Five New Year’s resolutions for Lazio in 2019

Lazio v Salzburg - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Stadio Olimpico

Lazio enter the new year with a spring in their step, having rediscovered a winning formula and returned to the top four in time for bells.

But before they return to competitive action with the visit of Novara in the Coppa Italia on Saturday, here are some suggested resolutions that would make the year ahead a memorable one for Simone Inzaghi and his players.

Reach the Champions League

The undisputed No.1 target for the club is to achieve the goal that so agonisingly eluded them on the final day of the 2017/18 season: qualify for the Champions League. It has been 11 years now since the club’s fans have been able to hear the famous anthem ring around the Stadio Olimpico in the group stage, with some near misses coming in the interim period. Continue reading

Struggling Lazio must channel Francesco Acerbi’s warrior spirit

Lazio v SPAL Serie A 4/11/2018.

Francesco Acerbi is a man on a mission.

The centre-back is the dictionary definition of an ever-present, a player with a warrior spirit who refuses to yield an inch of grass on the pitch – or a single minute of game time.

The 30-year-old had a seemingly tough task ahead of him when he arrived at Lazio from Sassuolo in the summer as the chosen successor to Stefan De Vrij, one of the greatest defenders to have pulled on a sky-blue shirt in at least a decade.

Within a matter of weeks, the Dutchman was a distant memory.

Perhaps the greatest compliment Acerbi can be paid for his adaptation to life at one of Continue reading

Does Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp avoid pressure on job due to media love in?

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Jurgen Klopp is probably one of the most friendliest and down to Earth managers in the game today. If we think of the German, manager of Liverpool our thoughts are immediate: His smile, laughter and his set of perfect teeth. He is a dedicated football man who wants nothing more than to win trophies- but after 3 seasons at Liverpool he has failed in that department. Why is it then that Klopp for the most part has avoided any pressure on his job despite spending hundreds of millions on players?

A certain Jose Mourinho at Liverpool must feel dumbfounded at times at the pressure on him, which is pretty much constant despite winning 2 major trophies with Manchester United since he joined the club in 2015. The Red Devils also put in a solid season last, no trophies but finishing 2nd to perhaps the greatest side ever to grace the Premier League in Manchester City. As others have pointed out most other seasons and United would have been champions with the points that had been amassed.

What gives then? Why do certain managers feel the wrath of pressure when failing when others don’t when doing the same thing? Think of Mourinho like we just have with Klopp, what comes into your mind? Mourinho comes across as glum, downtrodden, he hardly breaks a smile even when his team wins and he is critical of players through the press. And this seems to be one of the redeeming answers, Klopp doesn’t get the back pages attacking him because the media love him.

And the media are in love with him because in almost every press conference he is smiling and happy go lucky. At times it seems like the real Liverpool manager is waiting in the wings whilst Klopp kicks off the show with a comedy routine. He is infectious and a real charmer. Think of when he was caught smoking a year or so back by a paparazzi photographer. The news was forgotten within 24 hours, now imagine that was Mourinho or Pep Guardiola, or the new Arsenal boss Unai Emery- that photo and story would run for years. England loves Klopp and Klopp loves England, and that is all very well.

However surely Klopp’s time at Liverpool will be remembered for reaching cup finals and losing. A Champions League last season and a Europa League defeat a few seasons back are evidence. It is incredible with the way Liverpool have invested and played how they have nothing to show for it apart from some memorable games and goals.

One hopes that Klopp stays around in the Premier League, football needs more of him- but at the same time isn’t it time to start passing judgment on how his record as a coach will stand at Liverpool?

Resurgence of forgotten man Danilo Cataldi indicative of Lazio’s improved squad depth

Danilo Cataldi

The scars of the 2017/18 season finale will take some time to heal for Lazio fans.

A final-day collapse to Inter saw the Roman club throw away a Champions League spot, before star defender Stefan de Vrij headed to their conquerors on a free transfer, soon to be joined in the departure lounge by West Ham-bound Felipe Anderson.

This came little over a month after the Aquile had conceded three goals in four minutes to throw away a Europa League semi-final place to RB Salzburg.

Inevitably, you didn’t need to venture far at the time to find the usual forecasts of doom and decline as Lazio looked to avoid being stripped of assets like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto.

