Adam Marusic: Senad Lulic’s Best Replacement?
Adam Marusic has essentially been relegated to the bench since the arrival of Manuel Lazzari from SPAL this past summer. However, with the long-term injury of captain Senad Lulic, the Montenegrin has been given a second chance in the starting eleven; he has proven himself worthy of a starting position on the left flank while the Bosnian veteran recovers.
“Less than two minutes into Lazio’s match against Genoa on Sunday in Matchday 25, Montenegrin wide man Adam Marusic gave Biancocelesti supporters a glimpse of what he does best. A well-placed pass from Felipe Caicedo put the ball at Marusic’s feet; with two defenders in front of him, the winger used his momentum – alongside his impeccable speed and strength – to power through his two markers and slot home the club’s first of three goals in the afternoon. The goal proved to be crucial as Lazio defeated the surging and attack-minded Rossoblu side by just one goal (3-2).”
To get one thing clear, Marusic is not as good as Lulic. Lulic is Lazio’s captain, as a leader and veteran, with almost 15 years of professional experience. The Bosnian is extremely valuable; being able to read the game well, be calm on the ball, and send in teasing crosses. Although Marusic cannot replicate this on the pitch, he does bring a spark to the side that Lulic – and most certainly original second choice Jony – cannot.
Lulic’s weaknesses were exposed in Lazio’s second derby against Roma earlier in February. Being matched against the young and explosive Cengiz Ünder, the 34-year-old Lulic struggled to keep up. He was outpaced and overpowered by Ünder, and this was a major contributor to what made Lazio’s second derby performance one of Le Aquile’s worst league performances of the season.
Marusic is the type of player who can compensate for Lulic’s lack of spark. He is most certainly not the most skilled or the most composed player on the pitch, neither is he incredibly adept defensively. But Lazio has a plethora of composure and skill to make up for this. With the innovative Luis Alberto, the midfield maestro Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, the defensive brilliance of Lucas Leiva and Francesco Acerbi, as well as a great all-around winger in Lazzari, the Biancocelesti do not need Marusic to be brilliant. However, his aforementioned goal against Genoa on Sunday proves his worth as a wrecking ball. Furthermore, his ability to keep up with Ashley Young’s brilliant performance – in Lazio’s 1-0 victory over Inter – highlights Marusic’s value on the wing.
Marusic can provide consistent energy and positive unpredictability. He can run circles around Serie A’s wide men, he does not need to stop attackers, but he can slow them down to make the defense’s job much easier. He can also bolt up the pitch and overpower defenders who are more focused on Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile, as he did against Genoa.
In Lazio’s victory over Inter, Simone Inzaghi defeated a manager who he shares a lot with stylistically, Antonio Conte. Conte has always had an incredible ability to take undervalued players and make them work in his system. One of the best examples of this is Conte’s use of Marcos Alonso in Chelsea’s 2016/17 Premier League title-winning campaign. Alonso was not, and is still not incredibly skilled as a footballer, but he proved himself to be a valuable asset. Alonso provided energy and timely scoring opportunities, he was a wild card while opposing defenses centered their attention towards Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, while a strong midfield comprising N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas controlled the tempo. In Marusic, Inzaghi has a similar player. Lazio has a match controlling midfield, as well as an incredibly scary attacking core. In that, Marusic can be an unrefined wild card.
While the absence of Lulic is far from ideal, the positive performances of Marusic have made that loss easier to handle. With a combination of him alongside Lazzari on the wing, Lazio should have not issues challenging Juventus for the title from here on out.