After a good season which saw Lazio returning to the Europa League as well as reaching the Coppa Italia final, the sale of club captain Lucas Biglia puts the Biancocelesti in a tricky position.
The 31-year-old became the latest piece of a formidable Milan summer transfer campaign, as he switched Rome for Milan in a €20m euro move. Biglia’s transfer and the almost certain departure of Keita Baldé means that Lazio must find proper replacements before looking to improve their squad ahead of probably the most exciting Serie A campaign in recent years.
While there are plenty of wide attackers that can replace Keita, finding a proper defensive midfielder of Biglia’s calibre is a real struggle these days. With clubs spending crazy fees for mediocre players, the purchase of Lucas Leiva from Liverpool for €5.5m could prove to be a great coup by the capital club.
The Brazilian is not only a relatively cheap option, but he also possesses the vast experience and European pedigree that Lazio so sorely needed and lacked in previous years.
If you have to compare Leiva with his predecessor, you’ll find quite a few similarities between them. At 1.79 m the former Liverpool man is just one centimetre higher than Biglia and being just a year younger than him, means that both players are almost equal physically. Just like the ex-captain, Leiva is also well-known for his hard-tackling style and consistent passing play, but this is as far as the similarities between them go.
Just by looking at last year’s stats, it gets obvious that Leiva and Biglia are very different players. The Argentinian completed an average of 55.6 passes per game with 87.3 per cent finding their target, which is significantly higher than Leiva’s average of 36.8 passes per game with a success rate of 83.9 per cent. Biglia also averaged an impressive 1.9 key passes per game against just 0.3 for Leiva, which proves that the new Milan signing is not only a better passer, but also much more of an attacking threat than the Brazilian.
In the defensive phase, however, the situation is quite different as Leiva won the impressive 2.2 aerial duels per game compared to just 0.6 by Biglia. The Biancocelesti’s new arrival’s stats also show that he allowed just 0.8 dribbles to go past him and conceded the same number of fouls per game, which is twice lower than Biglia’s average of 1.6 for both metrics.
The stats clearly show that the Brazilian is a more defensive-minded player than the former captain, so his arrival should provide more stability to a shaky Lazio backline that conceded 51 goals last term. This was the worst defensive record within the top 7 and Leiva’s ability to fill in as a center-back will also provide more cover to a squad that lacked depth last term.
However, all of Leiva’s defensive prowess can not make up for his lack of creativity and ability to create play. Unlike Biglia, the new arrival is known for his safe approach, as he rarely chooses a complicated pass when a simple option is available. This means the side might struggle to create chances against teams playing with deep defensive formations, especially if one of Marco Parolo and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is missing. While Leiva can prove to be a valuable asset, the former Liverpool man can not and should not be expected to play the defensive midfield role the way Biglia did. This simply means that, if Lazio want to improve, they should add another quality midfielder.
Considering the potential departure of Keita, the Biancocelesti can not afford to lose another creative player without finding an equally capable replacement. Therefore, sporting director Igli Tare should know that the Lucas that arrived is completely different than the one who left.
In the past the club often missed the opportunity or lacked the desire to build on a successful season, but club president Claudio Lotito can not be expected to make the same mistake again. Or could he?