2016-17 preview

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A pre-season of utter turmoil doesn’t bode well for the capital club, writes Paul Hill.

Confusion in the Capital

To call the summer a tumultuous and unnerving one for Lazio fans would be an understatement. Following a disappointing eighth place finish last term, the club was left in limbo after possibly the most influential Coach in world football, Marcelo Bielsa, joined and quit the club within the space of 48 hours. His reason was that the club were not making the signings he had demanded.

The uncertainty hasn’t stopped at the manager’s bench, with Antonio Candreva leaving the club soon after Simone Inzaghi was recalled. The futures of Stefan De Vrij, Felipe Anderson and Lucas Biglia also remain hot topics in what are testing times for the Biancocelesti.

If things couldn’t get worse, a mere 11 supporters then signed up for season tickets within 24 hours of their being made available, and 5,000 fans then showed up to recent demonstrations against owner Claudio Lotito.

Still, with Candreva the only key player to have left as of yet, a side rich in both potential and experience could still form the nucleus of a young, exciting team to once again challenge for the Champions League positions.

Felipe Anderson, De Vrij, Danilo Cataldi, Keita Balde Diao, Jordan Lukaku, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ricardo Kishna are all yet to reach their peak. The likes of Marco Parolo, Biglia, Federico Marchetti, Stefan Radu and Senad Lulic are established Serie A stars who have proven their worth over the last few campaigns. Lotito may also use the Candreva cash to invest further in the playing staff.

However, whilst the starting 11 may still be competitive, the squad depth is far from that level, with the likes of Sassuolo, Torino and Sampdoria now arguably overpowering the Rome-based club.

Nevertheless, if Inzaghi can unite the players, a European place isn’t out of reach. The club was in a similar situation when it finished third two years ago (unsurprisingly the anti-Lotito brigade went silent around that time), and the core of the playing staff remain. Furthermore, with no European football to contend with, the lack of depth may not affect The Eagles as much as it should.

Lazio will start the season in a state of flux that sees the club stuck between a great deal of unfulfilled potential and no real clear vision. Inzaghi and co may surprise the doubters, but a clear long-term path needs to be implemented in order to make any type of success sustainable.

Coach - Simone Inzaghi

Following the debacle that was the Marcelo Bielsa appointment, Simone Inzaghi had already agreed to become the new boss of Salernitana, but confirmed his move back to Rome. Seen as the more accomplished off the pitch of the Inzaghi brothers, Biancocelesti fans will be hoping he can now cement his place on the Lazio bench at the second time of asking.

Star player - Lucas Biglia

Still a Lazio player at the time of writing, the Argentina international is the focal point and metronome of the side and possesses all of the characteristics of a modern day central midfielder. He will be looking to again impress in what will be his fourth season in Serie A.

Best buy - Jordan Lukaku

The younger brother of Everton striker Romelu, the left back could prove to be an astute purchase. More than capable defensively as well as further forward, the player may form a dynamic partnership along the left hand side with Senad Lulic.

Azzurri prospect - Ciro Immobile

With his former Torino Coach Giampiero Ventura now at the helm for the Azzurri, the former Capocannoniere will be hoping to force his way back into the national team set up and recapture the form that made him one of the country’s most dynamic strikers.

One who got away - Jardel

The club looked set to sign the 30-year-old Benfica centre-back, but the move fell through with rumours now circulating that he is set for the Premier League. The defender could have been the experience the back line needed and a perfect partner for Stefan De Vrij.

Probable line-up

Marchetti; Basta, De Vrij, Radu, LUKAKU; Biglia, Parolo; Anderson, Keita, Lulic; IMMOBILE

Prediction - Mid-table