Lazio don’t need a change of coach – but they do need their coach to change


It would’ve been painful, if it wasn’t so predictable.

As Christopher Jullien flew through the Glasgow night sky towards an inswinging corner, every Lazio fan knew what was coming before it happened.

The Lazio defence stood gazing in admiration at the defender as he rose. Bang. 2-1 Celtic. One minute to go. Inevitable.

It was the third time this season that Lazio have blown a 1-0 half time lead to lose 2-1, after similar debacles against Cluj and SPAL.

When they’re not doing that, they’re coming from behind twice and missing a stoppage time penalty to draw with Bologna, or mounting a frankly ridiculous comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Atalanta.

This Lazio side creates chaos, but there is no control in the chaos. Results fly one way or another with the same aimless abandon as a feather in a hurricane.

Simone Inzaghi described it as “definitely one of the best performances of the season.”

You can almost see where he’s coming from. Lazio played very well with a heavily rotated team in a hugely hostile arena – at least, until they didn’t.

It was the usual story; create chances aplenty, squander them in crucial moments, and wait for the defensive brain farts to undo all the good work.

Yes, Joaquin Correa hit the post and Fraser Forster pulled off two extraordinary saves. But you make your own luck and it’s not a coincidence that Lazio continually find themselves lamenting that the Gods are against them.

This is now the worst run of away form of the Inzaghi era, with his side having picked up one draw and four defeats from their last five games on the road.

Predictably, the result in Glasgow sparked a fresh wave of rumours about Gennaro Gattuso being lined up to replace him on the bench.

It’s still highly unlikely at this stage that the club would do anything so rash, but last week’s comments by owner Claudio Lotito about how he is demanding results after handing Inzaghi a “Ferrari of a team” did raise questions about how much patience he really has with the coach.

The pressure is on, and could build to breaking point if he doesn’t find some answers soon.

There is a crucial period of fixtures coming up. Lazio face Fiorentina (A), Torino (H), Milan (A), Celtic (H) and Lecce (H) in the space of two weeks leading up to the November international break.

That is a run of games that could decide the Biancocelesti’s fate in the Europa League and the top four race before we’ve even started opening our advent calendars.

The biggest concern is how predictable Inzaghi’s side have become.

Not just in results and characteristics, but in a tactical sense. Inzaghi appears to have got stuck and is either too scared or too stubborn to try something new.

The strange thing is, an ability to conjure up a new tactical trick or throw a selection curveball was what made the former striker’s name when he first started out on the Lazio bench.

When Inzaghi first succeeded Stefano Pioli in April 2016, he picked up where his predecessor had left off by deploying a 4-3-3 – the same system he had been using with the Primavera side.

In his first full season, he started off with four formations in four games: 4-3-3, 3-4-3, 4-3-2-1 and 3-4-1-2.

This tactical flexibility and unpredictability was one of his greatest weapons at the time, as he confounded opposition coaches throughout the season by frequently switching between 4-3-3 and the 3-5-2 that has come to be known as his hallmark.

He settled on a 3-5-1-1 formation in 2017/18 and that side came within a hair’s breadth of Champions qualification, not to mention winning the Supercoppa Italiana and beating Juventus in Turin.

Even so, he was willing to tinker with that system in small ways, using a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2 at times when he saw fit.

Inzaghi would also change things up mid-game, changing formations and personnel in ways that we rarely see now.

His big tactical shift last season was from a 3-5-1-1 to a 3-5-2 and creating the ‘fantasia Lazio’ system that involved Luis Alberto playing in a deeper role to accommodate Joaquin Correa in a front two with Ciro Immobile.

But results have been hit and miss in this system, which continues to lack balance. The team is capable of playing excellent attacking football, but they are far too easily exposed and outmanoeuvred.

They always play the same way and there are rarely surprises in selection. Lazio have become far too predictable and if Inzaghi isn’t careful, it could end up costing him.

He remains the right man for the job. He still has the full backing of the players and his influence has been instrumental in keeping this talented squad together for so long.

He also bleeds blue and white and will give everything he’s got to making this work given his history with the club.

But with Lotito’s comments ringing in his ears and a controlled, clinical performance nowhere in sight, he will have to act quickly to remind everyone of his qualities.

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