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Lazio Experts Give Us Their Take on Sunday's Derby della Capitale

Jerry Mancini and Shawn McIntosh were kind enough to come behind enemy lines and share their Biancoceleste insight ahead of this weekend’s Rome derby.

SS Lazio v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Marco Rosi - SS Lazio/Getty Images

The Derby della Capitale is always the most anticipated match on the calendar for Roma and Lazio as both clubs vie for supremacy and bragging rights in the Eternal City. And this season things are even more heated with the additions of two of the game’s biggest managerial personalities to the sidelines. While we Romanisti are enjoying the early days of the José Mourinho tenure, Laziali are optimistic about the arrival of Maurizio Sarri.

So, with so much change on both sides of the Olimpico this summer, I decided to pick the brains of a couple of friendly Laziali to try and get some insight on Roma’s bitter rivals. A huge shout out to Jerry Mancini of the Calcio Connection Podcast & The Laziali and Shawn McIntosh of Lazio World for taking the time to share their knowledge. Plus, give their most recent pods a listen to hear me share some insight on Roma as we chatted The Derby della Capitale.

  1. Maurizio Sarri had long been linked with Roma until the club hired José Mourinho. What were your feelings when Lazio hired Sarri to replace the departed Simone Inzaghi?

Shawn McIntosh: I was both shocked and thrilled. The appointment of Sarri was a statement of ambition and a clear desire to continue building on this project. Lazio could have easily entered a reclamation project by hiring an unproven manager. This would have signaled the start of a new cycle. Instead, Lotito uncharacteristically took the route of investing resources at the manager level. Hiring a manager of Sarri’s caliber does not come without certain assurances. I assumed these assurances to be related to transfer market and ambitions, and that got me excited.

Jerry Mancini: When Lazio were rumored to sign Maurizio Sarri, I thought it was never going to happen. I expected him to be out of Claudio Lotito’s price range, however, the Lazio president proved me wrong. After weeks of discussions and negotiating, the two sides finally came to an agreement and I was ecstatic that they signed him.

Signing a manager such as Sarri is a bold statement by Lazio and could go a long way. With the managers available on the market, there were few good candidates and they went with the flashiest name. He brings experience and a strong background to this club. It will take time to adapt under Sarri. Yet if the club, fan and players remain patient, it could look very good in the long-term for Lazio.

I’m glad that Lotito showed some ambition and was not looking to take a step back. Signing Sarri meant he’s serious in taking this team to the next level.

2. Moving from Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 to Sarri’s 4-3-3 is a fairly big tactical change. How have the Lazio players adapted to Sarri-ball? In particular the star men.

SM: Against lesser sides (Empoli and Spezia), Lazio seemed to grasp his system quickly. The additions of Hysaj and Pedro; both of which played for Sarri, seemingly helped Lazio expedite the learning curve. Against Milan and Galatasaray, Lazio seemed less sure of themselves. Players were visibly less confident in the movements required of them, resulting in poor passing and frequent turnovers. Against Milan, Luis Alberto and Milinkovic-Savic were uncharacteristically absent from impacting the match. The biggest question was how our talisman, Ciro Immobile, would adapt to a formation that he’s struggled with at the national team level. Ciro has quickly dispelled those concerns with 5 goals in 4 matches to start the season.

JM: It has been a slow transition for Lazio in shifting from Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 to Sarri’s 4-3-3. There hasn’t been significant progress under Sarri as the players are continuing to adjust his style of play and becoming more familiar. Several new players have joined the club which has made this difficult as well where they continue to become familiar with one another.

Lazio really hasn’t shown signs of Sarri’s style of play, where they make those one-touch passes or advance the ball out of the backfield with ease. Lucas Leiva has been used as a regista and this is one move that really hasn’t worked out. The past four seasons he’s played as a CDM and being 34-years-old, he doesn’t have the pace to play in this position.

Luis Alberto is another player that has struggled in Sarri’s system. His passing is off, he is always caught out of position and looks a step behind in his decision-making. In the 3-5-2 he was more comfortable as he had more time on the ball and this allowed him to make accurate passes. Under Sarri, he needs to be quicker and his timing has been off as well.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has looked good under Sarri. He’s the one player who has shown the ability to adapt to new tactics. Under Inzaghi, he was used in various roles and showed minimal difficulties in doing so. With Sarri, he’s been effective with his passing and has slowly progressed as he starts to become more familiar with the system.

