Despite winning the Coppa Italia, SS Lazio fell below expectation last season, as they failed to build upon their success of the 2017/18 season.
While other teams in Serie A have looked to resolve their shortcomings through changing managers and making many signings, Lazio have taken a different approach.
They’ve retained Simone Inzaghi as their head coach, and have prioritised signing players who have the specific attributes to complement their tactical system rather than evaluating players on brand value.
This has led to the Biancocelesti making astute signings that fit in well with their coherent, solidified style of play.
Lazio’s most expensive signing this summer was the €11.25 million purchase of S.P.A.L. right-back Manuel Lazzari.
The 25-year-old Italian proved himself to be one of the best all-round attacking right-backs in Serie A last campaign.
He is an excellent passer, averaging two accurate crosses per game, 1.7 key passes per game, and getting eight assists.
He is comfortable running at players as well, with two successful dribbles per 90 minutes at a 55% success rate. Lazzari is more than capable of providing a consistent attacking threat from wide, and this will only improve when he is surrounded by better-attacking teammates.
What makes this transfer particularly smart for Lazio is the similarities between Lazzari’s individual play style and Lazio’s overall tactics.
For S.P.A.L. Lazzari played as a right wingback in a 3-5-2 and excelled at holding his wide position and making runs in behind the opposition defence to pose as a creative force.
Given that Lazio plays in a 3-5-1-1 with an emphasis on width and direct counter-attacks, Lazzari is the perfect fit to strengthen Lazio’s right-hand side.
Lazio have also signed Watford target Denis Vavro for €10.75 million from Copenhagen FC. Standing at 6’3”, Vavro is the kind of combative, physical centre back that is useful to any side. The Slovakian’s stats of 0.8 tackles per 90, 2.22 aerial duels per 90, and 1.86 interceptions per 90 show him to be a capable defender. While it’s important to contextualize these numbers within the standard of the Danish Superliga, Copenhagen is the dominant force of the league and Vavro would not be required to make a high volume of tackles, interceptions, and duels. What’s particularly impressive about Vavro is his passing ability. He possesses the vision to spot forward runs from teammates and the ability to find these advancing players with long, raking passes from the back. Vavro attempts 9.96 long passes per 90 last season, showcasing this tendency.
Lazio needed a centre back, and Vavro is a promising prospect for a relatively small fee. He has the physical attributes to be a solid centre back, and at 23, has ample time to improve. He could also assist Lazio in their ability to counter quickly by supplying long passes from the back when possession is won, improving the team both defensively and offensively. Vavro will take time to adapt to Serie A, but he should prove to be a serviceable defender this season and could become an integral component in Lazio’s defence for years to come.
Lazio's most cost-effective transfer was undoubtedly the purchase of Jony Rodriguez from Malaga CF. The Spanish left-winger spent last season on loan at Deportivo Alaves, who despite finishing 11th were as high as 5th place during the course of the season. For just €2 million euros, Lazio have landed a productive attacking option who can provide them with strength in depth in attacking positions.
Jony registered a goal contribution every 200 minutes in La Liga, scoring four goals and getting 11 assists in 36 appearances. While these numbers aren’t spectacular, they showcase that Jony was reasonably productive. Alaves play a direct style of football in their 4-4-2, defending in a narrow, deep block and playing long balls into the wide spaces for the wingers and fullbacks to run onto and feed their combative, physical strikers through crosses into the box. Due to this style, Jony plays less like a modern winger who cuts inside and more like a traditional winger who provides attacking width for his team. Jony is also an adept set-piece taker, which became a crucial part of Alaves’ goal-scoring due to the fact that they were a physical, aerially dominant side.
At Lazio, Jony would likely be used as a bench player given that he doesn’t fit seamlessly into Inzaghi’s 3-5-1-1 or 3-5-2. He is not defensively sound enough to play as a wingback and is not a player who excels in central areas. However, given that Inzaghi is not afraid to make in-game tactical changes based on the dynamic of the match, Jony could prove a useful tool off the bench through his set-piece delivery and attacking prowess from wide areas.
Lazio also made the deals of Bruno Jordao and Pedro Neto permanent, and the two Portuguese youngsters could prove to be key elements of the side in the future. They add to an impressive transfer window so far for Lazio, as they have managed to secure players who can enhance the team’s performance for minimal transfer fees. They may not be enough to make Lazio a Serie A contender, but with so many top teams in Italy going through rebuilding processes under new managers, Lazio could have an opportunity to push for a Champions League place and will be better equipped to compete on both domestic and continental fronts next season. Lazio have demonstrated that they are committed to a sensible, methodical process for achieving success, and it could eventually reap great rewards.