Tuesday August 14 2012
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet?

Under pressure before he's overseen a single competitive game, Scott Fleming asks if Lazio's disastrous pre-season could have dire consequences for new boss Vladimir Petkovic.

Jeers raining down from the stands, fans criticising the Coach, the Coach criticising the players. None of these events are particularly unusual at Lazio. Only...they usually have the good grace to at least wait until the season has started.

This year, with the club's Serie A opener at Atalanta's Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia still 12 days away, new Coach Vladimir Petkovic already has several knives protruding from his back.

Last Saturday's friendly against Getafe was supposed to be a convivial affair, the Eagles’ seasonal debut at the Stadio Olimpico, a relaxing evening in which the fans and players could get reacquainted with each other after the summer recess.

Instead what unfolded was a 1-0 defeat followed by a bout of unseemly in-fighting, with the poor players being savaged first by the fans, then by Petkovic. “We are still tired and lacking the right mentality, this really isn't good enough and some players have to give more,” the Bosnian raged.  “I want players who give their heart and soul. We've got to work harder and anyone who doesn't understand that simply won't play.”

To casual observers, the discord may appear peculiar. The idea of any Coach being sacked or put under serious pressure in pre-season might seem absurd, although it’s certainly not unheard of in Italy, as Roberto Donadoni and Stefano Pioli can attest. Moreover, Getafe are an established La Liga side, surely a narrow loss to them doesn't warrant such a fuss?

The problem for Lazio is that it wasn't a one off. Their only pre-season victories have been a 14-0 mauling of minnows Auronzo di Cadore and a 3-0 win over fourth tier club and Claudio Lotito side project Salernitana, a match marred by rioting. Any time the Biancocelesti have come up against decent calibre opposition, they have lost - 3-0 to Torino and 1-0 to Siena, Galatasaray and Getafe.

Of equal concern to the results is the chronic lack of goals. Part of the reason Petkovic was hired was his proclivity for attacking football, yet even with Hernanes, Miroslav Klose, new signing Ederson and a rejuvenated Mauro Zarate at his disposal, Lazio remain mysteriously incapable of hitting a barn door.

Appointing the tactician nicknamed 'The Doctor' ahead of Italian candidates such as Gianfranco Zola back in June was certainly an imaginative choice, but also a risky one. Petkovic did excellent work with Young Boys and Sion in Switzerland, but has never played or coached in Serie A, and the Italian top flight has often proved an inhospitable place for foreign tacticians who haven't worked there before.

The most pertinent example, although Lazio fans won't appreciate the comparison, is Luis Enrique, who never really recovered after getting off to a bad start at Roma this time last year. His first competitive games in charge consisted of an embarrassing defeat to Slovan Bratislava in the Europa League qualifiers. Ironically enough Petkovic's first competitive game as Lazio boss is against another East European outfit - Slovenians ND Mura - in the Europa League play-off round next Thursday.

Win that convincingly and those four pre-season losses will be forgotten, the scepticism surrounding him written off as a manifestation of the fraught and over-pressurised atmosphere which provoked three attempted resignations from predecessor Edy Reja during the course of last season. Win it unconvincingly and the scepticism will persist. Lose it, and the consequences could be grave.

One of Petkovic's radical ideas is reportedly to have the players photographed naked, in order to monitor their fitness and body weight. The next few weeks will tell us if, by hiring the man from Sarajevo instead of one of the safer candidates available, Lazio have wrapped themselves in the Emperor's new clothes. 

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Have your say...
The riots and the jeers are and will be against lotito an co, until they are gone, it's irrelevant who is the coach. lotito and tare are the cancer of this team.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 3:45pm
Petkovic looks set to be this season's Gasperini. Worst of all, he talked like a man that knew nothing about the Serie A and relied on an old stereotype when he claimed that his teams played attacking football and he'll be bringing a style that's new to Italians. Hopefully he faces Zeman in the derby, a man who has preached all-out attack in Italian football for over 20 years.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 12:20pm
You'll find the jeers are not directed at Petkovic or at the squad - but at Claudio Lotito and Igli Tare.

In fact, the Curva Nord is quite supportive of Petkovic and agreed a pact of support with the coach and players before most of these losses occurred.

I'm a Lazio fan and I'm not personally enthusiastic by it all, but its just sensationalism to suggest its all out war at the club.
on the 15th August, 2012 at 2:15am
to all of those wondering about the blogs title: it's a reference to an old british tv show by the same name.,_Pet

good piece - unlike most blogs on this site :) I have to nitpick though: ederson is injured and didn't feature in any of the serious pre-season friendlies.
on the 14th August, 2012 at 7:43pm
@Mark. swiss german is the language spoken in the german speaking part of switzerland. furthermore, an additional 4 languages are spoken across the country. the only team he managed in the german speaking part was young boys. the rest in the italian and french part. the phrase auf wiedersehen is not used in switzerland.
on the 14th August, 2012 at 6:06pm
Maybe because he used to work in Switzerland?
on the 14th August, 2012 at 5:30pm
I think whether Petkovic gets a good start or not, Lazio must give him chance at least until January. He needs time to adjust his ideas to Serie A.
on the 14th August, 2012 at 5:08pm
Rosario - ditto!

Give Pet a chance ... friendlies are friendlies by nature.

I just hope Diakhite stays, as he has the potential to become a world beater as a defensive midfielder or as a Centre back!
on the 14th August, 2012 at 5:04pm
This guy out in few weeks Eddie Reja back in might put a little bet on that
on the 14th August, 2012 at 4:54pm
Nice job with the title and alluding to one of the hardest PS3 trophies in GTA IV.

Goodbye Petkovic.
on the 14th August, 2012 at 4:44pm
Auf Wiedersehen? why exactly the need for a german title for an article about an italian club and a bosnian coach?
on the 14th August, 2012 at 3:30pm

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