The past few weeks have been nothing but hectic and dramatic for Lazio and Laziali.
Ex-manager, Simone Inzaghi, left Lazio to join Inter Milan after 22 years with the club. This sudden and unexpected move left a vacancy at the managerial position.
The Biancocelesti were linked with numerous managers yet their main target was Maurizio Sarri. After weeks of negotiating, the two sides finally came to agreement and it was a shock to many as Lazio President Claudio Lotito went to the limits to sign a quality manager; arguably the best available option.
The cost of Sarri’s management staff is reportedly €25 million gross, a price that is steep and a decision that few expected Lotito to make. The manager signed a two-year deal with Lazio – with an option for a third – worth around €3 million net per season, with add-ons linked to the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and the Scudetto.
What Were Your Initial Thoughts When You Heard That Lazio Appointed Maurizio Sarri as Manager of Lazio?
The process was so long and drawn out that the announcement was expected by the time it came.
I didn’t take the initial rumours too seriously because Sarri has been linked to just about every vacant position out there. Now that it’s confirmed, I think Lazio fans should feel optimistic about the future.
Simone Inzaghi has been one of the best coaches in Serie A for a few seasons now and besides Sarri, the replacements Lazio have been linked to would almost certainly have been downgrades.
For me, Champions League qualification remains a realistic target under Sarri.
What Can Lazio Fans Expect From Sarri?
Lazio fans should expect a more positive, attacking brand of football.
Lazio were very much a counterattacking team under Inzaghi, and they did it extremely well. Napoli played their best and most esthetically pleasing football in recent history under Sarri.
Quick, one-touch passes and off-the-ball movement were Sarri’s signature. Napoli would play out of any situation at the back, before playing out of the back was the in-thing. That stylish play doesn’t stop at the back though. It progresses through the midfield and into the attacking phase.
With the creativity and passing ability of Luis Alberto and Sergei Milinkovic-Savic, Lazio is well-suited for Sarri’s system.
Lazio Have Used a 3-5-2 Formation in the Past Five Seasons Under Simone Inzaghi. Can This Team Adapt to the 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 formations?
I think this team can adapt quite easily to a 4-3-3. The biggest change would be to the back line, where one centre back would be replaced by two fullbacks.
One of those full backs could be Elseid Hysaj, who played under Sarri at Napoli. While he’s naturally a right back, he’s shown under Gennaro Gattuso that he can play on both sides. Of course, with Francesco Acerbi, Patric, Luis Felipe, Wesley Hoedt, Stefan Radu and Mateo Musacchio, Lazio would be grossly oversupplied at centre back. Hoedt, Radu and Musacchio all expire on June 30, 2021, so I imagine they would not all be renewed. Even if Felipe doubles as a full back, Lazio would need to sign at least one, if not two backup fullbacks.
The front six is a rather simple adjustment. In the short-term I would play Lucas Leiva as a regista, behind Alberto and Milinkovic-Savic. Looking ahead, I would look to replace the aging Leiva with a playmaker to play more of a Jorginho-type role.
I would then play Adam Marusic and Manuel Lazzari further up the pitch, as wingers rather than as wing backs. Ciro Immobile would play as the striker, and his usual strike partner, be it Joaquin Correa or Felipe Caicedo, would be relegated to the bench. In fact, I would look to sell one of those players and invest the proceeds in reinforcements at full back.
My biggest concern would be whether Immobile could adapt to this system. We know he hasn’t scored as prolifically playing in a 4-3-3 with the Italian national team has, he has playing in a 3-5-2 with Lazio.
It Has Been a Successful Career for Sarri as a Manager. His Fondest Moments Were Probably With Empoli and Napoli. Being a Napoli Fan and Expert, What Were Some of His Strengths and Weaknesses That Lazio Fans Should Look Out For?
The irony is, while Sarri may have enjoyed his time at Empoli and Napoli the most, he collected more silverware at Chelsea and Juventus. He was never respected at Chelsea, despite delivering a Europa League title. Then he was sacked by Juventus after winning a scudetto.
For me, Sarri’s biggest strength is his tactics, as I’ve already described. I’d add that he also has the ability to use players in positions they’re not accustomed to playing in. At Napoli he did this with Dries Mertens, converting the Belgian from a winger to a false nine. He’ll need to do the same at Lazio to switch from the 3-5-2 to 4-3-3.
Sarri’s biggest weakness is his stubbornness. He insists on playing one style, even if it’s not working. At Napoli he showed an unwillingness to rotate, despite playing in multiple competitions. That could be a problem for Lazio, who will be playing in Europa League again.
Which Players Do You See Benefiting From Sarri’s Tactics?
If Lazio do play in a 4-3-3, I can see the wingers benefiting. They will have more opportunities to score not playing so wide. While Alberto and Milinkovic-Savic already have excellent numbers, I anticipate their stats would improve as well, simply by virtue of the fact that Lazio would be playing much more offensive football.
Do You Believe the Signing of Sarri Is a Bold Statement by Lazio?
I do. I think this is Lotito saying he wants to continue to compete with the big boys. It’s a statement that he will not be satisfied with being a mid-table team again. However, the coach is only one step. Lotito will need to open his wallet and invest more in the squad if he truly wants to compete on a consistent basis, especially with a number of players reaching their twilight.