To understand how momentous a season this has been for Lazio, you need simply look back to last summer. Going into the new campaign, Simone Inzaghi’s side were once again being overlooked by many pundits as little more than Europa League hopefuls.
How wrong they were. A spectacular 2019/20 campaign has been one of the best in the history of the capital club. They racked up club records for total points (78), wins (24), winning run (11 games), unbeaten run (21 games) and individual club records for assists (Luis Alberto, 15), and goals (Ciro Immobile, 36).
But for many, the memory of this season will be laced with bitterness and the thought of what could’ve been. Going into the three-month season break, the Biancocelesti were one point behind leaders Juventus and dreaming of their first Scudetto in 20 years. But a disastrous run after the restart, in which an unfit and injury-plagued side lost four of their opening six games, saw any hopes of a title challenge evaporate.
Nevertheless, they have achieved their season objective by securing their return to the Champions League after a 13-year absence, picking up a Supercoppa Italiana title on the way. Once the dust settles, this should be remembered as nothing other than a triumph.
Player of the Season: Ciro Immobile
The European golden boot and capocannoniere winner had a season for the ages. The 30-year-old has scored with remarkable consistency since joining Lazio in 2016, with only Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo netting more than him in Europe’s top five leagues during that period.
But even by his sky-high standards, this was something special. With 36 goals, Immobile scored more in a single Serie A season than any Italian before him, and equalled Gonzalo Higuain’s 2015/16 league record with Napoli. Yes, 14 of them came from the penalty spot, but Immobile’s consistency from 12 yards has been remarkable and he outscored every other player from open play in any case.
But his greatness goes beyond the goals. Immobile’s unrivalled movement off the ball has been one of the secrets to his side’s success, unlocking the potential of Joaquin Correa, Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic around him.
He’s far more than just a finisher, as his eight assists prove – the joint fourth-highest total in the league. It has been the complete season for the most complete of strikers.
Best Signing: Manuel Lazzari
Last summer, the arrival of Lazzari from SPAL made perfect sense. One of the league’s top-performing right wing-backs in 2018/19, the Italy international came in to fill the weakest area of the Lazio squad.
Although it took him a little longer than expected to find his feet, the energetic, dynamic 26-year-old soon came into his own and provided a balance to the side that was previously lacking.
His ability to help take the team from one end of the pitch to the other in transition and his defensive diligence have been crucial to Lazio’s success. A total of just four assists is perhaps less than hoped for, but it gives the wing-back something to improve on from a very impressive debut season.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi
Inzaghi’s influence in this team’s success shouldn’t be underestimated; the unity of the group has been cultivated by a coach who is as much a friend and a mentor as a boss to these players.
Inzaghi has succeeded where so many before him failed, not only in winning trophies – he secured his second Supercoppa this season after landing the Coppa Italia last term – but also in taking the club back to the promised land of the Champions League.
He also became the club’s longest-serving coach this season, overtaking Dino Zoff, a sign of the stability of a project he has overseen along with president Claudio Lotito and sporting director Igli Tare that promises to grow further in the coming years.
Where to start? A few games spring to mind: Lazio’s first league win over AC Milan at San Siro in 30 years, becoming the first side this season to beat Juve in the league, before doing it again in the Supercoppa two weeks later, the stoppage-time comeback against Cagliari, the home win over Inter.
But the most decisive moment of the season wasn’t even a victory. Back in October, a dreadful first-half performance against Atalanta left the home fans furious and the Biancocelesti 3-0 down as they headed into the dressing room for the break.
What followed was a remarkable turnaround, one of many this season, as two goals from Immobile and one from Correa inside the final 21 minutes earned Inzaghi’s side a draw. This match has since been referred to by the coach and his players alike as a turning point in their season and for their much-improved mentality, and no wonder; it was after this that they went on their club record 11-match winning run.
Lazio returned from the break in poor form and bad shape, and that will always leave a sour note when this season is looked back on. At the restart they were one point off the top of the table, but soon tumbled down the standings, even allowing Atalanta to catch them.
Six of Lazio’s eight league defeats came after the restart. Eighteen of the 42 goals they conceded came in the final stretch. The combination of a loss of momentum, a crippling injury crisis and Inzaghi’s unwillingness to rotate tired players resulted in a string of unrecognisably poor performances that ended any hope of a Scudetto challenge.
Beyond that, other than Manuel Lazzari the summer transfer window proved to be a flop. Denis Vavro cost the club €11m and has done little to merit that price tag so far, while Jony has underwhelmed and Bobby Adekanye has been given few opportunities to shine. More will be expected of these players if they get another crack next season.