If you ask a Lazio fan who the club’s stand-out performers were in the 2017/18 season, you will more than likely be greeted with three names – Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto. These three players were instrumental to the club’s successes and goalscoring antics last season, yet Immobile aside, the other two players have looked like mere shells of their former selves. It almost felt as though the invasion of the body snatchers took place in the summer and I am half expecting a Donald Sutherland-esque scream to erupt from either the Serbian or the Spaniard any day now.
However, at the weekend, Lazio breezed to a 3-1 victory over an inferior Cagliari side, with goals from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Francesco Acerbi and Senad Lulic gifting Inzaghi’s side all 3 points, after going six games without a win. Seeing Milinkovic-Savic get back on the scoresheet nearly brought us as much joy as it did to him, with the Serbian showing a lot of emotion after he found the back of the net; his Lazio teammates coming over to support and congratulate him in the aftermath, with the Serbian saying that his teammates “knew how much the goal meant to me.” Not only did Milinkovic-Savic shine but so did Luis Alberto, with TheLaziali naming him as our man of the match for his stand-out performance. The Spaniard showed the magic he brought to the field time and time again last season, pulling all the strings in an instrumental position, alongside fellow attacking midfielder Joaquin Correa in Inzaghi’s new 3-4-2-1 formation.
Luis Alberto played 76 minutes on Saturday and, as per WhoScored, received an 8.31 average rating – his highest recorded this season. Alberto registered an impressive 7 key passes, four more than any other Lazio player on the field and as many as the entire Cagliari side combined. Furthermore, he resisted a pass completion rate of 83.9% and touched the ball 94 times, 18 more than the next closest, Francesco Acerbi. Completing 3 successful dribbles, Luis Alberto also achieved more in this field than any other man on the pitch and he did not even play the full 90 minutes. Finally, Alberto managed to pull off all 7 of his attempted long balls, demonstrating, like last season, his ability to link up play and be a real offensive threat as a playmaker.
Whether or not this is a sign of things to come is another matter. Just because the Spaniard was able to play a blinder against Cagliari does not mean he will be able to do the same thing against the likes of Sevilla, Napoli, and Juventus; three clubs that the Biancocelsti must face after the winter break concludes – on the 14th February, 20th January and 27th January respectively. These games will be a tough test for Lazio and they are certainly expected to have a near-impossible task on their hands to come away with more than one win from these matches. However, if Luis Alberto, Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic all impress as we know they can, it could be cause for optimism for Laziale.
There is nothing we would like to see more than Luis Alberto making an emphatic return to form and, with Milan and Roma struggling, there is no better time for it to happen. Lazio must face Bologna on Boxing Day (26th December) and Torino on the 29th of December – with these two games establishing, for us, whether or not Luis Alberto has resumed business as usual. If we can come out of 2018 with six points from these games and a shred of hope in both Alberto and Milinkovic-Savic, then Lazio fans everywhere have cause for optimism about 2019.