The Derby della Capitale is always a heated affair and one that is often tense. These games are either wide open and allow a plethora of chances or they are tight and cagey affairs. For Lazio, it doesn’t matter as they have a weapon in their arsenal that can conduct himself brilliantly on all occasions. Luis Alberto has been on the rise for some time in the capital, but in the derby this weekend he showed once more how he could be a leading light in the Biancocelesti’s season.
The Olimpico gasped more than normal as the woodwork was rattled six times in an exciting and memorable 1-1 draw on Sunday. It was an exhilarating encounter that saw Roma take the lead from the penalty spot thanks to Aleksandar Kolarov. Throughout the contest, Luis Alberto was Lazio’s main creator and at the heart of all the positive things they did. It therefore seemed fitting that he would score the equaliser and give pride back to his team.
His role in the game was similar to that of a ‘trequartista’ from yesteryear. The defenders couldn’t handle him, wanting to come out to try and take the ball off him but - in doing so - leaving space in behind. The Spaniard’s ability to play sublime passes at acute angles meant that Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correra were a constant threat. Lucas Leiva and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic held back, allowing him to operate in a cavalier manner, and the results could have been more devastating had the finishing been more clinical.
A player of his nature is rare in modern football, but Luis Alberto is getting better every season and at 26, his best years are ahead of him. He has started this term strongly and his display in the derby follows on from a man-of-the-match performancr against Sampdoria last weekend, when tore them apart, contributing two assists in the 3-0 win. While Roma may have been able to see what they were going to be up against, it’s almost impossible to stop him on his day. If they backed off him, he would be dangerous. If they marked him tightly, he would still find space. It’s not a shock to see that his two assists against Samp were for Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa, two men who understand his importance.
These early displays show he may be able to hit form similar to that of the 2017-18 campaign. Last season was no bust, but he finished with just four goals and five assists. On the other hand, the campaign before that saw him score 11 and set up 14 in Serie A. Simone Inzaghi is clever in his use of the No 10 as he surrounds him with midfielders who are both creative but also dominant. Perhaps his link-up with Milinkovic-Savic is the most appealing as they can see situations develop and they also have the ability to execute their ideas. Players like Lucas also allow Luis Alberto to shed his defensive duties and concentrate as being the main creative threat.
Luis Alberto’s versatility is perhaps one of his best traits. It is true that previous Coaches have deployed him on the wide positions and seen no success. Indeed, crossing is one of his weakest attributes and he isn’t cut out to be a winger. Inzaghi has revelled in the fact however, that when Lazio are under pressure, often in the big games, he can deploy him deep in a ‘Pirlo-esque’ role. Here, he can pick up the ball and deal with pressure, orchestrating counterattacks while still being a creative outlet.
The Derby della Capitale may have finished all square, but it did again highlight the importance of Luis Alberto to Lazio and his immense ability. On one hand, it seems strange that a move to one of Europe’s top clubs hasn’t transpired yet for in the 26-year-old as he promises to have a third solid season. On the other, he is already playing for a club with a reputation for silverware. The longer they can keep hold of Luis Alberto, the better chance they will have of a successful 19-20.