As the buzz in Rome centres on Zdenek Zeman and the return of Zemanlandia at Roma, in the blue half of the Eternal City they are pondering exactly what to expect under newly appointed tactician Vladimir Petkovic, a virtual unknown on the peninsula. While the Giallorossi are grabbing the headlines, the Bosnian is eagerly preparing his first campaign in Serie A, one in which Lazio hope to go one better than 2011-12 and qualify for the Champions League.
The relationship between club and Coach may still be in its infant stage, yet the man known as the Doctor is eager for his team to impose their style of play on the opposition. The Corriere dello Sport dubbed the early manifestation of Petkovic’s Lazio as “offensive, aggressive and quick.” This was backed up by defender Andre Dias, who noted: “The mister wants a fast and compact squad that’s, above all, aggressive.”
In their recent friendly versus Auronzo di Cadore, a 4-4-2 system was utilised and the Biancocelesti were further characterised as an organised outfit which pressed ferociously and created chances in wide areas, with full-backs encouraged to advance from their post.
Petkovic strives to include a deep-lying playmaker – quite how it will develop with Cristian Ledesma, plus Brazilian duo Hernanes and new signing Ederson in the squad is unclear – but as the Italo-Argentine claimed, plans are not set in stone. “It’s too early to imagine the new Lazio...it is never fair to say from the first day that a Coach is particular to one way or another.” There have even been rumours of a 3-4-1-2 formation being introduced, while the Doctor has been known to play a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3.
Ledesma was quick to praise the new boss, stating: “I believe that the enthusiasm is there. The first impression of Petkovic is that he is a person of great character.” Dias recognises Petkovic’s immediate impact. “The Coach has a great desire to do well,” he asserted. “I’ve been at Lazio for two-and-a-half years and I’ve never worked as hard as we are this year.”
Off the pitch, aside from signing creative midfielder Ederson on a Bosman, Lazio’s transfer campaign to date has been quiet. The Brazilian represents their only significant acquisition, while Antonio Candreva has been signed permanently after his loan spell at the backend of last season.
Further arrivals are sought, with three players hunted from Juventus, namely Milos Krasic, Michele Pazienza and Reto Ziegler. While not relenting in their bid to sign Italian international Federico Balzaretti, the club is focusing on Genoa’s Giandomenico Mesto, as well as Brazilian central defender Xandao from Sporting Lisbon. Meanwhile, Sergio Floccari is set to leave, with Torino and Pescara possible destinations.
It has not been a completely trouble-free period for Petkovic. Doubts surround Matuzalem’s future at Formello after the player arrived late for pre-season and took to Facebook stating he wanted to leave. However, after training alone for a week he used the same website to announce his desire to stay and Petkovic has also hinted he would like the player to remain. He must also deal with the temperamental Mauro Zarate, who endured a poor campaign at Inter but has already been highlighted as a key player by the Doctor.
For Ederson, their season objective is clear enough. “The objective is to finish in the top three,” he declared. With Lazio verging into the unknown under Petkovic, they will be hoping the Doctor has the cure for their Champions League blues. Having been pipped at the post over the past two seasons, can this aggressive new Lazio achieve their goal in 2012-13?