Thursday Oct 17, 2019  
  23/08/2012: A New Dawn
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It seems like a life time ago since the curtain fell on the 11/12 campaign, and as the new season is upon us, there has been a lot to discuss on the changes that have occurred at Lazio during pre-season, or changes that haven’t occurred in most cases.

As last season came to its climax, so did Edy Reja’s tenure in charge as coach. Vladmir Petkovic was soon appointed and despite being virtually unknown on the peninsula, Claudio Lotito surprised many by his decision to appoint the Bosnian, rather than a more experienced Italian tactician.

Not having the quite the best record as a coach elsewhere, Petkovic came to Lazio with an attacking mentality in mind, which could prove to be a dangerous game as the current crop of players have just finished a season under Edy Reja, perhaps the least adventurous coach in the league.

I can confidently say after watching every one of Lazio’s pre-season encounters, it hasn’t left a lot to look forward to as the new season approaches. The idea of a new style of football was taken well by Laziali, but it came with a condition that new faces had to arrive in order to put this into practice.

After January’s debacle of a transfer window, it was expected that Lotito would make up for it with some good additions this summer. The president promised the fans “three or four champions”, and has let the team down so far by only securing the signing of Antonio Candreva and eventually bringing in Ederson to the club.

The fans are already starting to vent their anger at the way Lotito has gone about his business so far this summer. In a pre-season friendly against Lotito’s side project Salernitana, the Lazio faithful held two huge banners reading “31/8/12 end of the Calcio Mercato, 31/8/12 end of our patience”.

The main problem with Lazio’s transfer policy is that the club boast too many players, and need to offload in order to acquire. The priority was to bring in a reliable, and preferably younger central defender to replace one of the ageing Giuseppe Biava and Andre Dias. Again, Andreas Granqvist looked close, along with Brazilian Xandao but both have amounted to nothing.

Aiming to offload a number of fringe players this summer, the only players to have officially said goodbye to Lazio are Javier Garrido and Guglielmo Stendardo who moved to Norwich and Atalanta respectively. The future of a number of players including Juan Pablo Carrizo and Pasquale Foggia still remains a doubt.

The defence has remained the priority, but there is also an urge to add a proven goal-scorer to the ranks. For most of last season the Biancoceleste depended on Miroslav Klose for goals, and with Tomasso Rocchi ageing by the day, there is only so much he can offer in the attacking department.

Whilst Sergio Floccari was on loan at Parma last season, many fans were crying for his return during a horrendous spell of injuries. Ironically though, it looks like the Calabrian has been deemed surplus to requirements under the new coach and could be on his way out before the window closes.

Emiliano Alfaro could also be heading towards the exit door with a number of possible destinations emerging, although it may just be a loan deal for the young Uruguayan to find some much needed playing time. After the failure to sign Yilmaz, another acquisition was expected but has yet to materialise.

Scoring goals has been problematic for Lazio during pre-season. Failing to score against Siena, Torino and Galatasaray has certainly set off a few alarm bells. With at least two strikers nearing the exit door it does beg the question, where are the goals going to come from? Unless another striker is added, this could prove to be a major problem for Petkovic.

Despite recent interest from Galatasaray, it looks more than likely that Mauro Zarate is back for another season in Rome. This could be called a signing in itself as the Argentine spent last season on loan at Inter. Failing to make an impact up north, Mauro has said he needs to have his best season yet to give him a chance of international football. Being a fan favourite, he has been welcomed back to the capital with open arms.

Nothing has drastically changed in Rome during pre-season, friendlies are only friendlies after all, and it is hard to make a judgement on the new coach before he has even played an official match. Without many players arriving, it was always going to be a difficult task to convert the current players into a new philosophy of football instantly.

Petkovic has had a full pre-season with his squad, and found out early on that Lazio do not have the type of personnel to perform an attacking 4-4-2 formation that he was intending on. 4-2-3-1 has now become favourable after realising that this suits his players more, and performances have been getting slightly better as pre-season wears on.

The 4-2-3-1 formation is a sensible option in my opinion, and it puts to use the strongest area of the field, the midfielders. Along with the quality Lazio already have in midfield, there is now the prospect of Ederson fitting into that hole behind the attack and adding the creativity that has perhaps been lacking of late.
One promising aspect to take from a daunting pre-season is the promotion of Ogenyi Onazi from the Primavera, the youngster has shown great desire to do well this term and alongside Lorik Cana, could be just what Lazio need to protect a very weak defensive line.

Petkovic is trying to adapt a winning formula, and it may just be a matter of time before it all falls into place. Early on in pre-season it was noted that the players were taking time to get used to the new management’s gruelling training regime, this being the blame for Lazio’s poor pre-season.

The fans are behind the new coach surprisingly enough, and have made a pact to get behind the team in what looks like it will be a very testing start to the campaign. The hatred for Claudio Lotito still remains, but the fans know that the team will need backing if it is to have a successful campaign.

Surely performances of late can give us some sort of indication though as to how Lazio’s campaign will start. What could possibly change before Lazio go head to head with Atalanta next Sunday? It may all fall into place instantaneously, or it could all end in disaster. The main question is, will Petkovic be given enough time in the Capital to implement his ideas?

(Ben Lally)

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