The 2021/22 Serie A campaign was a difficult season for Lazio as they started off slow, however, in the second half they showed signs of progression under new manager Maurizio Sarri.
Throughout the season, scoring was not an issue as they finished second in goals scored with 77; only Inter were ahead of them with 84 goals. Sarri elevated the play of players such as Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Pedro, who provided offense consistently and were game changers. However, it was the backend that led to issues throughout the season.
The club ranked tenth in Serie A with 59 goals against and struggled to maintain leads late into matches. Transitioning from a back three to a back four proved to be difficult for players such as Francesco Acerbi and Luiz Felipe, who on countless occasions made costly mistakes. Nonetheless, it was a collective issue.
In recent times, Lazio signed centre-back Nicolo Casale from Hellas Verona. It is encouraging to see that Lazio are making the backend a priority and trying to improve this area.
So, who is Casale and what can Lazio fans expect from the newly acquired defender?
Nicolo Casale: Background
Casale spent his first two seasons in the Primavera with Verona from 2015 – 2017. The defender amassed 42 matches between Primavera A, Coppa Primavera and Primavera Fase Finale. In addition, he scored four goals in the Primavera.
During the 2017/18 campaign, he made his debut with Perugia in Serie B on September 16, 2017, versus Parma. However, he spent most of his time in Serie C-A, With AC Prata as he played 15 matches. In the subsequent season, he was loaned out once more to FC Suditrol, in Serie C-A.
During the 2019/20 campaign, Casale spent the year in Serie B with Venezia. This was the highest level he played at for a full campaign and he finished the season with 20 games played and reached 1453 minutes played. Verona loaned him out once more yet he was in Serie B for a subsequent season with Empoli. He finished the season with 24 games played in Serie B and two in the Coppa Italia.
Casale was loaned out on several occasions during his time with Verona. However, in his final season with the club, he played in the top flight for the first time in his career with them. He featured in 36 Serie A matches, accumulated 2592 minutes and earned two assists. In addition, he played in one Coppa Italia game.
Strengths & Style of Play
It has been a long road for Casale to reach to where he is today but it came with patience and growing his game along the way on several loan stints. During his time at Verona under manager, Igor Tudor, Casale showed he can play as a central, deep-lying center-back. He can be the last defender back and man mark physical players.
Casale can feature in a more advanced role, wide centre-back. He will be more involved with the play, making overlapped runs down the wide areas and in overcrowded central parts of the midfield.
Casale is tall and physical and is not scared to commit to challenges as he had a high rate of tackles and interceptions this past season. He averaged 1.3 tackles per game and 1.4 interceptions per game and showed great awareness.
In addition, he has good vision and knows when to put the ball into safety when the backline is under pressure. He averaged 2.4 clearances per game and showed he was not a liability. In addition, he is hard to bypass as he has good footwork and positioning. He is a pure defender and has shown to be a consistent player.
Casale has shown the ability to win duels on the offensive and defensive ends. Last season he averaged 1.9 duels won per game and did so with his physicality and positioning.
One area of concern is Casale’s pace, which might be a problem versus quick forwards. From tracking back to recover when caught out of position or against diagonal runs in behind the defender, he could find himself in difficult situations. In addition, he commits fouls often as he averaged 1.2 per game last season with Verona.
Nonetheless, Casale is 24 years old and possesses plenty of quality with room to grow in his game. He does have just one season in the top flight yet it was a productive campaign where his game progressed under Tudor.
Casale provides depth which was a concern last season and if necessary, could see himself as a starter.