Last Monday’s 3-0 defeat away to Siena, was an example of the form Lazio have been carrying of late. Atalanta at home back in mid-January was the last time the Biancoceleste managed to take three points from a match.
Six matches since then without a win, has put a heavy dent into the clubs ambitions for a third place finish. Coach Vladmir Petkovic was quick to clarify after Monday’s match that, “I take responsibility for the team and the tactics.”
Many eyebrows were raised when the Bosnian opted for a three man defence prior to Monday’s tie. Stefan Radu was expected to take part in his normal left back position, and Petkovic was expected to go with a 4-4-2 formation. However, this was not the case.
Siena took full advantage of the weakest formation that the coach could have chosen for Lazio. A 3-4-2-1 formation implied by the coach, saw gaps bigger than the River Tiber for Siena to exploit at the back. It was clear to see that Michael Ciani had no experience in his role what-so-ever, resulting in him looking completely lost during his time on the pitch.
The thrashing Lazio received outlined that the team doesn’t boast the players to successfully imply a three-man defence. The result gave the fans flashbacks of last season’s 4-0 defeat in the same fixture. While fans were having ‘Reja-vu’ about last season, many are hoping that the coach doesn’t attempt this formation in the near future.
It was a tired group who had travelled back from Germany just a few days before the match, where-as Siena had over a week to prepare for facing Lazio. A number of reasons can be blamed for the loss, the absent Stefano Mauri left a void of creativity that he normally provides when present, and perhaps the team were lacking the stability that Cristian Ledesma provides when he is on the pitch.
The defeat against Siena was a shock to the system, and meant that preparation for the second-leg of the Europa League tie with Monchengladbach on Thursday was going to be even tougher than first expected.
The previous leg finished in a 3-3 all draw, and although Lazio were favourites to go through, it was by no means a given. Monchengladbach travelled to Rome with 8,000 fans in tow, and were confident of progressing to the next round themselves.
An early goal was important for Lazio to see off any pressure from the German’s, and it came thanks to Antonio Candreva. The second and final goal from Alvaro Gonzalez came shortly after, with Lazio comfortably controlling the match until the final whistle. An impressive performance has rewarded Lazio with a fixture against VfB Stuttgart in the last 16.
The win was the most important aspect of the night, it was Lazio’s first in over a month. A tough set of fixtures are approaching and now is the time to recapture some form going into the most important stage of the season. Falling short for third place in recent years has been upsetting for the fans, is it heading that way this year?
Lately, Lazio have been victims of the injury list, with not enough quality to replace key figures when required. Tiredness is a major issue for the team, not only are Lazio in the Coppa Italia Final, they have impressively managed to reach the last 16 of the Europa League.
With the likes of Milan, Inter and Fiorentina all confident of finishing in the top three themselves, Petkovic has a huge job on his hands to regain league form. While teams like Napoli have clearly prioritised the League rather than Europe this season, it has seemed Petkovic has tried to assault every competition with the best team possible so far, hence why tiredness and injuries are rapidly occuring.
Lazio welcome Pescara to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, an encounter that the Aquile have no choice but to win. Now would be the perfect time to regain some consistency before facing Milan and Fiorentina in the coming weeks, matches that will certainly give us an indication as to where the team will finish the current campaign.
Follow Ben Lally on Twitter: @Lazio_UK