Friday January 25 2013
Doctor’s Lazio in good health

Lazio, with little fanfare, find themselves in joint second and just five points behind leaders Juventus. Dave Taylor applauds the work of boss Vladimir Petkovic.

There was a brief period last Saturday when Lazio had the possibility of joining Juventus at the top of the table. Lowly Palermo may have denied them that opportunity, but the 2-2 draw at the Stadio Barbera – where they had a perfectly good goal disallowed – underlined the kind of spirit within their set-up.

Juve may now be five points clear, but Coach Vladimir Petkovic has instilled a character into a side that currently sit in joint second place alongside Napoli. Unbeaten since early November, their form, according to Petkovic, is potentially that of title contenders.

“Juventus are the team to beat, the strongest team in the League,” the Stadio Olimpico tactician admitted. “But in the last 12 games, we’ve got the most points, we are doing well and we want to do even better.”

While their first XI, as a unit, can challenge Juventus, their squad – unlike the Bianconeri’s – has no real depth. Against Palermo the absence of Miroslav Klose and Abdoulay Konko showed their lack of alternatives in several departments, while an injury-plagued Juve beat Udinese 4-0 with half their regulars missing.

Further proof arrived on Tuesday in the Cup meeting between the two sides. Juve fielded a strong XI, but quite different from their normal formation, while Lazio stuck to more or less the same team that plays in Serie A. Juve had most of the play, created numerous chances, but this Biancocelesti outfit don’t know when they are beaten and snatched a late draw.

While the Italian Cup would be a welcome addition to the club’s trophy cabinet, President Claudio Lotito would prefer Serie A ‘success’. After narrowly missing out on a Champions League place over the last two seasons, they will be hoping it will be third time lucky come May. That would make Lazio, even for all their careful spending, an attractive proposition to more top players, footballers who can help them take the next step up.

Petkovic has got the Biancocelesti playing in a well-defined shape, starting at the back with Federico Marchetti who has kept eight clean sheets in 16 games. Factor in Konko, Giuseppe Biava and the return of Stefan Radu in defence and that department looks pretty decent.

Up front, the deadly Klose is at the sharp end scoring goals, with the brilliant Hernanes behind him. The Brazilian one-man tornado’s intelligence and movement this season has allowed Petkovic to change systems, according to who they are playing and still come out smiling – witness the Atalanta game. The meticulous planner invariably has a Plan B and in that case a Plan C. He started with his normal 4-4-1-1, tried a 3-4-3 and when that failed sent on the in-form Sergio Floccari, changed the system to a 4-4-2, and won 2-0.

The Coach, however, refuses to get carried away. And when his analytical qualities are blended with this ability to stay grounded through highs or lows, then it is no wonder he is nicknamed The Doctor. “We have done well and there is a good rapport between us and I think you can tell,” he reveals.

What has also helped is the continuity of the squad and, with just two major arrivals this summer, the core has played together for several seasons now and the results of this maturity and closeness are obvious.

This dynamic started at the top with Lotito who brought in the unknown Petkovic and backed him all the way. Now what the President needs to do is make sure Petkovic is tied down to a longer contract, as his current one ends in the summer of 2014. The fact that a few envious eyes are already watching the tactician says so much about him and his Lazio side.

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Have your say...
I'm honored to watch this coach manage Lazio. He is really good of what he does. I would say we were lucky enough over the past 7 years to have had good and smart coaches at Lazio except Davide Ballardine, which I didn't like is tactics..

Forza Lazio........
on the 27th January, 2013 at 11:20pm
it would be nice if some rich arab buys lazio
on the 26th January, 2013 at 10:15pm
I never expected a foreign coach like Petkovic to do well in Serie A especially with limited resources available to him.

As much as people critize Lotito for not bringing in top players & selling the ones they had, remember the club got debts to settle first.

I can guarantee you once Lazio is debt free, they will be a force to reckon with as they were in the year 2000...
on the 26th January, 2013 at 7:22am
Petkovic is brilliant in my opinion, love his tactical nous. but in football you can only really pass judgement after the second year, no matter which new coach, player or team it is...

@arjen: not quite true. of course pillars of the team like klose, mauri, dias and biava are 30+ but the rest is in their mid-twenties and youth players like cavanda and onazi make regular appearances.
on the 25th January, 2013 at 3:08pm
Hate to say this as a Roma fan, but nothing but respect to Petkovic, he has been a breath of fresh air in Serie A and his tactical tinkering is class, the opposite of a certain Zeman who keeps playing the same no matter if we are up 3-0 or loosing 1-0 which is very narrow-minded and costs us.

Still Lazio seem to have a pretty old squad so apart from tying Petkovic down, young blood is also needed if they want to keep on going the next couple of years as Klose and co wont be around much longer.
on the 25th January, 2013 at 2:59pm
He has done an outstanding job so far! It is very refreshing to see a coach doing well, through a combination of intelligent coaching and smart tactics; rather than relying on a cheque book. I also really admire his approach and attitude towards the Europa league. comes across as a classy character, and he is an asset to both Lazio and Serie A. I hope that his stay in Italy is a long one.
on the 25th January, 2013 at 1:27pm
as you have said Champions League may make bigger name players more interested but that sometimes comes down to money and Lolito isnt the most willing to spend. Thats why I think we will always come up just short of doing something spectacular like winning the Scudetto. Enjoy it while we can because the Milan sides wont stay as poor as they are for to long and they wil be hunting down top 3 spaces in years to come...Forza Lazio.. prima squadra della capitale!!
on the 25th January, 2013 at 11:00am
Nice to see us doing well, from nearly being in a relegation battle few years back! Gutted Serie A lost the 4th champ league spot as we could have been in it this year! I think to be fair tho Floccari is a good back up to Klose...Rocchi was to old although he was a good servent it was time for him to go. We seem to have a good base from Marchetti all the way through the team also a good spirit. I have been impressed with Candreva and Mauri as well as the others you mentioned in the blog.
on the 25th January, 2013 at 10:55am

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