Barring a catastrophe, Lazio should qualify for the Champions League come the end of the season. Booking their spot in Europe’s elite competition is an impressive achievement, but they will feel slightly disappointed that they weren’t able to push Juventus all the way in the end.
Indeed, Simone Inzaghi’s side were in second place and within a point of Juventus prior to football’s postponement in March. They have endured a dire run of form since the resumption in late June - winning just two of their last seven - and have dropped to fourth, eight points adrift of the Old Lady at the top of the table.
Lazio’s recent on-field woes can be attributed to two factors: a lack of quality in depth and the sharp decline in confidence that seemed to accompany Serie A top-scorer Ciro Immobile’s suspension for the Milan defeat. They haven’t been able to recover from that devastating blow.
The blame cannot fall solely on the shoulders of Inzaghi, who is simply making the best out of what he has. Their injury crisis isn’t the root problem either, as clubs should have adequate back-up in the case of such events. It was always evident this season that squad rotation wasn’t an option, going back to the disastrous Europa League campaign, a tournament they were only too happy to crash out of.
Lazio fans like to have a pop at their owner, Claudio Lotito, but he saved the Biancocelesti from financial ruin and subsequently transformed them into one of the most stable clubs in Italy. Having said that, the entrepreneur is notoriously frugal and the transfer policy that has originated from that - while mostly successful - has some flaws.
Fundamentally, the policy is to find value where others don’t see it. So Lazio look towards undervalued players in lesser-reputation leagues, such as Adam Marusic or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, or towards unwanted flops, such as Immobile and Luis Alberto. This strategy has evidently paid dividends, but can be risky, especially when it comes to signing players from inferior leagues.
The risk is that, while a player might perform well in say, the Danish league, he might struggle to adapt to high-level football. Denis Vavro is a good example of this. Signed from FC Copenhagen last summer, he has made just seven league appearances so far, each one equally discouraging as the last.
The worst part about Vavro’s acquisition is that he was to fill a position Lazio desperately needed, centre-back. Instead, he rots on the bench, even with the Biancocelesti’s packed schedule. Having paid €10.5m for him, you can’t help but feel that Lotito could’ve bought a more proven (i.e. reliable) option for just a bit more money. This is even more frustrating now Lazio are having big problems at the back.
Vavro isn’t alone in this. Other recent signings like Valon Berisha (who has now been sold on) and Riza Durmizi, both of whom should have provided quality in depth, haven’t been up to par.
Another factor is Lotito’s tendency to cash in on key players. While this hasn’t happened to the likes of Immobile, Milinkovic-Savic (in spite of the relentless transfer speculation), and Luis Alberto yet, Keita Balde Diao, Antonio Candreva and Hernanes have been moved on in the past. How are Lazio meant to grow or even sustain success if they sell their stars?
Being in the Champions League will be enormously beneficial for the club. They will be provided with new avenues to further increase revenue, not just from UEFA, but also shirt sponsorships. Not only that, Lazio will be a more attractive destination for high-calibre players. Will they reinvest that in the squad or try to bolster their coffers instead?
If they fail to take advantage of this, it is difficult to foresee them being a regular fixture in Italy’s top four. Lazio shouldn’t abolish their current transfer policy, as it has yielded more success than failure, but should raise the bar in terms of the players they try to sign. They should seek to sign proven - but not necessarily at their peak or beyond - players, add better quality in depth and fight tooth and nail to keep their star men.
Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://www.premiersports.com/subscribenow