How Lazio Flew to an Unexpected Second Place Finish

When the 2022-23 Serie A season started, not many expected Lazio to secure a top-four finish, but Maurizio Sarri’s side went one step further and fought their way to a second-place finish.

The Biancocelesti had an important but understated summer transfer window last year, picking up a number of low-cost reinforcements like Marcos Antonio, Nicolo Casale, Ivan Provedel and Alessio Romagnoli. Sarri wanted an Italian core at the heart of his project, and this is where it all began.

Looking at their rivals in the fight for the Champions League spots, hopes were not particularly high for Lazio, with teams like Juventus, Inter, Milan, Napoli and even Roma all seemingly carrying out more exciting work in the market. Nearly every news outlet and Sports Journalist in the county had counted them out of the top four, with a more likely finish in fifth, sixth, or seventh.

The first few weeks of the season did little to raise Lazio’s stocks; the first four outings saw Sarri’s side beat Bologna and Inter but drop points in draws to Torino and Sampdoria, suggesting that the ever-problematic inconsistency could again plague the Roman side. This was confusing for fans as the squad seemed to be struggling to look connected despite having a full pre-season under their belts.

However, after a 2-1 loss to Napoli in early September, things started to change for the Biancocelesti. They beat Hellas Verona 2-0 before picking up three consecutive 4-0 wins over Cremonese, Spezia and Fiorentina, quickly taking them up the table to fourth place.

A 0-0 draw with Udinese broke this streak, before Lazio beat Atalanta 2-0 and lost to Salernitana 3-1. Now it was time for the most important test of the season – the Derby della Capitale. Sarri’s side didn’t disappoint and edged out a tense 1-0 win over Roma, giving them another key boost. Explosive winger Mattia Zaccagni – who was arguably the club’s Player of the Year – was instrumental to securing all three points with Ciro Immobile sidelined due to injury.

The Biancocelesti closed out 2022 with a testing win over Monza and a frustrating 3-0 loss to Juventus, leaving them third in the Serie A table after 15 matches. By this point, the belief was starting to truly grow regarding the team’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League once again; however, despite their success, Sarri continued to state in his Press Conferences that securing a top-four finish would be a ‘surprise’ for the club.

The first six weeks of 2023 were emblematic of Lazio’s battle with inconsistency – wins over Milan and Sassuolo were dampened by losses to Lecce and Atalanta, and draws with Empoli, Fiorentina and Verona. After 22 matches, Lazio found themselves sixth in the table, two points outside the top four spots – it was not looking good, with fans once again becoming frustrated.

What followed was a shockingly impressed two-month spell from the Roman club, who won seven of their eight Serie A matches from mid-February to mid-April, picking up wins over Salernitana, Sampdoria, Napoli, Roma, Monza, Juventus and Spezia. The only disappointing game in this period was a 0-0 draw with Bologna.

This run was crucial for Lazio’s Champions League hope, and in the space of eight games they’d flown from sixth to second, having a 10-point cushion to fifth place Inter. Noted Italian journalist Carlo Pellegatti commented on this when reflecting on the Serie A season to Sitiscommesse, saying: “I thought Lazio, as unfortunately already happened, would deflate a bit at the end. Instead, they were good at getting going again. So for me, that was the surprise.”

Lazio’s final eight games of the 2022-23 season weren’t particularly impressive, with losses to Torino, Inter and Milan, but wins over Udinese, Cremonese and Empoli were enough to secure their second-place finish. The club were also helped by the 10-point penalty handed to Juventus, taking off some of the pressure.

Tags Biancocelesti Carlo Pellegatti Italy Lazio Pellegatti Rome Serie A