Lazio 2-1 Udinese
Sunday 26th August, Match One, Serie A, Stadio Olimpico
After making his Lazio debut in their 4-0 Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Juventus, Lucas Biglia retained his place in midfield for the Biancocelesti’s Serie A opener against Udinese.
Against Juventus, Cristian Ledesma partnered Biglia in central midfield. But follow his poor showing, the one-time Italy international was dropped to face Udinese. Instead, Hernanes sat alongside Biglia, who held. Senad Lulić was on the left, with Antonio Candreva and Álvaro González – from the right – roaming. In the second half (76th minute), González was replaced by Ogenyi Onazi. He was positioned deep and to the right of Biglia, with Hernanes also holding.
Partnership with Hernanes
Biglia’s partnership with Hernanes was excellent throughout the contest. The duo were instrumental as Lazio dominated the first half. They not only built attacks, but shielded the defence and ensured the team held its shape. Between the two, Biglia sat, allowing Hernanes to break forward. Occasionally, the roles would be reversed. When possession was won deep, Hernanes would push up, creating space for Biglia to play out. This prevented Roberto Pereyra from doubling up with Maicosuel to close Biglia and allowed Hernanes to move into a position where he could affect the game offensively. Out of possession, Biglia and Hernanes would drop, leaving minimal space between themselves and the back four. Biglia would sometimes push out to press the ball, with Hernanes holding his position.
Biglia’s use of the ball was very good. He made 61 passes – more than any other Lazio player, at an accuracy of 92%. Whilst not necessarily being an orthodox playmaker, he started much of Lazio’s offensive play. He set the tempo and ensured the attacks were mixed. He often passed out to the full-backs – Luis Pedro Cavanda and Ștefan Radu, who would carry the ball forward before moving it back inside to Hernanes or Antonio Candreva. If the opportunity was there, he would go straight to Candreva (see below) and Hernanes.
Biglia was never too expansive, that wasn’t his job. He had to ensure Lazio moved forward effectively and got the more creative players on the ball in areas where they could hurt Udinese. Biglia’s ability to find Candreva, particularly in the first half, caused Udinese real problems and allowed him to constantly affect the game. As shown on the diagram, Biglia completed eleven passes to Candreva, all of which got him on the ball in the final third.
As mentioned above, out of possession Biglia was helped by the positioning of Hernanes. The Brazilian was very disciplined and allowed Biglia to press and block out Udinese attacks. His reading off the game and positional sense was excellent. When spaces opened, he plugged them. If a defenders was pulled out of position, he’d cover. When one of the central-backs was drawn into a wide area – most notably by Luis Muriel, he would fill in, with Hernanes dropping slightly deeper and Álvaro González coming inside. Biglia was constantly first to loose second balls in Lazio’s defensive third. This prevented Udinese from being able to build an extended spell of pressure for much of the contest.
Maicosuel first half
Biglia’s direct opponent in the first half was Maicosuel. The Brazilian was positioned behind lone striker Antonio Di Natale. His role out of possession was to close Biglia and prevent him from from pushing Lazio forward. He was poor in this regard, often caught beyond Biglia and slow to recover. As a result, Biglia had almost a free reign in the first half. When Udinese had the ball, he picked up Maicosuel and was able to limit his ability to influence the contest. When the forward came deep, he pressed – with Hernanes holding. He was able to push Maicosuel back, often dispossessing him, as happened in the build up to the opening goal. Biglia was helped by Lorik Cana, who frequently stepped out of defence to close Maicosuel. For the second half, Cana was replaced by André Dias, who held his position more.
Muriel then Zielinski
While Biglia was able shut out Maicosuel in the first half, he was given more trouble by Muriel and, subsequently, Piotr Zieliński in the second. Muriel was more mobile than Di Natale. He had no set position and showed a willingness to come deep and work the channels. When he did this, Maicosuel would push higher up the pitch. This meant Biglia no longer had an obvious direct opponent and had to be more wary of the movement around him. On one occasion, he was caught out by Muriel, who created an opening. With the introduction of Zieliński, Biglia had a further player to contend with. Maicosuel pushed up alongside Muriel, with Zieliński in behind (3-4-1-2). He sat on Biglia out of possession and prevented the Argentinian from helping Lazio keep the ball. He did this well and it allowed Udinese to build momentum, as the home side struggled to retain possession. Lazio Coach Vladimir Petković responded to this by bringing Onazi on, for González. He helped Biglia close out Zieliński – who almost had a free role, and blocked the forward runs of Andrea Lazzari.
As Udinese pushed for an equaliser in the latter stages, Biglia found it increasingly difficult to influence the contest. He, like many of his team-mates, was beginning to labour. He no longer pushed out to press and close, instead allowing the fresh Onazi to do much of the running. Biglia sat deep alongside Hernanes, with Lazio shaping up as a 4-3-2-1, of sorts. His use of the ball was still important to Lazio. As the diagram shows, in the final 21 minutes he didn’t touch it too often, but when he did, he retained possession, often looking wide to Candreva and Lulić to drive forward and counter.