SS Lazio v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

3. Lazio lost one of its best-attacking players, Joaquin Correa to Inter this summer. How would you rate the moves Lazio made to replace him and the other players the Biancoceleste brought in during the summer?

SM: On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the window a 7. Hysaj and Pedro bring experience and familiarity with Sarri. Pedro has arguably been Lazio’s best player to start the season. Felipe Anderson was a nice piece of business and fills a need at the winger position. Depth has always been a concern for Lazio and both Basic and Zaccagni were strong depth additions. The failure to bring in a quality center back continues to be what holds Lazio back from having a stellar transfer market.

JM: I’d rate Lazio’s transfer market a 7.5/10. Losing Joaquin Correa is significant, yet they have managed the forward position very well. New additions, Mattia Zaccagni, Pedro and Felipe Anderson, are quality players who have proven that they can score and provide offense. Toma Basic is an exciting player from Bordeaux who will need time to settle in, but is a player that will have a significant role in their midfield.

The backend was never addressed as they only added Elseid Hysaj at left-back. For a second consecutive season they will rely on Francesco Acerbi and Luiz Felipe and this is concerning as the depth options are not great at centre-back. This is an area that could be an issue as the season progresses for Lazio.

4. Lazio has had mixed results to open the season thus far. What would you say have been the team’s strengths under Sarri so far? And in what area do you think the team needs the most work?

SM: The most visible issue is the confidence in Sarri’s system. You often see misplaced passes because players aren’t on the same page and find themselves making mistimed runs or unsure of their positioning. Offensively, we seem to be clinical with the chances we get, but the performances have been such a mixed bag that it’s been hard to figure out the real Lazio. Unfortunately, despite the shift to a four man defense, Lazio’s challenges in defense remain consistent.

JM: In their recent matches they have been lackluster, disappointing, frustrating or poor. They’re still learning under Sarri and are trying to adapt to his system.

I’d say that ball possession has been a strength in matches they haven’t lost. They have managed to move the ball quite well against Empoli, Spezia and Cagliari, limited their chances and managed to create quality chances.

The backend has been a weakness for this Lazio side. Far too often they are caught out of position and playing too high which leaves plenty of space in the backend or they make mistakes. In their match versus Cagliari, they struggled to convert their chances. Lazio get into the situations where they try to play multiple passes which leads to turnovers and a counter-attack situation. It’s as if they’re trying to make Sarri’s style of play work.

This Lazio has become predictable at times as well. Under Inzaghi they were able to advance down the wings or up the midfield, however, that’s not the case under Sarri. They are trying to advance from the backfield with quick passing and being in proper positions. It will be interesting to see how Lazio approaches the match on Sunday.

5. With the hirings of Sarri and Mourinho this may be the most anticipated Derby della Capitale in quite some time. What do you think are the keys to victory for Lazio?

SM: Lazio thrive when Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto are at their best. If those two show up, I have all the confidence in the world. Ciro is our consistency, so we know he will shine if given adequate service. Defensively, Lazio needs to be mentally sharp. Most of their goals conceded come from poor positioning and getting caught on the counter. If the defense can remain mentally sharp and don’t get caught too far forward, we stand a chance.

JM: Lazio need Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto at their best as the midfield is their biggest strength. We saw that earlier this season versus Milan as both players were defended well by Sandro Tonali and Franck Kessie. Neither player made an impact which made the forwards less vulnerable.

Everyone will be looking at Ciro Immobile on Sunday but in order for him to be effective he will need the service from his midfield and wingers.

6. Conversely, if you were Roma, how would you look to attack and defend to defeat this Lazio side?

SM: If I’m ASR, I look to drop back and defend. Lazio has struggled to crack defenses with numbers behind the ball. I’d lure Lazio’s center backs into creeping up into the play and catch them on a counter. We’ve seen players with pace, like Leao at Milan, wreak havoc against the likes of Lucas Leiva on the counter.

JM: If I were Roma, I would play a high press game and try to limit Lazio’s time on the ball. When they’re pressured and forced to make quick decisions, this has hurt their game. If you give Lazio possession and allow them time to advance with ample space in the midfield, this could benefit them. Sitting back and defending like Cagliari did on Sunday is the wrong approach for Roma.

7. Predictions?:

SM: I see goals from both sides. This game will have an intensity to it and both managers will be eager to outshine the other. I see this ending 2-2.

JM: I see goals from both sides. This game will have a lot of intensity to it. The derby always brings the best out of both teams. Final score: 2-2.