Lazio beat Inter 1-0 last night and Vladimir Petkovic also got the better of Andrea Stramaccioni, albeit more in terms of performance than mere results. If this was meant to be a duel between the Coaches who have revamped Serie A, then the younger man seemed to take a step back into the past.
Stramaccioni had his 36th official game on the Inter bench this weekend, making him the longest-serving Coach of the post-Jose Mourinho era. The former Primavera boss is truly a tactical chameleon, switching his systems constantly to surprise opponents and keep his own players on their toes. Having succeeded where Gian Piero Gasperini thought it was impossible by implementing a three-man defence, he also managed to balance a trident with Antonio Cassano, Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio. When he first took over from Claudio Ranieri in March it was like a breath of fresh air, his attacking approach bringing goals galore and entertainment to San Siro. I’d like that Strama back.
There have certainly been moments of that magic this season, such as taking a 3-4-3 system to Turin and out-playing Juventus. In the last few games against Palermo, Napoli and Lazio the plan was to run few risks, then hopefully nick a goal near the end. It seems like a big step backwards for the youngest Coach in Serie A. "We limited Napoli," he boasted when they were the home side. Too often of late the approach has been to defend first, soak up pressure and try to hit teams on the counter-attack. It all feels a little too... Ranierish. Surely nobody wants that.
On the other hand, Petkovic stood by his word that Lazio would try to dominate at the Olimpico. They held the initiative from start to finish, although strong defending from Inter and uncharacteristically poor finishing from Miroslav Klose saw them struggle to actually make any of it stick. Instead, the Nerazzurri hit the woodwork twice and tested Federico Marchetti’s reflexes with old-fashioned counters. Possession and initiative ultimately counts for nothing unless the ball is in the back of the net.
Yet I think it does count, at least in the eyes of the fans and the opponents. Fiorentina, Roma and Lazio (Turin aside) are guaranteed to take the game to you in any stadium, even if that means running some big risks and dropping points. These are not sides to sit back and soak up pressure. They are the antithesis of the old negative image people had of Serie A. Inter had originally seemed to be heading that way too, so I hope Stramaccioni can rediscover his audacity. We all want to see Scudetto contenders who go on the attack.