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Gattuso finally gets it right for Milan with two crucial substitutions

The Rossoneri were expected to grab all three points against Olympiacos at San Siro earlier this evening with relative ease. However, as became evident during the game, it was easier said than done, much due to the Rossoneri’s wasteful approach in front of goal. 

However, as opposed to what we saw at the start of the season, Milan didn’t exactly crumble in the first 20 minutes, instead they took charge of the game quite easily. In fact, they could have taken the lead already after five minutes as Bonaventura headed Suso’s cross beautifully, though Castillejo, who was in an offside position, decided to get the final touch to deny the goal. Continue reading

Europa League is of utmost importance to Arsenal

Arsenal’s entire season came down to the Europa League last term. Who knows, had the Gunners progressed past Atletico Madrid in the semi finals and gone on to win the competition, qualifying for the Champions League, Arsene Wenger might well have stayed beyond the summer.

Indeed, the 2017/18 campaign hinged on Arsenal’s success or failure in European club football’s second tier tournament. It became clear early on in the season that they would miss out on a place in the Premier League’s top four and so the Europa League became the most realistic route back into the Champions League.

Alexandre Lacazette

The Gunners find themselves in a not too dissimilar position this season. The Unai Emery age at the club has got off to a slow start with many of the problems experienced under Wenger still evident under the new manager. Finishing in the top four this season might be beyond Arsenal once again.

Emery is a proven winner at Europa League level, winning the competition no fewer than three times during his spell as Sevilla manager. This will be encouraging to Arsenal, who would regain entry to the Champions League should Emery win the competition for a fourth time in his career.

But the Europa League has to be about more than just qualifying for the Champions League for Arsenal. This is a team that has lost its winning mentality. This is a club that has now gone 14 years without winning a major honour. They might have won a few FA Cups in that time, but the Gunners find themselves cut adrift from the top of the sport both in terms of results and spirit.

This is where Emery must use the Europa League to foster a new mentality for a club that has lost its way in recent years. Look at the way Jose Mourinho used the competition two seasons ago to harden the minds of his players. Sure, qualifying for the Champions League might have been the carrot Manchester United chasing, but winning the Europa League was seen as part of a larger project.

Arsenal start their Europa League group stage campaign against Vorskla of Ukraine on Thursday. For a game of this type, against an opponent of this calibre, the Emirates Stadium will most likely be subdued. There will be a number of empty seats. But Emery can’t allow this to dull the approach of his players.

This is a chance for the Gunners to build some momentum and make some progress on untangling the mediocrity of the last 10 years. Many focus on things like personnel, signings and tactics when looking at how Arsenal have fallen away from the top level of late. But it has as much to do with the culture around the club. Emery must use the Europa League to address that. That’s where the real benefit of winning the competition would be.

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Antoine Griezmann is right to question football awards ceremonies

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First it was the UEFA player of the year that featured no Frenchmen in their 3 man short list even though the award also included international performances. Then it was a FIFA award named Best that picked out the same short listed players as with the UEFA award, now French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann is worried that him or other French players will not be selected for the biggest prize- FIFA’s World Player of the Year which will be announced in December.

Whilst it is jarring that a player comes out to say he deserves to be on the short list, in Griezmann’s case he does have a valid point. Not only did Griezmann win the World Cup this year, he also scored important goals in the competition and played extremely well in the knock out stages.

For his club Atletico Madrid he won the Europa League and the European Super Cup after his side beat their eternal nemesis Real Madrid 4-2. He also scored 29 goals in all competitions, in short Griezmann has had the best season of his career. It seems slightly bizarre that such a player who has indeed been consistent in prior years is not even on the short list when it comes to awards.

Of the players that did make it we have two from Real Madrid- Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo. Modric has won 2 awards out of two now, three if you count he won the FIFA World Cup best player of tournament award. This after he admittingly played very well with Croatia, but they didn’t, in the end, win the tournament. With the other awards it was at least refreshing that Modric beat Ronaldo the expected winner.

Rounding off the short list was Liverpool’s Mohamed Saleh a player that has had a stunning season for the Premier League side goals wise netting 44 goals last season in all competitions. Ultimately though despite Liverpool reaching a Champions League final Saleh won nothing with them last season. To be selected above Griezmann makes very little sense. In truth one could say that Saleh doesn’t even deserve to be in the top 8.

Griezmann said on learning of the short list awards “It’s weird and a pity, this is a trophy that’s awarded by FIFA, right? We won a World Cup and there’s no Frenchman on the shortlist. That’s the choice, but it’s surprising.”

