Filippo Inzaghi had to scramble to come up with some offensive solutions in the first few games of the season, because of the lengthy Keita drama, solved with a late sale to Monaco, and Felipe Anderson’s injury. It is supposed to be a great year for Brazilian, who was set up to be Lazio’s main offensive playmaker, after taking a back seat to Ciro Immobile and Keita last season. Anderson played a lot as right wingback in 3-5-2 in 2016/2017, leaving the coveted spot as second-striker to the Senegalese. He will be heavily featured in the attack in the coming months, but he has been absent since the start of August because of a tricky hamstring tendinopathy, which could sideline him for one more month.
Lazio signed Luis Nani to replace Keita: a natural winger, who could struggle to perform in a more central position in which he has limited experience. The Portuguese international comes off two good season at Fenerbahce and Valencia, but he has lost a step over the years. It is fair to ask whether the club has done enough to replace Keita, who had a €30,5M price tag, who blossomed as a striker last year, tallying 16 goals in 31 appearances, outmatching his scoring total from his previous three seasons.
Nani missed the whole summer because of a knee sprain: he is rumoured to return to action soon, but it might take him a while to be in full form considering that he skipped the crucial pre-season preparation. Peak Nani and Felipe Anderson might end up being available at around the same date, in mid-October, but there is an intense cycle of games in between. Lazio thrived with 3-5-2 last season thanks to a strengthened defence, a dynamic midfield, Keita’s explosiveness upfront and Immobile’s nose for scoring. However, they may have to revert to 4-3-3 down the line, because they might need to field Nani and Anderson at the same time to match Keita’s production and this could affect some of the well-oiled mechanisms and balances.
While the two players recover, Inzaghi will have to be creative. In the first game against Spal, he fielded Simone Palombi, who had a good run with Ternana in Serie B last season in his first experience with the pros, but is little too similar to Immobile. The same goes for the newcomer Felipe Caicedo, who is a pure center-forward.
In the Supercoppa and against Chievo Verona, they opted for a 3-4-2-1, with Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkinovic-Savic behind the lone striker. They had more success with it, as the young Spaniard is starting to make an impact and the Serbian midfielder is ascending to stardom, but the lack of pace and unpredictability of this formation is glaring. The coach has not much else to work with and has to hope that the line-up with two no.10s or the two-headed attack work even though neither is perfect, otherwise they will be in for a very rough start of the season.
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