Lazio’s sensational form is no coincidence – they’ve fixed two long-standing issues


Nothing beats a late winner.

That’s what Lazio have learned lately, most recently when Felipe Caicedo swivelled his hips and fired a shot into the bottom corner to snatch victory at Sassuolo last weekend.

It was a crucial goal, one that saw the capital club pull two points clear of Roma and Cagliari in third place and continue their outstanding domestic form with a fifth consecutive Serie A victory.

But after the dust settled, there was another great positive to take from the game.

It was the third time in the course of that five-match streak that Lazio found a winner in the final 10 minutes of a game, highlighting their newfound grinta, or grit and determination - a quality that has been lacking at times under Simone Inzaghi.

Yes, there will be those who argue that a team like Lazio should make life more comfortable for themselves. That they shouldn’t be relying on dramatic late action to take three points from teams like Sassuolo.

But maintaining the conviction and the composure to find a win at the death is something this club has struggled with in the very recent past.

Back in September, Inzaghi and his players faced a barrage of criticism after they threw away the lead to lose 2-1 against SPAL in Serie A and Cluj in the Europa League within the space of four days.

It was SPAL who snatched the injury-time winner then, as Lazio faded out of the game, and Cluj found their crucial goal as the game entered the final 15 minutes.

But the reaction to those limp performances has been terrific and as December arrives, it’s easy to argue that Lazio haven’t been outplayed at any stage this season.

In Europe, they’ve been in a position to win every game they’ve lost, only to surrender leads. The same can be said for the SPAL defeat, while their only other league loss came against Inter, in a balanced game that they had plenty of opportunities to take something from.

But the late goals against Fiorentina, AC Milan and Sassuolo show another side to this team; a winning, big-team mentality.  

The most league games the Biancocelesti have won in the final 10 minutes under Inzaghi was four in the 2016/17 season. With just one third of this season gone, they are one victory away from matching that tally.

As well as showing they have the fighting spirit needed to pick up vital points in the Champions League race, the Aquile have also started to change the narrative about their soft-bellied defence.

Inzaghi’s team of 2017/18 were terrific to watch and scored the most goals in Serie A, but conceded far too many – 49 – and it ultimately cost them in their top four chase.

That improved marginally last season, when they conceded 46, but Lazio were far less incisive and clinical in attack.

This term, a balance has been struck where the attack is still one of Italy’s most lethal but defensive security hasn’t been sacrificed. To demonstrate, you need look no further than their +16 goal difference, which is second only to Inter.

Also, the Lazio defence has conceded just 47% of shots on goal from inside the box this season, limiting the opposition to pop shots from distance more often than not.

In Europe’s top five leagues, that percentage is only bettered by Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid on 46%.

The balance that Lazio have struck lately, both tactically and mentally, has been behind their superb run. 

They showed on Thursday that winning is a habit, too, with a heavily rotated side managing to survive a second half onslaught to hold on for a clean sheet and beat Cluj 1-0 to keep their Europa League qualification hopes alive.

Going into the match, Lazio had surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 in three of their four group games.

While it wasn’t a complete performance, and they rode their luck at times, they still came away with the result they needed – a trait that will serve them well at home and abroad.

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