And of the other Frenchmen we could point to a few namely Raphael Varane who was superb in the back four and won of course the Champions League with Real Madrid. And then there is the case of Kylian Mbappe a story that is so entangled in politics it makes little sense. Imagine if you will Ronaldo or Lionel Messi winning the domestic treble, then scoring crucial knock out goals in the World Cup, then scoring in a World Cup final and winning it, and there you have your winner. That is what Mbappe has done and one has to wonder if being 19 is actually a fault against him impressing the voters.

Very much like Griezmann before him, Mbappe not even making the short list of these awards makes them look like a joke. Let’s hope FIFA get the voting right in a few months time and start awarding players that actually win the biggest prizes.

Can Chelsea win the Europa League this season?

The Europa League is a notoriously difficult competition to predict. Unlike the Champions League, the continent’s junior competition does not feature the same old names year after year. It is an eclectic mix of big clubs who have fallen on (relatively) hard times, smaller ones embarking on a rare European adventure and those who are regular participants due to their consistent success at domestic level.

Picking a winner is further complicated by the entrance of eight Champions League clubs between the group phase and knockout rounds; in recent years, Atletico Madrid (winners in 2017/18), Tottenham (2016/17) and Manchester United (2015/16) are among the major sides to have joined the tournament through this back-door route.

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Premier League player to watch: Lucas Torreira (Arsenal)

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With the Premier League season kicking off not long ago, a number of football fans will either be filled with pure joy and excitement or a lack of hope and enthusiasm. A number of clubs in England have been quite active during the transfer window, with a lot of incomings as well as outgoings as the upcoming campaign is hyped up to be one of the best seasons ever in English football.

Arsenal were one of the many teams who had an impressive, a club who are gearing up for a new era and a fresh beginning, as they look to cherish the immense moments that former manager Arsene Wenger had produced during his 22 years at Emirates Stadium. Now, they will without a doubt be looking ahead to what the future brings to them under the new coach in Unai Emery.

The Gunners brought in the likes of – Bernd Leno, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Sokratis Papastathopulos and Stephan Lichsteiner. Although these individuals may not be the best players within their respective position, on the other hand, they are the names that Arsenal badly needed in the squad as a whole, whether they will play their role as a regular starter or as a pure squad player.

It’s time to turn the focus on to Torreira, who became a popular figure last year at Serie A side Sampdoria, as he went on to regularly show his intelligence on and off the ball as well his impeccable positional awareness that allows his team-mates to roam further up the pitch. Also, the no-nonsense midfielder and his recent rise earned him a call up to Uruguay’s squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Despite his move to England and his lack of experience at the highest level of football, the 22-year-old is seen as the ideal defensive-midfielder that fits into Unai Emery’s system. On top of that, his range of passing is something that is really underappreciated although it was witnessed from time to time during the World Cup in Russia as his national team went on to reach the Quarter-finals.

Looking ahead to Arsenal’s exciting campaign, the 2018-19 season is there for Torreira to make a huge name for himself whilst aiming to stamp a marker down as one of the best players in Europe within his respective position. Although he may lack the ideal height, it should not be a huge problem as the likes of Manuel Lanzini and N’Golo Kante have shown that size does not matter.

If he is able to prevent the Gunners from conceding a lot of goals on the counter and providesthe perfect protection in front of the backline, then you could expect Emery’s men to have a huge chance of finishing in the top four as well as seriously challenging for the Europa League trophy. This would also allow the club to be seen as one of England’s best teams rather than a laughing stock.

Overall, Lucas Torreira completed his move to Emirates Stadium for a fee of £26million without any second thoughts, which could potentially prove to be one of the Premier League signings of the season. With Emery bringing his style of play to the club and chief scout Sven Mislintat getting the job done off the pitch, Arsenal football club have a lot of things to look forward to in the long run.

Serie A Weekly News Recap

Alisson Becker

It was a quieter week on the transfer market front, but a ginormous deal still went down as Roma sold Alisson to Liverpool. Milan will participate to Europa League as they won the appeal in front of the CAS. Parma and Chievo are still awaiting judgement on the trials that have put their Serie A stay in danger.

SPAL made a considerable investment to bring in Andrea Petagna from Atalanta, who would cost €15M if they avoided relegation, therefore triggering the obligation to buy. They had signed a similar striker in Marco Borriello last year, but that did not pay off. Continue reading