Last December, Sassuolo defender Francesco Acerbi completed 100 consecutive matches for the Reggio Emilia-based club. Not only had he done so, but he had played 90 minutes in every single one of those games, having twice beaten testicular cancer. This player’s professionalism and positivity goes hand-in-hand with his ability on the pitch, and it was perhaps no surprise that – after five years with the Neroverdi – other clubs began to look at bringing in the experienced 30-year-old center-back. Lazio had lost Stefan De Vrij to AC Milan in the summer, and sporting director Igli Tare unsurprisingly looked to Acerbi as the man to replace him.
“I’m proud to be here, they wanted me very much, as I did Lazio,” said the player at his presentation. “The negotiation was long and complicated. De Vrij did well here, he’s a top player but I look at myself and at Lazio. I need to look at myself, I want to fight for myself. There’s a lot of incentive, I’m at a big club in a great squad which did really well last season. I need to prove that I’m worthy of Lazio and I’m sure I can do well. De Vrij is gone and I’m here, I have to show what I can do. You make the comparisons, I’m focused on my performance and interested in whether the team does well.”
To dismiss Acerbi’s opening two matches based on the fact that the capital club lost their opening two matches to Napoli and Juventus would be to miss this player’s unexpectedly diligent performances. In the 2-1 defeat to Napoli, Acerbi completed 36 of 47 total passes, however, found a team-mate with all eight in the defensive area of the pitch. The experienced player was also successful with 1/1 take-ons, 1/1 tackles and made four interceptions and five ball recoveries in total. Most impressive was that the 30-year-old cleared the ball with all seven attempts – four of which were with his head – and won six from eight aerial duels.
If that was an impressive debut, his performance against Juventus was even better. The Bianconeri – Scudetto winners in the last seven consecutive seasons – were simply too strong for the visitors on this occasion, however, Acerbi played his part in ensuring the scoreline didn’t go up any higher.
The @StatsZone graphics below perfectly illustrate how Francesco Acerbi is growing into his role at Lazio. The team may have suffered back-to-back defeats, but they have acquired a superb defender from Sassuolo this summer. pic.twitter.com/W06wfmf9h3
— Chloe Beresford (@ChloeJBeresford) August 26, 2018
At Juventus stadium, Acerbi completed 42/46 passes, again ensuring 100% of the 17 passes made in the defensive third found a team-mate. Just as against Napoli, he recovered the ball five times, and also made two interceptions and two blocks. This time, he completed nine from nine clearance attempts (six of which were with his head), and three from three aerial duels. Another stat that should be encouraging to Lazio supporters is that Acerbi played through both of these difficult encounters without receiving a yellow card, his timing in challenges an obvious factor in bringing the former Sassuolo man to Stadio Olimpico.
With fixtures to come versus Frosinone, Empoli, Genoa, and Udinese before the Rome derby on September 29th, it is expected that boss Simone Inzaghi can lift his side and put some points on the board. However, the Coach will have already seen that Francesco Acerbi can be relied upon in the heart of his three-man defense.
First seen on @TheSportsman.
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