Lazio are flying high again – but are they too dependent on Ciro Immobile?


It never ceases to amaze how quickly moods shift and narratives change in football.

This time last week, the critics were sharpening their knives as Lazio headed back from Glasgow, having thrown away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 for the third time this season against Celtic.

It extended the club’s winless run to three games and left the Biancocelesti with a fairly bleak outlook in Serie A and in the Europa League.

But a 2-1 win away to Fiorentina on Sunday was followed by the capital club’s best performance of the season on Wednesday, as they blew away Torino with a magnificent 4-0 victory in Rome.

Six points later, things look a lot rosier. Lazio are just one point outside the Champions League places they covet so much.

Simone Inzaghi’s side now have the joint-most clean sheets in the league (4), the second-highest number of goals (22) and the second-best goal difference (+12).

But perhaps most importantly, they have Ciro Immobile, the hottest striker in Italy right now.

Immobile scored another two goals against Torino, sending him four clear at the top of the Serie A scoring charts with 12 in total.

Not only that, but he has the joint-third most assists in the league this season with four, behind only team-mate Luis Alberto (6) and Parma’s Dejan Kulusevski (5).

The Italy international now has 99 goals for his club. He’s at No.6 in Lazio’s all-time scoring charts for now, but those above him are likely to be picked off sooner or later.

Tommaso Rocchi (105) and Bruno Giordano (108) should be easy prey, but even club legends Giorgio Chinaglia (122), Giuseppe Signori (127) and Silvio Piola (159) have reason to worry.

Immobile’s recent form has been remarkable, bagging eight goals and three assists in his last five league games.

But it has, once again, raised a question familiar to Laziali over whether Inzaghi’s side are too reliant on their star man.

After all, only six of Lazio’s 22 league goals this season haven’t involved the striker.

Joaquin Correa’s wastefulness issue may have eased recently with two goals in his last two starts, but the Argentine is far from being a reliable goalscorer.

The same can be said for Felipe Caicedo, the kind of striker who makes those around him play better but is too unselfish to be considered a true number nine.

Lazio are a far more dangerous prospect with Immobile in the team. Although Inzaghi’s surprising decision to bench him for the trip to Inter at the end of the September was justified through his side’s first half performance, the game nevertheless ended in a 1-0 defeat.

The only other times Immobile has been dropped from the starting line-up were the 2-1 defeats to Cluj and Celtic in the Europa League.

Lazio have lost four games this season – three of them when Immobile wasn’t there to lead the attack from the first whistle.

However, this argument is nothing new. In fact, the club have lacked a valid alternative to the striker for almost his entire time at the club.

The 29-year-old’s consistency is perhaps his most impressive attribute and Inzaghi knows he can rely on his main man to keep banging in the goals.

There is no doubt that Lazio would suffer considerably were he to pick up an injury. But there’s also no doubt that they can dream big when their talisman is in this kind of form.

Lazio’s success ebbs and flows along with Immobile’s. His best season, scoring 41 goals in 2017/18, took the club to the brink of Champions League qualification before an agonising final day defeat to Inter. Not to mention to within 20 minutes of the Europa League semi-finals.

His tally of 19 goals last season was, by his standards, a drop-off. Lo and behold, Lazio paid for it with an eight-place finish.

This season, he is three goals off matching his tally from last term before Halloween has even arrived.

Immobile leads this team. He dictates how they perform and, ultimately, how much success they have.

And if he can continue this incredible hot streak throughout the season, a top four finish might become more than just a feverish dream for the Aquile.

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