It has been a hectic season for Lazio as they have experienced their share of highs and lows under new manager Maurizio Sarri. The club has managed to earn immense victories against AS Roma and Inter yet have experienced surprising setbacks versus Bologna and Cagliari.
While it was expected that it would take time for the team to adjust and become familiar with Sarri’s tactics, surprisingly, the club is in fifth place; just one point back of Roma, who hold the final spot for the Champions League.
A key factor in Lazio’s early success has been Ciro Immobile. He has seven goals in seven Serie A matches and has contributed two assists. In addition, he has been heavily involved in Lazio’s offense as 19 of their 20 goals have been with the player on the pitch.
When he missed the club’s Serie A match against Bologna due to an injury before the international break, his absence was felt. It was Lazio’s worst performance this season; they were dreadful in all areas on the pitch, lacking motivation, showing little intensity, creating very few chances and not having that spark that they displayed in previous fixtures. They lost to a Bologna side who had just one win in their past five matches.
It became evident after one match without Immobile that Lazio needed their captain back quickly. Additional time without their lead striker would have been devasting for Sarri and his team. Fortunately, the international break arrived at the right time and this allowed Immobile time to heal and recover without missing additional matches.
After a two-week layoff, Serie A resumed this past weekend as the international break came to a halt and Immobile returned to the lineup for their marquee matchup versus Inter. His presence was immediately felt as he showed good intensity, created chances and scored a pivotal goal to get his side back into the match.
Immobile finished the match with five aerial duels won, one successful dribble, one goal, two fouls won and was effective in the backend with three clearances. He was impactful at both ends of the pitch and without Immobile in the lineup, the result could have looked much different for Lazio.
Immobile has always been a game-changer with his timely goals and ability to make key passes, yet it was his leadership that played a key role. He kept his team composed and was vocal on numerous occasions when they were trailing 1-0 as he tried to give his side a boost. This was a part of Lazio’s game that was missing in their previous match versus Bologna as no other players took control or stepped up when needed.
In the next three weeks, Lazio have a hectic schedule between the Serie A and Europa League as they play six matches in twenty days. The club will have minimal rest between each match and will need Immobile at their disposal.
Depending solely on backup striker Vedat Muriqi could be an issue as he has struggled in the Serie A and has yet to settle in and adjust with Lazio. He has appeared in eight matches across all competitions this season and has just one assist.
Regardless of Muriqi’s performances, Lazio cannot depend solely on one striker. It will lead to injuries and fatigue, so having both Immobile and the Kosovan available will be vital. The latter will have his share of opportunities, yet, when they arrive, he will need to make the most out of them.
Since joining Lazio back in July 2016, Immobile has missed 26 matches. During that span, they have won seven times, drawn seven times and lost 12 times, showing that without their captain, they struggle to secure three points.
For the time being, Lazio has their captain back in the lineup at a pivotal time. His leadership, scoring and presence will play a key role in the coming weeks; without him, it could have been quite difficult for the club to win matches, yet with him back, they once again have a fighting chance in both Serie A and the Europa League.