Monday October 9 2017
Immobile’s new lease of life

As Ciro Immobile prepares to lead the line for Italy against Albania, Greg Murray looks at the striker’s recent resurgence.

As recently as 2016, Ciro Immobile had been consigned to the scrapheap of Italian strikers who failed to reach their potential. Consequently, his transfer to Lazio that summer raised a few eyebrows, especially as the Italian was arriving as a direct replacement for the retiring legend, Miroslav Klose. However, after just one season Immobile had repaid the faith placed on him by the Aquile, and he has already hit the ground running this campaign.

Having been picked up by the Juventus youth team aged 17, Immobile burst on the scene on the other side of Turin. In what was just his second full Serie A season, the striker broke Torino’s goals-per-season record, his 22 strikes earning him the converted Capocannoniere award. Many touted the player as the future of La Nazionale, and when Borussia Dortmund approached Torino with a €18 million bid, it was assumed his career was just taking off.

As it turned out though, the move to Germany was a step too far for the Campanian forward, who struggled under competition from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adrian Ramos. After scoring just three league goals in his first season, Immobile was loaned to Sevilla, with an obligation to buy after four games.

Once again, the forward found himself third in the pecking order, this time behind Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Llorente. Following a poor season, Immobile was dismissed as yet another ‘future Azzurri striker’ that had fallen by the wayside, joining Mario Balotelli, Mattia Destro and Fabio Borini.

It was in a last-ditch attempt to resurrect his career that Immobile returned on loan to Torino, in the January of 2016. Although he by no means set the world alight, five goals from 14 appearances by the end of the season was enough for Lazio to take a €9 million gamble on the then-26-year-old.

Fast forward one season, and it is clear the gamble paid off. Played as a lone striker for much of the campaign, Immobile finished the season with one more goal than his break out season at Torino, although sixth in the Serie A goal charts. The striker’s form has continued into the national team, where the forward is Italy’s top scorer in the World Cup Qualifiers with six goals in his last eight games.

As impressive as Immobile was in Lazio’s last campaign, he has started this season on a much higher level.  With seven league games played, the Italian has scored nine times, just one less than Paulo Dybala who’s form has seen him touted as the next Lionel Messi.

It is not just his goal ratio that Immobile has improved, with his whole game seeing a marked improvement for last season. For example, the forward already has as many assists as his total last season, meaning that he has either scored or assisted in the last nine out Lazio’s ten games this season.

Less likely to make the headlines, the striker’s link up play has markedly improved so far this season. Although a forward will always eventually be judged on goals, the fact that Immobile’s pass accuracy has risen by 5 per cent shows an overall increase in quality. Moreover, with stats suggesting that he has been winning on average 20 per cent more duels this season, his influence in Biancocelesti is ever-increasing.

Numerous reasons have been touted for Immobile’s drastic spike in form, a lot of which is down to the players perseverance and drive, however his coach must also receive a lot of praise. In Simone Inzaghi, Lazio have a coach that is willing to build the team around their striker, even to the extent of sacrificing talents such as Nani and Felipe Anderson.

Immobile plays at his best when he has another player to work off, evident from his deadly partnership at Torino with Alessio Cerci. This season, Inzaghi has instructed Luis Alberto, normally an attacking midfielder, to play just off the striker, collecting his knock-downs and helping to link play. Lazio’s game against Sassuolo is an example of this plan working perfectly, with the Neroverdi’s defence focused on Immobile causing havoc in the box, Alberto was able to pilfer two goals.

Another tactical tweak that Inzaghi has made over the last six months has been to ditch wingers in favour of wingbacks. At the beginning of last season, the flanks were occupied by Keita Balde Diao and Felipe Anderson, both of whom prefer to cut inside and shoot. Now however, Immobile enjoys the service provided by the likes of Adam Marusic, Senad Lulic and Jordan Lukaku. Not only are the wingbacks more likely to cross the ball, but their position of the pitch stretches defences and opens space in the box for Immobile to exploit.

In the four years since Immobile became a household name, for Serie A fans at least, one thing has become clear: the forward operates best when he is the star man. This is not to say he needs to be the ‘big fish in a small pond’, just that the forward thrives in a team built to suit his talents, and in which he knows he is the first name on the team sheet.

