Serie A Game of the Week – Round 38: Lazio vs Inter


A clear-cut choice this week for game of the week, as Lazio-Inter was simply one of the most dramatic and flat-out best matches of the season and obviously had a lot of stake. The Nerazzurri had just one result to qualify to the next Champions League and they had to win on the road against a team that has arguably performed better all year long. However, showing great character and determination and seizing the opportunities presented to them, they were successful.  Continue reading

Lazio’s missed moves showed at an inopportune time


On Wednesday, Lazio were playing a brilliant game against the Scudetto candidate Napoli: they were more than holding their own against Serie A’s most prolific attack and they had found the first goal thanks to Stefan De Vrij. Biancocelesti are no strangers to strong performances against the top teams, as they showed in the Supercoppa against Juventus.

However, at half time, the Dutch centre-back left the game because of a hamstring problem that already affected him in the previous fixture. They had already lost Bastos after 25 minutes because of a muscular issue. With only one pure centre-back available, Stefan Radu, Simone Inzaghi deployed Lucas Leiva and Dusan Basta in the three-man defence, but Napoli took immediately advantage and feasted on the weakened line, scoring three goals in five minutes. To make things worse, Basta was later forced out of the game with an injury as well and a penalty by Jorginho rounded up the score to the final 1-4.

Losing three defenders in the same night is obviously an extremely unlucky situation and Wallace was already on the shelf with a soft tissue ailment. However, it showed a fundamental issue of their roster: in the summer, they sold Wesley Hoedt to Southampton for €17M, but never replaced him, hoping that four pure centre-backs would be enough to cope with the busy schedules. They simply kept the Brazilian youngster Luiz Felipe on the roster as an emergency option, but he barely played last season at Salernitana in Serie B in his first year in Italy. They long courted Milan’s Gabriel Paletta and other defenders, but they were unable to find a deal they were satisfied with. The president Claudio Lotito is well-known for his stinginess and for being a tough negotiator, but they could end up paying the price for the lack of signings.

De Vrij avoided major injuries and will likely miss only a couple of games, while Wallace, Bastos and Basta will be out for a month or even more. The Serbian right back will be replaced by newcomer Adam Marusic and Patric, who can adequately cover the whole flank, but neither has Basta’s ability and experience as right centre-back. Lucas Leiva was horrendous in De Vrij’s spot, but right now he is their only option there: the coach will have to scramble to come up with an adequate XI. They will face Hellas Verona and Sassuolo before the break.

The readymade solution would be to re-integrate Mauricio, who was not in the initial 25-man squad for Serie A and has been training along the other excluded players like Federico Marchetti and Brayan Perea, but can be inserted replacing somebody else, likely the youngster Luca Crecco. They had every intention of selling the Brazilian defender this summer after a loan spell at Spartak Moscow, but they could not find a buyer. His stint at Lazio has been disappointing, riddled with blunders and injuries. The alternatives in the free agent market, such as Reto Ziegler, Sebastien Bassong, Joleon Lescott, Modibo Diakitè and Chico are not particularly appealing and especially they would all require some time to be up to speed conditioning-wise. Inzaghi might be soon forced to ditch the three-man defence that have given them great success: they do not have the horses to pull off a convincing 4-3-3 yet, but Luis Nani is now healthy and Felipe Anderson has resumed practicing with the rest of the group.

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Lazio in big offensive troubles


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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Impressive Euro 2016 campaign sees Nani move to Valencia

Luis Nani Portugal

Portugal and Fenerbahce forward Luis Nani has signed a three-year deal with Spanish La Liga side Valencia for around £7M. The former Manchester United man has turned his fledging career around following positive showings for his country in Euro 2016, and is likely to remain at the Mestalla Stadium past his 31st birthday.

A Valencia statement read: “Valencia Club de Futbol have reached an agreement with Portuguese international Luis Carlos Almeida – ‘Nani’ – for the player to join the club for the next three seasons.” Nani scored 12 goals in 46 games for the Turkish club, impressing a lot in the Super Lig, but has been keen for a return to a club with higher European stature.

For Portugal this summer, Nani has been operating as more of a striker alongside Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and has flourished with his ex-United teammate. Still boasting explosive pace and showcasing a good eye for goal, Nani still has plenty to offer in his advancing age and could prove to be a bargain for Valencia in the coming season.

The 29-year-old was linked with Premier League side Stoke City this summer, but has opted for the Spanish La Liga which will perhaps be physically easy to combat. His form was always sporadic in England, and given Stoke are a side still on the periphery in the top-flight, a move to Valencia while Nani’s still in favour makes sense from a career progression point of view.

He’s still got international duties to worry about, however, with his Portugal side facing Wales at the Stade des Lumières in Wednesday’s Euro 2016 semi-final. Nani is expected to retain his starting place in the attack, having scored and created three goals in five games, while proving himself as a reliable frontman.

For Portugal, he’s hit the target with 38% of his shots in the tournament, and has shown a new dimension to his game by becoming more of an aerial threat (10 headed shots). Valencia might juggle where best to play Nani as he has impressed as a makeshift striker, but would likely need a partner to hold up the ball and work attacking moves with.

Two-footed, capable of whipping balls in from wide areas, while being comfortable to come inside and create scoring opportunities for himself or temamates, it’s not hard to see why Valencia have signed Luis Nani from Fenerbahce this summer, but whether or not the gamble works will be answers in the coming campaign.

Nani’s stay in the Premier League looks to be finally over

Manchester United winger Luis Nani is reportedly set to sign for Fenerbahce this summer, according to the club in question. The Turkish Super Lig side said on their official Twitter account: “Fenerbahce has begun talks with Luis Nani and his club Manchester United to transfer the player. Nani will be in Istanbul on Sunday for a medical check up.”

Should the deal go through as expected, it would end an eight-year association at Old Trafford for the Portuguese international, and caps a bittersweet career with the Red Devils. Nani promised so much in his time at the club, showcasing quick-feet, an eye for goal, while bursting with creativity. However, he failed to remain consistent, and saw his stock plummet.

The last three seasons of his career with Manchester United have seen Nani make just 23 league appearances in total. He spent the 2014/15 campaign on loan with boyhood club Sporting CP, and enjoyed good form back in his native Portugal, but it wasn’t enough to earn him a place in the United team. New manager Louis van Gaal was quick to dismiss a number of long-serving stars, and Nani’s exit will come as a relief to the majority.

He’s struggled with the Premier League giants for many years, and admitted his loan move away was a positive change from the negativity of a fledging career in England. However, Sporting didn’t appear to have the money to sign Nani on a permanent deal, and Turkish title-chasers Fenerbahce are expected to be the 28-year-old’s next destination for the new season.

Nani’s impressive form while out on loan did threaten to see a reprieve, however, with Van Gaal admitting back in April that he was paying close attention to how his players were getting on with their new clubs. He said at the time: “We also think about the scouting of our own players, and then we have to analyse their performances, so it’s a lot of work. It’s not only the present season but also what we have to decide for players next season.”

But the expensive Portugal winger wasn’t deemed worth keeping, with Manchester United likely to use his funds for a host of summer signings. With the likes of Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata and Ashley Young all playing a role in the side’s top-four success, Nani had a task to force his way back into the team. He’s finally leaving the club, but hardly onto greener pastures in Turkey.