The recent hamstring injury suffered by Ciro Immobile has left many anxious as it’s clear that Lazio heavily rely on their talismanic striker. The 32-year-old Italian forward felt a twinge in his right thigh in the 15th minute of the Biancocelesti’s 2-0 win over Sassuolo on 15th January, immediately asking to be brought off.
Tests later revealed that he’d suffered a slight muscle strain in his hamstring, forcing him to the sidelines for around 15 to 20 days. Despite being shorthanded, Lazio are still a team challenging for a top-four position and if you bet on football, this may be the perfect time to get higher returns on the team.
It’s no secret that Lazio have limited options up front. The team did not replace Vedat Muriqi after selling the Kosovan to RCD Mallorca in the summer and Immobile’s injury in the first half of the season highlighted the lack of true alternatives in the squad, forcing Maurizio Sarri to adapt a wide player in the false nine role, something that had limited success.
The underlying numbers highlight Lazio’s reliance on their star captain. This season, the Biancocelesti have produced an expected goals (xG) of 22.7 in Serie A and Immobile contributed 6.5 of this, far ahead of the next best provider Mattia Zaccagni, who created an xG of 3.9.
Immobile also takes the most shots on average per 90 minutes with 2.76, ahead of Zaccagni’s 2.09 and Pedro’s 1.91, and he also takes the most touches on the opponent’s penalty area on average, 7.05 per 90 minutes compared to Felipe Anderson’s 4.21 and Zaccagni’s 4.53.
These stats signpost how the Lazio captain is the focal point of the team’s attack, playing a key role in the final third and being a driving force behind victories. There’s also another aspect to the 32-year-old’s game that can’t be quantified in numbers.
The Italian striker is the squad’s most respected leader on the pitch, helping his teammates maintain focus and energy across the 90 minutes. One issue that has plagued the squad this season is a mentality drop, allowing their opponents a route back into the match, and the absence of Immobile will only make this a greater risk.
In the past, the presence of a reliable backup striker like Felipe Caicedo allowed Immobile to rest when needed and he often came off the pitch in the closing stages of a match. Since the Ecuadorian’s departure, however, Immobile has often been forced to see out the full 90 minutes of games, doing so in 10 of his 14 Serie A appearances this campaign.
Immobile is Lazio personified, on and off the pitch, and it’s long overdue for the club to find a consistent backup forward to allow him to continue to lead the team for years to come.