The story of the night belonged in Turin, as Juventus all but secured their ninth consecutive Scudetto thanks to a certain Cristiano Ronaldo and his brace. The game was, however, not an easy one and a depleted Lazio could take great credit from the way they performed. This has been the case all season apart from after the break from the pandemic, where they have struggled to recapture their exciting and devastating brand of football. For the Roman club this was not a night for regrets however, as the future looks bright and this season can certainly be considered a success.
Taking a step back and looking at Lazio’s campaign, it is easy to see just how far they have come. Simone Inzaghi said as much after the game, focusing on how he gets annoyed when people criticise his team. After all, they are in the Champions League for the first time in 13 years, they tasted victory in the Supercoppa early in the season and finished 14 points better off than last season. Simone Inzaghi has a team that with some shrewd moves in the transfer market could potentially challenge again for the Scudetto, or at the very least, establish themselves in the top four.
To say what went wrong with Lazio is not to offer up excuses, but to give genuine reasons about why their campaign stalled. From January to the start of the pandemic and the end of football in March, Le Aquile had won nine games, drawn twice and lost once. On the return, they have won twice, drawn once and lost five games. Why has this been such a turnaround? Well the first reason is momentum. Inzaghi had managed to tune the team into a unit that although under-resourced in comparison to Inter and Juventus, were playing with confidence and they were many people’s favourites for the title. They had beaten Inter (a team looking tired) and Juventus just did not look convincing. They were also seen as underdogs and every game they got a result poured pressure onto ‘The Old Lady’. The break came at the wrong time.
Why didn’t this affect Inter or Juventus? They didn’t have momentum and the break allowed them to re-think and regenerate. It has to be said that even after the restart, the Nerazzurri struggled to get consistent performances and the Bianconeri dragged themselves to the finish line with some abject outings and some surprising defeats. This by no means gives Lazio a complete excuse, as the trip to Lecce will always be a game they regret.
Squad size did also play a part. Teams like Juventus, Inter and even Milan used their strength in depth to make the most of the five substitutions rule. No more was this evident that against Juventus, when Inzaghi talked about his decimated team. He lamented about how only twelve players were able to train before the game and the fact that the lack of rotation available to him has seen many of his key players get injured. The fact that only three of the subs named were fit to play was telling and all but one of these had not played in Serie A.
The positives after the defeat outweigh the negatives. The young players who had to perform on the night did and Djavan Anderson was one of those who proved the value of giving younger players a chance, something often overlooked by many of the bigger Serie A clubs. Ciro Immobile sits with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts with an incredible 30 goals and games to play, Luis Alberto and his connection with the striker has been incredible and his ability to find space between the lines is still something beautiful. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s reputation continues to grow and Champions League football could warn off any suitors, whilst Joaquin Correa has shown that his reputation is on the rise. Add to this the stellar seasons from Francesco Acerbi and Thomas Strakosha and it is easy to see why many who follow the team can be excited for the next.
Finally, perhaps the last and more generous portion of the praise must go to the ‘mister’ Inzaghi. His tactics, man-management and vision has created a team all Lazio fans can be proud of and perhaps with the money that Europe’s elite competition offers, he can try and bolster this squad whilst holding on to most of its key components. Perhaps next season the team can also look to the youth system and the likes of Raul Moro and Luca Falbo can also start to come through. The future is bright for Lazio and this season can be seen as a success.
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