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Tuesday June 30 2020
Out of Lazio's control

It had all been going Lazio’s way until the shutdown changed the Calcio landscape and sapped their momentum, writes Owen Diana.

When COVID-19 still seemed a distant disease on the other side of the world, this was a Lazio squad capable of winning the Scudetto. The team has remained the same, but all the circumstances that had conspired to make them title contenders have been utterly transformed.

Ultimately, the reasons why Lazio’s best shot at a league title in 20 years will likely prove unsuccessful are out of their control. They cannot be expected to have a squad as deep as Juve’s with a payroll one quarter the size. They could not contain the spread of COVID-19 or halt the suspension of Serie A.

The problem of Lazio’s small squad has been exacerbated by a condensed league calendar. The Biancocelesti were playing only once a week before the shutdown, having already been eliminated from the Europa League and Coppa Italia. In contrast, Juventus were focused on an elusive third Champions League title and still in the Coppa.

With the remainder of the Serie A schedule now sandwiched between the Coppa Italia Final and the Champions League restart, Lazio have lost a crucial advantage. It remains to be seen whether they can withstand the physical toll of two or more matches a week through early August.

Whereas Juventus have a plethora of quality players to augment their attack, Lazio lack a proven game-changer behind Immobile, Joaquin Correa and Felipe Caicedo. Correa replaced Caicedo midway through the second half against Fioerntina, leaving young forward Andre Anderson as the last attacking option from the bench. Rather than bring on the untested Brazilian with 10 minutes remaining and Lazio still chasing a winner, coach Simone Inzaghi preferred to bring on fresh legs at both wingback spots.

As Luis Alberto wheeled away after scoring the decisive second goal for Lazio in their hard-fought 2-1 over Fiorentina on Saturday, he raised his right index finger to his mouth. With no fans in the stands, the gesture was surely directed at the critics who questioned his team’s mettle following their midweek defeat at Atalanta, which broke a 21-match unbeaten run in Serie A. Had Lazio dropped further points against La Viola, those same pundits would have proclaimed the end of their unexpected title challenge.

Luis Alberto’s strike ensures that Lazio are still within touching distance of Juventus. Bar the first 10 minutes of Wednesday’s visit to Bergamo, however, they have looked a shadow of the vibrant counter-attacking juggernaut that won the hearts of neutrals before the lockdown for COVID-19.

Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile has been out of sorts. He missed two presentable chances in the first half against La Dea that would have put the game to bed and was a peripheral figure on Saturday until his 67th-minute penalty leveled the scores. Meanwhile, the right side of Lazio’s normally solid rearguard has looked suspect. Papu Gomez ran riot on Wednesday, while Franck Ribery was a constant nuisance three days later.

There’s absolutely nothing Inzaghi can do about the lack of strength in depth now, but at least they can secure a top four finish and use the Champions League money to replenish that bare bench. At least, that’s the plan under normal circumstances. With the economic impact of the pandemic, even those funds might have to be spent elsewhere. Even Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is unlikely to command a €100m transfer fee if the club choose to sell this summer.

More than ever before, the combination of shrewd scouting and player development that fueled Lazio’s unexpected title push is crucial to their hopes of building a more complete team capable of regularly threatening Juve’s hegemony.

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Have your say...
Serve's that dope, Lotito right. He was the one running around threatening to sue everyone in the middle of a pandemic if the league didn't resume matches. Well, u go what u asked for.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 9:08pm
Lotito is a cancer on Serie A ... it was him that got Ventura the Job for the Azzurri and only Lazio could get that ridiculous penalty kick against Fiorentina - the first PK given with social distancing and what is worse is the media does not say a damn word about it! nothing ! With that pathetically weak bench they will not win the scudetto anytime soon.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 8:04pm
The most unfair thing about the restart of Serie A was not starting with a complete round for every team but completing the missing fixtures first. This gave several teams a game before others and, in Lazio's case, meant they had to play an Atalanta team with 90 minutes already under their belt. Is it any surprise that Lazio started well against a team that were perhaps a bit tired but then didn't have the match fitness that allowed Atalanta to take control in the second half?
on the 30th June, 2020 at 6:04pm
I think he's done very well to get the position it is right now, but I'm saying that same mentality is what's preventing the club from moving to the next level.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 4:41pm
Shrewed negotiator? Like when he froze out players who refuse to extend their contracts only for the players to be released by the courts and Lolito to miss out on hundreds of millions in transfers.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 4:13pm
If they receive a big offer for Ciro I would bite the buyers hand off. Yes he's had the season of his life but half of his goals have been penalties and he's still been mediocre for the national team leading me to think he won't repeat this season again. If they do get a big offer those funds combined with the Champo league money should be enough to make a better and deeper squad.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 3:00pm
Juve will win the league because they have the deepest squad but Lazio are on the right path. Champions league football will bring in fresh funds that if they're spent correctly should allow them to bolster the squad. I actually think Lazio are over performing and will need a deeper squad just to challenge for the top 4 next season so the probable addition of Kumbulla is a great start with only 2-3 more quality additions needed
on the 30th June, 2020 at 2:58pm
Chris

Lazio is one of the most business-savvy teams in European football right now. Lotito has resurrected Lazio financially (while paying off massive debts), and is a shrewd negotiator.

Lazio purchased Immobile, SMS, and Alberto for less than 35 million dollars. Also, remember that when Lotito claims he has "turned down a 100 million euro offer for SMS" he could be bluffing.

Look next door at the "selling club" Roma and how recently they have less trophies and got new loans because of debt
on the 30th June, 2020 at 2:06pm
Blame De Vrij all you want but if the Lazio guy didnt get himeslf sent off for no reason in that game, and Lazio otherwise fall to pieces in the last 15 minutes, Lazio would have qualified for the CL, the truth is neither deserved it that season.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 1:39pm
It's all good and well saying that Lazio could've had CL money but I also think Lazio could be more business-savvy with certain situations. At a certain point they need to appreciate that the PROs outweigh the CONs of selling certain players. For some of the reported figures they've been offered in the past they could've revamped the entire squad on multiple occasions and invested in the depth of the squad.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 12:33pm
Inter might be mathematically in it but they have to win all their games and Juve lose 3. Everyone is throthing at the mouth that Juve aren't playing well but Lazio and Inter don't look champions material either.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 11:58am
The article isn't a fact, it's an opinion. I do feel that a lot of momentum would've been lost by Lazio with the break and without the break they probably would've won the title with a few games to spare. As it is, though, I think Juve's strength in squad depth is simply unrivalled in this league so once again the money will win the league for them.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 11:44am
Lazio would already have a deeper squad with CL money if they didn't let De Vrij collude with Icardi in 2018. What bone head coach would play him knowing the player would benefit if the opponents win.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 11:27am
Why so touchy anonymous Lazio fan?
on the 30th June, 2020 at 11:09am
I agree they have played 2 games lost 1 and won 1, and came back against Fiorentina which showed character, and the game against Atalanta could have gone any way, seems an over reaction here. Inter are still in it as Juventus are by no means playing well and still have some tough games to come
on the 30th June, 2020 at 10:38am
More negative comment here on FI about Lazio. When Leicester took the Prem by storm most commentators where in awe of what could be achieved with team spirit and the right mentality. Ciro looks out of sorts? What after two games and one goal scored? I suppose the same applies to Ronaldo then? I'd guess most players aren't on top form after the longest break of their entire careers. Inzaghi wants us to keep winning but hit top form when we play Juve.
on the 30th June, 2020 at 8:31am

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