You can’t escape a creeping feeling of positivity in Rome right now.
The turn of the year has refreshed the flagging optimism of some fans, the sun has begun to emerge from hibernation and the return of Serie A is just around the corner.
Additionally, Lazio’s 4-1 win over Novara last weekend secured the Roman club a Coppa Italia quarter-final against Inter and saw the likes of Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic show further hints that they are finally returning to their best form.
The transfer market has opened and sporting director Igli Tare has started to deliver on his vow to trim the squad down to size, finding loan moves for three promising youngsters in need of game time as Joseph Minala returned to Salernitana and Venezia brought in both Alessandro Rossi and Cristiano Lombardi. Continue reading →
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 →
Simone Inzaghi has certainly got a sense of timing.
The Lazio coach has had a tough month, leading his players through the worst period of form he has overseen during his two-and-a-half-year spell in charge; four draws and three defeats in their last seven games.
The slump has soured the mood in the capital at a time of year that should be filled with festive cheer, but Inzaghi’s decision to finally tinker with a new formation may have come at the perfect moment.
In training this week, a 4-3-2-1 ‘Christmas Tree’ system has been trialled, quite fitting with 25 December so close at hand.
Coming off a narrow defeat against Atalanta, Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio are now winless in their last seven in all competitions and still trail Milan in fourth despite having played one more game than their counterparts. With Roma, Sampdoria, Sassuolo and now Atalanta closing in on them, the biancocelesti are in need of a change, otherwise Champions League football will become a distant dream.
While Ciro Immobile has still found the back of the net regularly, goals have been hard to come by at the Stadio Olimpico. In fact, Lazio’s 22 goals in Serie A represent the fewest of any side in Italy’s top ten this season. Factor in a mere four clean sheets in all competitions, and it’s clear Inzaghi’s men are struggling on both ends.
Inzaghi has previously resorted to taking the side into a ritiro, a mid-season punitive training camp,a common tactic among Italian tacticians; and yet, their issues persist. Star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic continues to struggle in the middle of the park with one goal in 15 appearances while only Joaquin Correa has made an impact from their summer signings.
Winless in their last four going into Saturday’s clash against Sampdoria, Lazio needed to rebound at home. After a dubious stoppage time penalty shot from Ciro Immobile put the hosts ahead late, it seemed like it would finally be their day. Yet, in the 99th minute, a headed-on long ball found its path to an onrushing Riccardo Saponara who expertly lobbed Strakosha with a deft touch, stripping the biancocelesti of the three points. The draw was Lazio’s fourth consecutive and sees the side trailing an injury-riddled Milan by a point for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Lazio’s struggles haven’t gone unnoticed in the peninsula leading Simone Inzaghi to the hot-seat. With Champions League football as the objective, the Italian tactician is facing pressure for the first time since taking over in the nation’s capital. Throughout this poor stretch, the biancocelesti have largely been wasteful in front of goal, averaging a mere goal a game. Outside of their talisman Immobile, no player on the team has more than three Serie A goals, leading many to believe they’re a one-man show in the final third. Despite their struggles, Lotito has assured the fans Inzaghi is here to stay.
“The coach will be here for the next few years. We’ve put a lot of things in place to grow the club and it can happen that some games don’t go in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean catastrophes or broken relationships,” said the Lazio president.
When it goes wrong it’s easy to scapegoat the manager but both Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto have been shadows of their former selves and have been wholly ineffective in the final phase, whereas last season they were key contributors. While the Serbian’s price-tag was quoted near the 100 million mark just this summer, Lazio president Claudio Lotito will be lucky to recoup even half of that if he keeps performing like this. Luis Alberto, on the other hand, has failed to follow up his debut season in Serie A and has suffered from the same inconsistency problems that plagued him earlier in his career.
The message was clear – this is not a punishment, but a moment to address the elephant in the room.
Lazio’s failure to beat rock-bottom Chievo last weekend, a game that they needed to come from behind to take a point from, sparked an inevitable wave of criticism and pushed the club hierarchy into calling the first ‘ritiro’ of Simone Inzaghi’s reign.
It was the capital club’s third league draw in a row, with a dismal Europa League defeat to Apollon Limassol coming between those results, and came at a cost as Milan leapfrogged the Biancocelesti into the fourth and final Champions League spot they are so desperate to make their own. Continue reading →
With an injury-riddled Milan coming into the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, Lazio have to take full advantage and extend their lead in fourth place over the rossoneri by four points. As Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia Caldara and Mateo Musacchio can only look on from the sideline, Lazio talisman Ciro Immobile will look to have a field day against a makeshift Milandefence.
While, as of late, Milan have had Lazio’s number, remaining undefeated against them in their last three clashes, Gennaro Gattuso’s side face a tall task in the nation’s capital this time around. Going into the game without their first choice centre-back pairing as well as Giacomo Bonaventura and Gonzalo Higuain among other notable absentees, the rossoneri are reportedly resorting to a subdued 4-4-1-1 with Calhanoglu pairing Cutrone in attack. Lazio, by contrast, will be at full strength, and will likely field their usual 3-5-1-1 with Luis Alberto playing behind Ciro Immobile.
After a relatively inconsistent start to the season, Lazio have since picked up form, only losing once in their last seven games in all competitions. This upturn in form has seen them leapfrog both Milan and Roma in the standings for the fourth and final Champions League spot, something Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi will be holding onto dearly. After all, missing out on Europe’s elite competition last season meant stalwart defender Stefan de Vrij joined Inter in the summer.
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.
After spending one season away from the club on loan at Benevento, Danilo Cataldi has grown leaps and bounds and is now ready to compete for a starting spot in the nation’s capital. The 24-year-old was always seen among the best in his class from a young age, yet failed to progress his game in recent years. Equally capable of picking a pass or firing from range, Cataldi’s skill-set is undoubtedly something Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi will look to utilize as his side competes on three fronts.
Despite his improvements, Cataldi found playing time hard to come by since returning to Lazio, and was mainly used off the bench. Considering the experience of Lucas Leiva, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Marco Parolo and their familiarity with Inzaghi’s system, this came as no surprise. Up until today’s game against Spal, Cataldi was yet to start a game in league play and had to make do with cameo appearances. However, expect that to change in the coming weeks.
The Roman sky opened, emptying torrents of rain onto the Stadio Olimpico turf as powerful gusts of wind swept sheets of water into the stands.
The brave Lazio faithful bearing the brunt of this assault on Monday night, who had struggled through the elements to support their team, were soon left wondering why they had bothered.
After all, what they were witnessing was nothing more than an echo, the continuation of a long-running and familiar pattern that threatens to stall the progress that has been made at the capital club under Simone Inzaghi.
Before Lazio’s clash against Inter, where they had the chance to move third in Serie A, the Aquile had begun to construct a reputation as big-game bottlers. Continue reading →