over the club in sixteenth position in Serie A.

In this post I will:

  • Discuss tactical plans for our revamped squad with analysis
  • Update on our progress to the January winter break
  • Discuss transfer window activity

Tactical development

With the new signings in place and the average age of the squad drastically reduced, I wanted to employ three different systems that would give us tactical flexibility, giving us the option to be either defensive or more attacking depending on the opposition and match situation.

4-1-4-1 (Juventus A)

This system remains my go-to option for playing conservatively:

I like the solidity it provides, and it uses the pace of my wingers to mount fast counter attacks, who are then supported by Luis Alberto in midfield.

Another advantage of this system is that the mentality can be dialled up or down easily to make it more or less attacking. I choose to do this by switching the wide players to an attack duty, and also using a Mezzala in central midfield. In the graphic above, I used a BBM as I thought this would provide extra defensive cover for a tough game away at Juventus.

Keeping possession is not an important consideration when using this tactic. We won the game 3-2 which was a fantastic result, despite having only 40% possession.

As the instructions show, the aim is to defend quite deep, press high up the pitch and break very quickly.

The average positions below shows how deep we sit, but the shape is very compact. It is obviously crucial that the midfielders link up with the lone striker very quickly, to prevent him from becoming isolated

Average positions, Juventus (A)

The third goal typified exactly the way I want the team to play:


Soaking up possession and breaking quickly, with Luis Alberto finishing off the chance breaking late into the box. The clip shows that we have four players arriving late into the Juventus box, of whom only one is marked. With carefully crafted attacks like this and with players breaking forward at speed, they are very hard to defend against.

Nonetheless, we couldn’t help giving away a totally nonsensical and idiotic goal, to make the last few minutes quite uncomfortable!


4-2-3-1 (Genoa H)

I have used this system several times in the past and it has served me well; it is a very attacking one which I use against inferior opponents who ideally don’t deploy a defensive midfielder, giving the AM slot even more freedom to operate. Luckily that’s how things turned out:

The aim here is very much to be on the front foot, with Alberto and Fratena the main creative outlets, supported by wide players with very advanced starting positions. The defensive support comes from a central midfielder with a defend duty. The full-backs do provide some attacking support, but they are on support duties, as I don’t want to commit even more down the flanks and leave the two central defenders exposed.

Team instructions are:

  • Play with a high tempo
  • Run at the defence
  • Be more expressive
  • Distribute quickly

The average positions are therefore much more advanced than the 4-1-4-1 tactic, with Batshuyai less isolated:

The graphic below shows our attacking output with a total of 18 shots, from

The attacking threat was spread evenly throughout the team, with all main attacking players having a high pass completion rate:

I also wanted to highlight the huge contribution that Fratena is making to the team, a reminder of his profile:

He is developing into a superb player, and his £5m valuation is laughable when I wouldn’t consider selling for a fee ten times that amount. His contribution in the Genoa game was immense, the image below shows the touches he had:

Fratena’s touches versus Genoa

He is involved in all aspects of the game, and comes involved in the attacking phase of the game too, impressive for a DLP on a support duty. For someone aged 20, he has developed three excellent traits which dovetail superbly with the player I want him to be:

  • Plays killer balls often
  • Dictates tempo
  • Plays one-twos

I cannot stress enough the importance of developing traits for young players that you expect to remain at the club for a long time.


5-2-1-2 (Chievo H)

Given that I had three excellent centre backs at my dissposal and two full-backs capable of playing as wing-backs, I wanted to build a system with five defenders but with the accent very much on attacking. This is the first time that I’ve used such a system in Football Manager, and it certainly has room for improvement:

The intention here is to build out from the back, the wing-backs to provide width, defensive solidity in midfield, with four players creating the attacks.

The front two are designed to complement each other, with Bashuyai as the poacher, Druissi as a pressing forward, support by Luis Alberto as an advanced playmaker with an attacking duty.

However I think that this is a work in progress, as our attacking output wasn’t as good as I would have liked:

A good amount of shots, but fewer than the Genoa game. Looking at our average positions with the ball, there are a few issues that stand out to me:

The left sided wing-back Centelles (who plays as a CWB) is very advanced, but is quite isolated from the central midfield pairing who in turn are quite close together. One of these is Luis Alberto who I want to be more advanced. Moreover, the two strikers are quite isolated, and the right sided wing-back Jedvaj is a long way from these two.

So the possible solutions could be:

  • Change Jedvaj’s role to to CWB
  • Change Fratena’a role to a BBM or an AP
  • Which in turn might require changing Alberto to AM (S) or (A)

As expected, this system did restrict Chievo to only two shots on target, and my defenders had little work to do with only a couple of interceptions in our penalty area:

So the 5-2-1-2 is very much a work in progress, but one worth persevering with I feel given the constitution of our squad.


Season progress

A reminder that our objective for the season is to accomplish a top-half finish. I’m pleased to say that we have had an excellent first half the season, in second at the winter break:

Our defensive record has been excellent, with easily the fewest goals conceded in the division.

The obvious highlight has been the excellent 3-2 away win at Juventus, and also a last minute derby win away at Roma, achieved by this superb strike from Pedro Neto:

Overall I’ve been very pleased with the standard of football played, this was a superb team goal and exactly the type of football that I want us to play:

As a result of the excellent start to the season, I was awarded with a new three-year contract. I was appointed on a twelve-month deal so I was keen to extend this as soon as possible. I have made huge strides in reducing the average age of the squad and reduced the wage bill significantly, but there is more to do to improve the quality of the squad.


Transfer window activity

With this in mind, I have made three signings who will join us at the end of the season. A reminder that one of my philosophies is to develop youth players.

Hans Karlsson

Hans Karlsson is someone that I’ve wanted to sign for a while, and is comfortable at either left or centre back. He has an excellent set of core of both defensive and mental attributes.

Donny van de Beek

Donny van de Beek will provide more reinforcements in central midfield and joins on a Bosman deal. He has superb Passing and Vision as well as excellent physical and mental attributes.

Gabriel de Leon

I very much wanted to sign a central midfielder to support Fratena, and Gabriel de Leon is someone who fits that bill perfectly. He had a £9.5m release clause which I felt offered excellent value. Again I was keen to sign someone with superb Passing and Vision skills, and this is reinforced by a high level of Flair. Due to restrictions signing non-EU players, I had to sign him in January as other clubs including Manchester City were interested in him, but he is unable to play until next season.


So things are set up well for the second half of the season, and I would be very disappointed if we didn’t achieve Champions League qualification by finishing fourth or above. We lost 2-1 to Milan in the Coppa Italia, so we have only 19 games left to play.

Thanks for reading.


Follow Dictate The Game on Facebook and Twitter

Other DTG articles that you may enjoy:

Rebuilding with Lazio

Madeira

Keeping your interest in FM19

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