Coppa Italia: Quarter-finals / Team rating: 6 / Top scorer: Candreva (12)
Europe: Europa League Round of 32
A season that began with a sense of optimism soon descended into one fraught with protests and characterised by unsteady form, writes Alasdair Mackenzie.
A Coppa Italia triumph over Roma was the crowning glory of last season for Lazio, bringing with it a sense of optimism ahead of Vladimir Petkovic’s second season at the club. However, a disappointing summer mercato in which Claudio Lotito abjectly failed to bring in the sought-after ‘vice-Klose’ set alarm bells ringing. The inauspicious 4-0 drubbing then suffered in the Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus ensured that fans of the Roman club were under no illusions as to how the season could pan out.
Petkovic attracted many admirers during his first Serie A campaign, but soon found himself under huge pressure at the start of this term due to his side’s inability to perform in away matches. Incredibly his team only managed one away win in the entire calendar year of 2013, so the 4-1 defeat suffered in December against Verona combined with Lotito’s rage at the Coach for accepting the Swiss national job spelled the end for ‘The Doctor’.
One thing the Bosnian can be applauded for is introducing an 18-year-old Keita Balde Diao into the first team and thus offering Laziali their greatest cause for optimism from the 2013-14 season. The Spaniard has been sensational at times this season, scoring five Serie A goals and terrorising defences with his quick feet and clinical finishing.
However, even the emergence of a bright new talent could not repair the damage done in January with the sale of Hernanes. As usual, the winter mercato was a time where reinforcements were essential for the club and, as usual, they did not arrive. Star man Hernanes was sold to direct Europa League rivals Inter and in his place arrived Helder Postiga and Gael Kakuta, who played a combined 144 Serie A minutes between them.
This was the turning point of the season for the club in many ways. Edy Reja was brought back in an attempt to restore calm to a tumultuous environment in which the Ultras were increasing their protests against the ownership of Lotito. ‘Libera la Lazio’ signs were held aloft by 45,000 fans against Sassuolo and two weeks later the Ultras abandoned the Curva Nord for the fixture against Atalanta, before ultimately deciding to desert it altogether until the end of the season in a show of strength.
The ongoing and seemingly never-ending standoff between the Ultras and the President was deemed by many as more important than anything happening on the pitch and this attitude seemed to be reflected by the players’ performances.
Reja struggled to get any sort of consistency from his team and suffered from the regular injury problems of Miroslav Klose, deputising instead with Stefano Mauri at centre forward.
While there have been impressive wins against the likes of Inter, Fiorentina and Parma there have also been infuriating defeats at the hands of Catania, Genoa and Atalanta. The end result of such a season is the failure to qualify for Europe and the club’s lowest League finish in four years.
Former Coach Edy Reja returned halfway through the season to steer the club through a tumultuous period following the sacking of Vladimir Petkovic. The 68-year-old turned around the Biancocelesti’s long-standing poor away form but could not bring consistency out of his players, meaning he will likely be replaced this summer.
Candreva has come a long way since being booed by his own fans on his debut in 2012. Despite his club’s inconsistent season, Candreva has been excellent and with 12 goals became the club’s most prolific midfielder in a single season, likely earning him a seat on the plane to Brazil with the Azzurri.
- Under Vladimir Petkovic, Lazio collected four points from nine away matches in a winless streak stretching back to May 2013. Following the arrival of Reja, the Aquile won five of their final nine away games.
- Antonio Candreva’s 12 goals this season make him the highest scoring midfielder in the club’s history, surpassing the previous record shared by Pavel Nedved and Hernanes.
- Lazio used 12 different centre-back combinations this season. The most frequently selected of these, Lorik Cana and Michael Ciani, only started eight matches together.
|39||DF||Luis Pedro Cavanda||19||1||1|
|14||A||Keita Balde Diao||25||5||3|