Napoli vs Lazio Tactical Analysis: Sarri’s Tactics Lift High-Flying Biancocelesti

Maurizio Sarri eyed up three points on his return to his former club. The heavyweight clash had many excited to watch the match unfold at the Stadio Maradona. Lazio handed Napoli their second loss of the season in Napoli. As far as one-nil matches go this one certainly delivers. Lazio executed Sarri’s game plan perfectly and were about to come away with a result despite not being the better team. 

Early on both teams looked like they were sent out extremely well-prepared. It is not news to anyone that Napoli are the best side in the league. However, Lazio took a page out of Inter’s book. They were more physical than Napoli and were not afraid to make the game scrappy. This partnered really well with the tactics Lazio set out to execute. So, despite being set in the 4-3-3 the wingers were dropping deep to aid the fullbacks in defending the electric Napoli wingers. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in particular had a hard time dealing with Felipe Anderson dropping deep. Despite getting on the ball and having a few successful take-ons Kvaratskhelia did not register a shot on target, and in reality, did not produce many key-passed. Sarri was able to control the wingers, which in turn stopped the service into Victor Osimhen. The combination of the physicality and the double marking of the wingers did allow Napoli to create chances through the middle. 

Despite registering fourteen shots Napoli were unable to break through. This was a result of another part of Sarri’s tactics. Since the wings were shut down, the play had to come through the center. Of all the shots only two were on target, and eight of which were blocked. Lazio sat in a low block, which allowed Napoli to shoot from distance. The idea behind this was to hit Napoli on the counter and keep a clean sheet. If we flash back to Napoli’s only other loss in the season to Inter, the score line was the exact same. In fact, the possession numbers were also similarly seeing Napoli control the ball for more than 65 percent of the match. It is a testament to how strong Napoli are that Lazio were so willing to not control possession.

In other big matches this season, and throughout his career Sarri likes to play the ball around and control the possession as well. Although they may have won this style Lazio and Inter have employed is not a long-term solution to defeating Napoli. There is too much quality in the team that inviting Napoli to dominate the ball is a dangerous game. With all that said, Lazio and Inter have now began to develop the blueprint on how to develop counterplay against the best team in Europe this season.

The outline to beat Napoli is as follows. First and foremost, the opposition needs to be physical and able to break any momentum Napoli gets. Often throughout the match, it looks as if Napoli interchange so perfectly it’s as if they are playing from memory. Second, the wingers need to be shut down. Forcing Napoli to play down the middle and settle for long-range shots is one of the only ways to control their dynamic offensive players. Tying into that point limiting the service Osimhen gets drastically changes the way Napoli generate chances.

This is much easier said than done, but Osimhen scores most of his chances from inside the box, especially with service from the wings. That was why Lazio were able to hold him to limited shots on target. Lastly, most teams settle into counterattacking against Napoli, and truthfully that is the best most sides can manage. Looking at Matías Vecino goal many may say there is nothing Napoli could have done against that. Well, not only should Vecino have had two goals, but if it was not for Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s heroic clearance, the plan was for Lazio to only need to score one goal. 

It was fitting that the man who was so close to bringing the Scudetto back to Napoli was one of the few to manage a result against the league leaders. It was his tactical preparation that acted as the springboard for his team to be successful. Other teams can now use both the Inter match and now the Lazio game to prepare against the southern giants. This result will be massively important in Lazio’s push for Champions League football next season.

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