This Serie A season has been an interesting campaign, with both Juventus and Napoli still fighting it out for the title, while the race for the champions league spots is still on with Lazio, Roma and Inter. Gattuso has also come in to rejuvenate AC Milan after a disastrous first half of the season, which saw Montella get the boot.
However, one of the most impressive side of the Serie A this campaign has been Lazio. They continue from where they left last season by staying in contention for a top four, despite a limited budget and losing several key players last summer. They have managed to beat off competition from AC Milan who spent a fortune last summer after being bought by Chinese owners. They are currently locked in a three team battle with Roma and Inter for the final champions League spots, despite having less finances compared to those two. One man remains at the center of it all – Simone Inzaghi – Finally stepping out of his brother’s shadow and his getting deserved plaudits.
When he was finally given the job on a full time basis, Inzaghi, who replaced Marcelo Bielsa after the Chilean’s short stint with the Rome based club, wasn’t a popular choice. But it has proven a good decision from the board so far. In his first full season as Lazio manager, he almost took them to the Champions league, but ultimately finished fifth in the league.
This year however, they were expected to struggle even further, after losing star players Candreva (Inter), Balde (Monaco), Bilgia (AC Milan) without the financial power to challenge. Many predicted Juventus, Napoli, Roma and the Milan clubs to be the challengers, but Inzaghi and Lazio had other ideas.
First with Lazio knowing they lack the finances to bring in top players, they employed a model that has brought success for rivals Juventus, Roma and Sevilla – signing players who are surplus to requirements at other clubs. They signed the likes of Lucas Leiva from Liverpool, Luis Nani from Valencia and some other young talented players to replace the players they lost, bringing them success both in the Serie A and Europe. Lucas Leiva for one has slot in easily and has been a mainstay of their team this season with 36 appearances in all competitions and has four goals to his name. He also has five assists and averages 2.8 tackles per game (whoscored.com).
Nevertheless one of the main reason why Lazio have also been impressive this season is because of Inzaghi’s tactical nous and in game management. Simone has shown so far that he pays attention to tactics and is ready to adapt so many tactics, depending on the opponent. He has used a number of formations since he arrived ranging from 4-3-2-1 to 5-3-2 to 3-5-2, but has favoured the 3-5-1-1 formation so far this season. In this formation he plays three at the back with Stefan De Vrij, Radu and Bastos while Lucas holds the defensive Midfielder role, vacated by Bilgia. Milinkovic Savic and Parolo acts as the two Central midfielders while the wing backs acts as the wide midfielders.
This formation allows Savic And Alberto who play behind Immobile to most times to alter positions. It is worth noting that Milinkovic Savic has been brilliant for Lazio this season. He has played mostly in the middle of the park this season so far for Lazio a role Pogba played during his time in Juventus, which is no surprise to see him linked to Manchester United as a potential Pogba replacement. With Parolo, he shares an understanding and they have 17 goals and 11 assists between them this season.
The ability of Inzaghi to adapt styles and players who were rejects at other clubs has been nothing short of spectacular. We Hail teams like Monaco, Roma and Sevilla for rebuilding or developing fledgling careers, but it’s worth noting that asides Nani and Lucas, Luis Alberto and Immobile, now flourishing as superstars failed at Liverpool and Dortmund respectively. Their success must be somehow down to Inzaghi who has turned them into 2 of the best in Europe this season. Alberto in particular always had talent, what his coach has done with him is give him confidence to express himself and freedom to play and make mistakes. We all know what a coach’ confidence does for a player.
Even though Inzaghi has proven to be a tactically aware manager, much of Lazio’s success has been down to Ciro Immobile incredible with 29 goals in the Serie A this season as at the time of writing the piece. He is currently in the 4th position in the race for the Golden shoe this season. His attacking partner Luis Alberto has also been in brilliant form this season with 11 goals and 12 assists in the Italian top flight. Currently Lazio are the highest scoring team in the Italian top flight with Table toppers Juventus in second place, showing their clinicality going forward this season.
Though they suffered a Europa League setback last week but that shouldn’t take anything away from how brilliant they have been this season – especially their coach who is definitely one to watch. With Top teams needing new managers this season, he deserves a shot.
However, all is not done and dusted in terms of top four this season, with Lazio playing Inter on the last day. Nonetheless, they are definitely favorites to get one of the two remaining Champions League spots.