Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Perhaps the most disappointing team in this Serie A campaign so far has been Lazio. Last year the Biancocelesti finished in third place, just missing out on second to their hated rivals Roma. Last years third place was Lazio's best finish since the 2006-07 Serie A season when they also finished third. Many felt that Lazio could build on last years third place finish under Stefano Pioli and with the club keeping the stars of last season there was reason to be excited in Rome. So why now do Lazio find themselves in 8th place and 7 points off a European place? Why hasn't Pioli delivered again? And why haven't last seasons key players such as Candreva and Felipe Anderson performed?
After finishing third, Lazio managed to maintain all their key players during the following summer transfer window and signed some promising young players such as Wesley Hoedt, Ricardo Kishna and Sergei Milinkovic-Savic. Many felt that they would go on to perhaps better a third place finish but they have failed to live up to expectations. Lazio's poor campaign started with defeat to Juventus in the Supercoppa Italia and failure to qualify for the Champions League losing a play-off to Bayer Leverkusen. Since then the downhill spiral has continued. Many feel Lotito should have invested more money in the summer transfer window. Lotito seemed content that just keeping Biglia, Candreva and Anderson would be enough to push on from the last season. Unfortunately for the Laziale this has not been the case.
Last year Lazio scored a club record 71 goals and conceded 38, while this year they have only scored 38 goals and have already conceded 38 with 8 games remaining. The goals have dried up with Klose's legs no longer what they were, Felipe Anderson's inconsistency and Stefano Mauri being sidelined for large parts of this season. Matri and Djordjevic have both failed to provide an able replacement to Klose's 15 goals last season with only 6 goals between them this year. Another problem for Lazio has been their leaky defense this year, losing 4-0 to Chievo and 5-0 to Napoli shows how shaky they are at the back. Stefan De Vrij has been sorely missed at the heart of the defence this season. Gentiletti and Mauricio have both been woeful at times this season especially Mauricio who has been shockingly poor in nearly all the matches he has featured in this season. Making himself a cult figure among Lazio fans for all the wrong reasons.
Another problem for Lazio is that Pioli seems to be having second season syndrome. Pioli's problems began when he chose Biglia as captain over Candreva. This decision upset Candreva so much so that he decided to make his unhappiness public and many feel the armband not being given to him is the reason to blame for his lackluster performances this season. Pioli has also had a tough time with injuries this year. De Vrij has been out all season, while Klose, Lulic, Biglia and Parolo have all been out sometime with injury and many more have been injured throughout Lazio's season. Pioli has also had to deal with training brawls between players and severe backlash from fans, apparently he is considering resigning at the end of the season but he might not need to worry because Lotito might sack him regardless. Pioli hasn't been able to get consistent performances out of Lazio a second season round and there is no doubt part of the blame for Lazio's poor season lies with the tactician.
If Lazio are to improve next season and reach Europe again a summer clear out is needed; players like Gentiletti, Mauricio, Morrison, Djordjevic, Berisha and Patric should all be sold. Perhaps even the inconsistent Felipe Anderson should be cashed in on, Candreva and Biglia are likely to leave as well so Lazio will need to spend a lot of money on replacing players of that quality and improving their squad. A new man in charge would have a tough task on his hands in revitalizing Lazio. At the moment former Lazio star and current Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic is being linked as the favorite to the hot seat, with Giampiero Ventura, Christian Brocchi and Ersun Yanul all being linked with the job as well. Whoever is in charge of Lazio next year will inherit a revamped squad. They will face a real challenge to bring glory back to Lazio and make the Super Eagles fly high once again.