There is no shame in this, rather, it takes a shrewd manager such as Inzaghi to recognise the potential of unleashing such a player. If Immobile is able to maintain the blistering form with which he has started the season, he may well be the first young Italian striker in a while to fulfil his potential.

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Have your say...
Interesting how people still think that Immobile is not constant...he scored 39 goals in 1 year and a half for Lazio. Curtone Bidone scored 2 for Milan in the same period and is already considered a "great striker". What a joke :) Milan players should not even make it to the NT, their team is a shame and was humiliated so far in Serie A.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 10:37am
Even in his pescara days he looked 3rd best behind insigne and veratti he hardly going to be a world beater. I like the player he works hard and is intelligent in his plays and he gets what he deserves but this guy hasn't got the touch of di natale nor he presence of toni he is just a good striker.
on the 10th October, 2017 at 6:40pm
Don't be fooled. He is still an average striker, who's had some good fortune go his way the first couple of months. We'll judge him entirely when the season ends, and if he can replicate his form consistently, unlike in the past.
on the 10th October, 2017 at 2:36pm
seen it happen all the time. With examples like Gilardino and so on. Quality players with potential who were sold or sent away from the Serie A too soon and find themselves out of their depth and wasted. When Baggio and the likes were taken from smaller to larger teams it was not because they played well but because they took that smaller team as far as it could go. Thats the time when quality players should move on to higher level of clubs. Stop wasting talent by expecting miracles from them
on the 10th October, 2017 at 11:53am
My observation Immobile and Eder plus Zappacosta should "not" be 1st team players whatsoever,Zappacosta "shouldn't" be in the NATL TEAM SQUAD PERIOD.Cutrone should be given a chance plus Locatelli and where's Romagnoli for pete's sake,PLUS Parolo looked very confused on his passes and IN THIS GAME.On another note the 424 system must be shelved once and for all PLEASE IT'S JUST "NOT FOR US" because were built with a squad AND SYSTM that must have minimum 4 MIDS AT LEAST AND 5 MIDS AT THE MOST....
on the 10th October, 2017 at 12:57am
ALSO LOOKING AT THIS PICTURE WITH IMMOBILE and his arms wide open looking confused says it ALL.He's clueless as to WHAT AND WHERE AND HOW were supposed to POSITION AND EXECUTE anything.VENTURA completely decimated and destroyed this NATL TEAM'S system that was built on,And killed our TEAM SPIRIT PLAIN AND SIMPLE.Now I'm absolutely no Fan of IMMOBILE whatsoever cause he is absolutely inconsistent for his natl team level of play,EX:AGAINST MACEDONIA AND ALBANIA he was clueless when given the ball.
on the 10th October, 2017 at 12:40am
AFTER WATCHING TONIGHT'S GAME,I CAN CONVINCINGLY SAY WE ARE "DOOMED" TO THE TEE WITH THIS PARIAH OF AN IMBECILE WE CALL VENTURA.We looked mediocre at best and went toe to toe with friggin Albania!,And don't get me started with Macedonia PLEASE.WHAT Conte built in the last tournament I can honestly say Ventura took us back to the stoneage of Soccer.A 424 system made us look like we are learning how to play soccer.Absolute complete confusion on the field,Everyone was out of their positions,SAD
on the 10th October, 2017 at 12:29am
100% right, Jenks. This Italy team is a joke. The fact that Immobile scores so much in serie A shows just how dismal the league has become. He is NOT a champion. He is an above average player. He will never win anything. And while our forward line is him, Insigne and Eder, FORGET about Italy winning anything either. Ventura must go, and take all his Torino losers with him
on the 9th October, 2017 at 9:25pm
This Ventura is a threat! He makes Prandelli looks like Bearzot. Back to the 4-2-4 for tonight, of course.

We are itching to beat Albania (Albania!!) just to get a part in the play-offs. Unreal.

And shame on all of you who think we need foreign players. We need ITALIAN players. Basta.

Please Panucci, beat this Italian side so we have a snowball chance with Ancelotti.
on the 9th October, 2017 at 6:20pm

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