In case you were jumping through the channels last night and saw Lazio wasting another 1-0 lead in the Europa League, you probably thought you were watching a replay of the game against Cluj.
From a Lazio perspective, the game against Celtic was an exact copy of their defeat against the Romanian champions that came a few weeks ago. Just like with Cluj, the Biancocelesti took the lead in the first half at Celtic Park, but their intensity and concentration decreased drastically towards the end of the game, which allowed the hosts to complete an epic comeback.
The 2-1 defeat means that Lazio have now lost seven of their last eight Europa League encounters, with Simone Inzaghi’s men winning just two of their last 10 away fixtures in the competition. However, what’s even more worrying is that many of those defeats came in a very similar manner, as Lazio are just unable to hold on to a lead, regardless of the opposition.
In fact, the 2-1 defeat against Celtic is the third time the Romans havе lost with this result after taking the lead on their travels since the start of the season. Inzaghi’s men did the same against SPAL just a few days before repeating the scenario against Cluj and Celtic.
Unfortunately for Lazio, this is a trend that goes back way beyond the last couple of months, as this has been happening for years. The Biancocelesti did the same against Eintracht Frankfurt at the Olimpico last season and conceded four after taking an early lead against RB Salzburg in the previous campaign.
So we’ve been witnessing the same scenario over and over again, but how come Inzaghi hasn’t found a solution for that? After all, this is his third full season in charge of Lazio and the former striker has been working with more or less the same core of players.
In all honesty, it’s hard to blame the 43-year-old’s tactics for Lazio’s collapses, as in almost all of the aforementioned cases, individual errors and lapses of concentration were the catalyst of those losses.
While coaches are usually unable to prevent individual errors, it should be said that this Lazio team has a huge mentality problem and Inzaghi must definitely try to improve his players in that aspect.
Very often the Lazio players lose confidence and concentration in key moments and most of them rarely perform on the desired level under pressure. This was fully evident last night, as when Celtic raised the tempo, Lazio struggled to put two passes together and made a number of cheap errors, especially in the second half.
Bastos was the perfect example last night, as after playing a nearly perfect first half, the Angolan gave the ball away again and again after the break and eventually lost his man for Celtic’s winner in the 89th minute. The 28-year-old lost possession of the ball 15 times, a number that is far too high for a defender, especially considering that most of his errors came near Lazio’s penalty area.
However, just like the outcome of the game, Bastos’ lapses in concentration are nothing new for Lazio. So why Inzaghi doesn’t change something when he sees that his team is clearly struggling?
The tactician made his first substitution only after Celtic’s equaliser, but it was obvious that the hosts were having an upper hand for more than 20 minutes at the start of the second half. Senad Lulic replaced Jony in a much-needed change, which was made too late, as the Spaniard was clearly struggling as a left wing back - something we’ve witnessed often since his arrival in the summer.
Jony’s poor performance on the left forced Lazio to build their play only from the right side, which virtually deprived the Biancocelesti from their left flank, making them too predictable for the more aggressive and determined Celtic side. The 28-year-old completed less than 60% of his passing attempts and forced his side to start all of their attacks from the right, which eventually led to Bastos’ errors and the two conceded goals.
Inzaghi could’ve certainly made the change earlier and he could probably pay more attention to Bastos’ blunders in the future, as they’ve cost his team many times. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the level of the Angolan defender and a few more players in the team simply do not match the ambition of the club.
This summer was the moment for Lazio to address their issues at centre-back, add more depth to their midfield and probably add another quality player up front. It wouldn’t be harsh to say that last night’s goalscorer Manuel Lazzari was the only acquisition that genuinely improves the team, but one swallow doesn't make a summer.
However, was this surprising? Hardly. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the Biancocelesti’s lack of ambition in the mercato way too often, just like we’ve been witnessing their mental collapses over and over again.
It’s just something that you know will happen again. It’s just a déjà vu.