Thursday Aug 17, 2017  
     
 
  16/08/2013: Player Profile: Lucas Biglia
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It is hard not to be impressed by the acquisition of Lucas Biglia. The 27 year-old has arrived from Anderlecht with a wealth of Champions League experience under his belt and he is now entering what should be his best years as a professional footballer as a starter in one of the world's most prestigious national teams - and Lazio have secured all this for a cut-price sum of 5.5 million euro. Every once in a while, Claudio Lotito and Igli Tare pull something special out of the bag, and if anyone is to live up to their billing next season, and break into the starting eleven, it is surely the Argentine midfielder. 

As Vladimir Petkovic prepares for the Supercoppa Italiana on Sunday, Lucas Biglia looks set to get the nod alongside Cristian Ledesma, as the Bosnian coach appears to prefer him over Ogenyi Onazi and Alvaro Gonzalez at this moment in time. Biglia has clearly made an impression on Petkovic in his short time at the club and it comes as no surprise, frankly. He is the type of player that a manager loves to have at his disposal - he directly influences the game by controlling the tempo, shoring up the defence and initiating attacks and in his seven-year spell with Anderlecht, he became a fan favourite with consistent and assured displays.

His time at Anderlecht came to a natural end. Biglia missed a 'ritiro' in January as he was suffering from intensely painful headaches which he later discovered to be related to his battle with depression. He felt he needed a change of scenery and asked Anderlecht to facilitate a move elsewhere - preferably to Italy, in lieu of his Italian heritage. Lazio were happy to oblige and Biglia had his heart set on Rome as he looked to make a home for his family in the capital. Biglia has been very frank and open about the motivations behind this move and we all hope that life with Lazio in Rome is the experience he so desperately wants and needs.

Biglia may see Lazio as the perfect fit for him as a player and a person, and I am sure Lotito and Tare are impressed by Lucas as a man, but the transfer is still a little difficult to understand. He is an incredibly gifted footballer, but Lazio already have a character in the dressing room who is similar both as a player and a person - Cristian Ledesma. In fact, many self-proclaimed Serie A experts have been saying all summer long that Biglia and Ledesma cannot co-exist on the football pitch. Adriano Bacconi - a tactical analyst who once worked with Zeman at Lazio - spent some time with Petkovic at Auronzo di Cadore and noted that there was only one way that Ledesma and Biglia could play together - alongside each other in a 4-2-3-1. This is also my opinion - in this system, Ledesma and Biglia can contribute to defensive and attacking phases and share the responsibility evenly. Despite being very different players, Ledesma and Gonzalez seemed to share the defensive and attacking duties last season, despite the fact that Petkovic described his system as a 4-1-4-1 formation. I expect Petkovic to use the same system this weekend by slotting Biglia in beside Ledesma and giving that duo the most stern of tests in the Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus.

Lucas Biglia certainly adds a new dimension to the Lazio midfield. Last season, Lazio struggled to maintain possession and I suggested in a previous editorial that to move forward, Petkovic needed to improve our ball possession. Pre-season training has focused heavily on ball control and Biglia is arguably the most sound passer in the Lazio squad. In Serie A, Hernanes was, by quite some distance, our most accurate passer but Biglia blows everyone out of the water in that respect - in the Champions League last season, Biglia managed a pass completion rate of 89%. Xavi and Iniesta would be envious of such statistics and it is impressive that Biglia managed this playing for a relatively poor Anderlecht side rather than a European powerhouse. Hypothetically, Lazio should control the midfield more often with Biglia on the pitch and you know what they say - if you have the ball, the opposition cannot score.

However, Biglia has to prove that he provides as much of an attacking threat as Gonzalez and Onazi do. That is his real test - Anderlecht's Director of Sport, Herman van Holsbeeck recently said that Biglia had all the attributes to succeed in Serie A but that Anderlecht might not miss him as much as they think as he has never been able to score the amount of goals that they expect from a midfielder. While ball possession is certainly an area that Lazio need to improve in, it goes without saying that the Lazio midfielders - Hernanes aside - have not produced enough goals in recent years. In order to cement his place in the first team, Biglia has to show that he can be more integral to the way Lazio play than Gonzalez or Onazi. Either that, or he has to displace the almost irreplaceable Ledesma.

Biglia is going to get plenty of opportunities to show his worth over the coming season and while his signing represents value for money, it is not certain that Biglia will tick all of our boxes. He has excelled in Belgium and in the more open environments of European football and international football, but can he continue to exert his influence in the tactically demanding Serie A? Can he dislodge Alvaro Gonzalez, who appeared absolutely integral to the way Lazio played last season? Can he settle in Rome and overcome the personal off-field issues that threatened to disrupt his on-field career? Although Biglia appears to be the safest bet of the summer mercato, the Argentine is far from a sure bet and it is up to him to show us that this signing was not merely opportunistic, but logical and in the best interests of S.S. Lazio.
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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