LAZIO (4-2-3-1): Marchetti (46’ Bizzarri), Scaloni (46’ Zauri), Biava (61’ Diakite), Dias (76’ Stendardo), Garrido, Brocchi, Ledesma (46’ Matuzalem), Mauri (61’ Sculli), Hernanes, Cissè (46’ Zarate), Rocchi (45’ Kozak).
REAL SOCIEDAD (4-3-3): Tono; Martinez, Mikel, Agirretxe, Xabi Prieto; Aranburu, Zurutuza, Illarra; Dani Estrada, De la Bella, Inigo Martinez.
With only one week left before the first leg of the Europa League qualification tie against Robotnicki of Skopje, Macedonia, many wanted a few questions answered with this game. After having sold Lichsteiner to Juventus early in the summer, the position on the right in the four men backline has emerged as one of many issues Edoardo Reja needs to solve quickly. The preferred option, the newly bought Konko, has spent long periods injured this summer, and with the inclusion of Zauri and exclusion of Cavanda in the Europa League squad, the position needs thorough consideration. In midfield the Albanian Cana was expected to become the new partner to Ledesma, in order to strengthen the heart of the team. However, the ex-Galatasaray player has failed to meet the expectation so far this summer, and also this area of the field seems a concern for Reja. Also in attack the question marks are many, both because Reja has so many options to choose from with seven attackers at his disposal – but also because it seems the tactician has yet to decide his preferred partnership and formation.
Reja again deployed his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, and a safe bet would be that this will be the case also on Thursday. The starting formation probably included the majority of the starters as well, but as pointed out earlier, some of the positions are pressuring Reja to take important decisions. A couple of years ago, most would have frowned at Scaloni being an option for starting the games on the right, but today he was chosen and in the first 45 minutes had a pleasing display. Brocchi was used together with Ledesma in the centre of the pitch, and for the attack Reja trusted the speed and creativity of Cisse, supported by Mauri and Hernanes, all backing up Rocchi as the sole central striker.
Throughout the 90 minutes, one must underline, Lazio turned out superior to the Basque side. Real Sociedad, who finished 15th in La Liga, had very little quality to threaten Marchetti in the first half, as they did in the second when Bizzarri had taken over the gloves. On the other hand, Lazio did not turn out as energetic and ecstatic as many had hoped, but managed to create a few dangerous attempts. After only three minutes, Lazio opened the scoring with Djibril Cisse heading home a Ledesma corner, despite being closely marked by two defenders. The French signing got a perfect start to his spell in front of the home crowd, and the hopes are that he will be able to add what was missing in the team last year as he has the physical presence Lazio need. The chances were few, and mostly Cisse wasted the few intentions that came about by dribbling and failing, or wasting the ball trying to shoot from distance. In 23’ however, a beautiful cross found Cisse on the left, who found Rocchi in the penalty area, but the skipper failed to get that final touch on the ball to head home a second goal. Mauri and Hernanes both tried to slip passes through for Cisse and Rocchi to work on, but mostly Lazio looked like still searching for a game plan and a strategy.
In defence things were calm, as Biava and Dias mostly neutralised the Real Sociedad attacks, while Garrido and Scaloni prioritised the defensive duties, making them leave very little space for the Spaniards to exploit. The half ended with a well timed run by Marchetti stopping the through ball from reaching Araburu, who had snapped the ball up after Ledesma had been sloppy in the centre.
The mandatory mass substitutions Reja has been doing in half time throughout the season took place also today. With the inclusion of Matuzalem instead of Ledesma the little spark of creativity found in midfield during the first half disappeared completely, manifesting the great importance Ledesma holds for the team. To further underline the desperation to find a solution on the right back as well as in attack, Luciano Zauri replaced Scaloni, while Cisse was substituted for Zarate. Kozak got a half to get in shape as well, forcing Rocchi to leave the pitch and a little later Sculli was brought on for Mauri as well, while Diakite and Stendardo both got the chance to play in central defence.
Also the second 45 minutes were static and showed Lazio has a long way to go before being in form and having gelled as a team. It becomes obvious that a clear strategy is missing, as it is individual efforts that create chances for Lazio, rather than the attempts and goals being the fruit of a collective plan. Lazio did manage to score a second before the end of the game, with Matuzalem breaking free on the left and sending a nice cross that Sculli headed in behind Tono in the Real Sociedad goal. The new signing from Genoa has been impressing all through the summer training, and today again showed he will become useful for the team and that he has the quality needed to be a part of the team. Other than that, a quite Zarate tried to find the back of the newt with a few attempts from some distance, as well as setting himself up nicely after a one-two with Hernanes.
With only one week left to the season kick-off, Laziali around the world are probably a little worried where this team is heading, There seems to be very little understanding between the players, and as stated earlier it is individual attempts that make the team create anything at all. In defence it is more or less the same; things look very stable, but on a few occasions each game there is a misunderstanding, or mistiming, hence letting the opponents create danger. The creativity in the midfield is there, but things happen a little too slowly, letting the opponents gather their team before Lazio is ready to capitalize.
Yet, Reja’s men managed to get the goals needed, and prevented Real Sociedad from opening the own net, to be able to get away with a comforting win in the first game in front of Curva Nord this new season.
In other words, much look like last season. So far.
Presentation pictures : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=437
Game pictures : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=438
This season Lazioland.com will be providing player ratings based on the collective opinion of several contributors. The players are rated between 1-10, where 6 represents “Satisfactory”.
Man of the match:
As usual the veteran was everywhere. Worked tirelessly the entire game and helped Lazio in controlling the midfield. Also had some great long range passes.
Flop of the match:
The fullback could not contribute much in his 45 minutes on the pitch today. Positioning was off and made a couple free kicks aswell.