Lazio vs. AS Roma, 2013 Coppa Italia final: Tactical analysis

Paolo Bruno

Roma felt they deserved a draw, but Lazio earned their winning goal.

A Rome derby is usually about passion, determination and physicality, meaning a desire to play good football is generally a secondary issue, but the lack of creativity and genuinely exciting attacking moves in the Coppa Italia final between Lazio and Roma was particularly noticeable.

This was a battle between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, which meant the triangles in midfield were aligned perfectly - Daniele De Rossi battled against Ogenyi Onazi, Michael Bradley was up against Brazilian playmaker Hernanes and Cristian Ledesma tracked Francesco Totti in an advanced position.

The latter battle seemed the most promising. Ledesma plays the holding role very unusually, rarely protecting the back four against counter-attacks but instead driving upfield in support. That positive attitude is not necessarily wrong in itself, but with Onazi and Hernanes rarely dropping back to compensate, Lazio's back four is often left exposed.

Furthermore, Ledesma is positionally unreliable, often dragged out of position by clever playmakers. Here, Totti was intelligent with his movement, drifting either side of the Argentine to find room between the lines and open up space for the wide players to cut inside, and the best chance of the first half came when Lamela drove inside from the right, and fired off a fierce shot from the zone Ledesma should have been protecting.

The trouble was that Roma simply weren't working the ball to the Italian when he was in those positions. Instead, Totti watched the majority of the first half being played above his head, with Leandro Castan particularly guilty of frequently going long towards Mattia Destro rather than looking to play through midfield.

A comparison between Destro's performance and Mirsolav Klose's is interesting, as the German often dropped off the defence and collected passes between the lines. He was practically playing the role of a no.10 and no.9 - linking the attack to the wide players, before spinning in behind and trying to connect with crosses into the box, and Lazio's best chance of the first half was his close-range header well saved by Bogdan Lobont.

Immediately, the second half had a more positive feel to it. Roma pressed higher up the pitch, the play flowed from end to end, and put simply, the attacking players got on the ball more. Totti dropped deeper into midfield and linked Roma's defence to attack, hitting some nice volleys towards the flank and helping spread the play. Roma's most promising attacks were all linked to Totti.

First, he set Marquinhos up for a strong long-range effort by cleverly switching the play. Later, he dragged Ledesma high up the pitch to create room for Marquinho to come inside, and finally, he freed up Destro inside the box with a good pass towards the channels: but as was typical of the striker's poor game, he squandered the chance.

Lazio's biggest problem was their captain, Ledesma -- and it would be cruel to say it was fortunate he had to be stretchered off, but it did mean Petkovic could tinker with the shape of his side. The Swiss manager was positive - he brought on the usual captain, Stefano Mauri, into a central attacking role, and switched to more of a 4-2-3-1.

It was a bold move considering his usual conservativeness, and it meant when Klose received passes to feet and dragged a Roma centre-back upfield, his partner wasn't free to cover in behind -- instead, he was now occupied by Mauri.

The game had now lost its previous cageyness, and a goal felt inevitable -- and unsurprisingly, It was a Mauri pass that freed up Antonio Candreva to swing a low cross into the box, which Senad Lulic simply tapped in from close range. Roma had their chances too, with Totti hitting the bar from a free kick immediately after the goal and Lamela finding a pocket of space in midfield to test Claudio Marchetti with a rasping long-range drive. Andreazzoli's changes weren't about subtle adjustments, just simply about getting more numbers in attack, and his switch to a back three was only noticeable in how it opened up spaces down the flanks for inevitable Lazio counter-attacks.

A draw would have been a fair result, and that was probably what Andreazzoli was trying to say in his widely criticized post-match remarks. "Roma weren't very dangerous, but neither were Lazio," suggested the interim manager. "It was a balanced encounter and nobody wanted to lose, of course. We rather cancelled each other out."

He's right - neither manager particularly won the tactical battle, but in a Rome derby, those sort of things feel like a secondary issue.

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