Lazio Club Focus: The Biancocelesti’s Season in Review
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Vladmir Petkovic was appointed as Lazio coach. Having to withstand an absurd amount of criticism throughout a quite unconvincing pre-season, meant that pressure was on the man before he’d even took charge of a league match.
Matches came thick and fast with Lazio’s involvement in the Europa League. The season kicked off with a European qualifier against Mura 05. Winning 5-1 on aggregate meant that Lazio were in good shape to get the month of August started in winning form.
The league opener against Atalanta was a tricky test for Lazio, not a place that is easy to pick up points and it is safe to say that not many expected Lazio to win in Bergamo. A single goal from Hernanes was enough to seal the victory and Lazio then went on to beat Palermo and Chievo making it three out of the first three for Petkovic in Serie A.
Back to back defeats against Genoa and Napoli brought the Biancocelesti back down to earth. However, as the Europa League matches came thick and fast, Lazio were just beaten four times up until Christmas in Serie A, and managed to advance through the European group stages unbeaten.
Impressive victories in the first half of the season against Milan, Inter, and of course a third straight win in the Derby della Capitale against Roma saw Lazio and Petkovic receive a large amount of well earned plaudits with their fine form.
Bouncing back after Christmas with a win over an in-form Cagliari prompted many to suggest Lazio could challenge Juventus to the Scudetto. As Lazio’s European adventure continued with a last 32 win over Monchengladbach, Lazio’s league form began to take a tumble.
In the latter part of the season, defeats to the likes of Chievo, Siena and Torino saw Lazio eventually finish the season in seventh place. At the expense of a worrying turn in form, Lazio went on to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League, whilst also knocking Juventus out to reach the Coppa Italia Final.
Just after Christmas, there were many injuries to concern the coach. January was a chance to bolster the squad, but as the Biancocelesti were flying high at this stage, president Claudio Lotito found no need to equip the team with some added strength, this causing the torrid spell of form late in the season, when nobody of the same quality could adequately replace key figures.
Many players have had great campaigns this season. Federico Marchetti needs no introduction. Antonio Candreva, Senad Lulic, and Hernanes were also instrumental as Lazio tried to maintain three competitions throughout the season. The goals of Miroslav Klose were sorely missed when he became injured in January, leaving Lazio with a big void to fill in attack.
With the usual suspects all grabbing the headlines for one reason or another, a special mention must go out to young midfielder Eddy Onazi. The Nigerian has had a very pleasing and promising campaign. Featuring when needed, Onazi gave Lazio a fantastic goal against Inter to remember for a long time. The youngster not only had a brilliant start to life in Serie A, he also won an African Cup of Nations winners medal half way through the season. It is pleasing that Onazi could be a key figure in Lazio’s 13/14 campaign.
Having such a great run of results up until mid-January meant that many were disappointed with a seventh place finish, and more importantly, Roma finishing above Lazio on the final day. Missing out on Europa League qualification, meant that the Coppa Italia Final on May 26th against AS Roma was going to be the most important match between the sides to date.
Finishing seventh would suggest a bad league campaign for the neutral fan, but delving deep into the details would suggest that it was a very successful one. Whilst the likes of Inter, Udinese and Napoli all brushed the Europa League off as an unwanted occurrance, Lazio took it seriously and can be proud of where they reached.
Victories against Siena, Catania, and a two legged tie against Juventus saw Lazio reach the final of the Coppa Italia. The Final on May 26th was a chance to forget that Roma finished above Lazio, a chance to lift the trophy up into their greatest rivals face, it was a match that meant more to the Lazio fan than anything else in the world.
A very nervy encounter saw Senad Lulic grab the winner in the 71st minute, and resulted in Lazio winning the Coppa Italia to make a seventh place league finish, one of the most successful campaigns in recent years, after one of the most historical matches ever to take place in Rome.
Looking back at the season, that final match against Roma as a fan, would suggest the best campaign ever. But realistically, Lazio have so much potential that can be dangerous to any team next season. The core of the team is fantastic. Lazio have kept the majority of key players within their ranks throughout the years, and adding some more quality this summer could suggest that the Biancocelesti can only get better.
Vladmir Petkovic has had a very successful first campaign in the Capital. Winning a trophy in his first season has scratched his name into Lazio fans hearts forever, and they just hope he is in it for the long haul, to hopefully bring more silverware to the Capital.
Player of the Season
There are a number of candidates who are in line for Lazio’s player of the season award. In my opinion it has to be Federico Marchetti. The goalkeeper has single-handedly saved Lazio’s blushes on numerous occasions this term, and has eventually earned his recall to the Italy squad. When you consider how many makeshift back four’s Petkovic has had to sample this season, the consistency of Marchetti has stuck throughout, making some world class saves at times in the campaign.
Goal of the Season
As mentioned above, there have been a number of classy goals from a number of players this term. Hernanes’ goal against Bologna stands out as the most recent one, or Candreva’s brilliant strike against Palermo early on in the campaign. But my personal favourite is Eddy Onazi’s wonder-strike against Inter in May where Lazio ran out 3-1 winners at the San Siro.
Best and Worst Signings
Not many players arrived at Formello last summer, or in January. For me, Michael Ciani has been the most effective. Called upon when needed, he certified a strong partnership with either Cana, Biava and Dias at the heart of Lazio’s defence. He has had his fair share of mishaps, but for his debut season in the Italian league, he has always made a professional performance when relied upon.
Worst signing goes to Louis Saha. Arriving in late February to add more steel in attack when Klose fell injured, yet he has rarely featured. It is safe to say that the £400,000 spent on the Frenchman’s wages could have gone to better use.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @Lazio_UK