In the Summer of 2019, one of the most talked about players linked to Lazio was Manuel Lazzari. The Italian wing-back had caught the attention of Lazio Sporting Director, Igli Tare, and ex-manager, Simone Inzaghi.
Lazzari spent six seasons with Serie A side, SPAL, where he had a productive season in his final year. His ability to play right wing-back and his comprehension of the 3-5-2 formation was beneficial for Inzaghi.
After continuous discussions between SPAL and Lazio, the two sides eventually came to an agreement in July 2019. The Biancocelesti spent a fee of €10 million while also sending Alessandro Murgia to the club in exchange for the player. After acquiring the wing-back from SPAL, Lazio quickly tied him to a five-year contract.
Inzaghi was aiming to insert a player into his lineup who could be creative and effective down the right flank. Lazzari has never been known to be a goal scorer, yet he is an attack-minded player who has the ability to open up the field and create chances for his teammates. In his final season with SPAL, his overall passing completion was 83% and he averaged two crosses per game.
Inzaghi preferred an offensive type of game where he focused on the central midfielders and wingers to build the play upfield and move the ball quickly. Lazzari has those skills and attributes, which had assisted the Lazio coach; the player also strived quite well and met the expectations and beyond for Inzaghi.
In his first two seasons for Lazio, Lazzari was one of the coach’s most dependable players when healthy and available. In his first season with the Biancocelesti, he played a total of 40 games in all competitions and amassed over 2500 minutes. Although this was primarily due to Adam Marusic struggling to stay healthy, he took the most out of the opportunity and flourished, finishing the Serie A season with an average of 0.9 crosses per game, 1.1 successful dribbles per game and 1.1 key passes per game.
In his second season with Lazio, Lazzari followed up with another impressive year. He was, once again, one of their most reliable and trusted players under Inzaghi. With Marusic manning the left flank, Lazzari played significant minutes and was relied upon at right wing-back; especially because of Senad Lulic’s injuries and Mohamed Fares’ poor form. He featured in 39 games for a total of 3061 minutes and finished the season with similar numbers to his first season, averaging 0.7 crosses per game, 1.0 successful dribble per game and 1.0 key passes per game.
Lazzari has shown to be an energetic player who can attack down the flank, cross the ball into dangerous areas, and make key passes. The key skills that the player has provided for Lazio are his crossing and dribbling, as these were two areas that were weak on the right-wing prior to his arrival. However, after two successful seasons, Lazzari has fallen down the pecking order under new Lazio manager, Maurizio Sarri.
It has been a frustrating season for Lazzari as he’s had to shift from wing-back to right-back. He has shown positive signs yet at other moments, it has been difficult for the Italian; he has become a backup to summer signing Elseid Hysaj and Marusic.
Lazzari has appeared in 26 matches across all competitions and played a total of 1198 minutes. A contributing factor to Lazzari’s setback has been the change in formation as the club has shifted from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 under Sarri. In addition, Sarri has not been fully convinced by the full-back due to his defensive capabilities; as a result, it has been reported that Lazio are now interested in selling Lazzari.
In recent times, Lazzari has appeared in three straight matches for Lazio and his performances have suggested that he is ready for the challenge that faces him. The full-back has been one of their most influential and impactful players; during this span, he has provided a goal, great pace in the final third and has shown good awareness in defense.
His celebration after his goal showed a frustrated player who wants to be playing more, and with how Hysaj has performed in the past few weeks, it is about time that Lazzari takes over as the starter at right-back. The Albanian has struggled where he has offered minimal in the final third, lacked pace, has been caught out of position on several occasions, and has been beaten quite easily in 1v1 situations.
Lazzari has proven in recent seasons that he is a vital contributor to this club and a player with his abilities should be used more frequently. As a result, Lazio should avoid selling the player as there are very few options that are available and similar to what he could offer. Furthermore, with his recent performances, it is time that he is integrated back into the lineup and has a fair chance of earning a starting position once again.