A rollercoaster ride, that is what life with this club is, but also rollercoaster rides are built using science. For a scientific approach to the state of Lazio when it comes to what is going on on the pitch we can take a step back and simply look at some statistics and the trend is clear: we are not a top side under the current management. Looking at this and the last season, there is no doubt about it: we simply cannot win important matches against teams that are direct competitors with us. Apart from the last derby, where a newly arrived Klose managed to send us to heaven in injury time, we have always managed to not top ourselves when it has been needed the most. Vaslui today is only the latest example, do not forget the derbies; the Juventus loss a few nights back and the two games of last season; the massive underperformance on the pitch against Napoli a week earlier and the crazy 4-3 loss when we were still challenging for Champions League before the summer; the disappointing result to Udinese when we still had the same Champions League in our hands and, the derbies.
When will I ever learn?
I tend to hope, you see. I tend to hope that we will not only be up there amongst the finest of teams in the finest of leagues (read: Serie A), but that we actually do improve year by year if we keep the same coach and the same management. Never mind keeping the same players, that is more or less impossible in today’s game. If the market does not take care of getting rid of players, the management will sort that out, you see. We do it all the time. During the summer we did it again, and again I was painfully reminded I had again started hoping. We got rid of players that I thought added valuable qualities to the team, and brought in a few new faces that were going to give us that sharper edge that we needed in order to start winning the games that were deciders for a season. As the season kicked off and we failed at beating Milan, a Milan that looked like the Milan that a few years ago had not been lifting silverware for a long time, I realized that not being able to beat Milan has become standard procedure for us. When was the last time we managed to lift ourselves that little extra percent in order to beat the rossoneri? Against Inter we broke a very depressive statistic when we managed to punish them, you guys probably remember it as the start of their first decline since Calciopoli, and there maybe a new trend has been started. I do not know. We have not played them yet this season.
I start hoping straight away. The group is not fully decided yet, and maybe Vaslui feel fail at beating an underperforming and unmotivated FC Zurich – while we find the ingredient that could make us be at our best when it matters the most. Oh. That was today. When Klose got that chance, set up by Gonzalez quite early, I thought we were in the lead. After all, Klose has been the one saving our behinds this season. If we only had a good goal scorer we used to say, if we only had a goal scorer we would be better. We would be competing for things, for real. If we had only had a goal scorer we would have been in the Champions League this season and we would have brought in all the quality needed (while we would sell the quality we already had) so that we could now also compete in Europe’s finest competition. We did bring in one thing we were definitely missing: a reliable goalie. Marchetti has been joint top saviour with the German. Imagine how little we would have improved without these additions.
Sometimes I try to look at things a little differently. I try to think that we at least are not in the state and shape that was prior to the most recent change of coach. Under Ballardini we looked awful, the environment was dark, and somehow Ledesma and Pandev had been banned from the team and Baronio dictated the midfield (Makinwa, Zauri and Carrizo are still owned by us). I would like to see the stats of how often we win without Ledesma on the pitch today, compared to during Ballardini’s time. I have this feeling that the midfielder, sometimes looking disturbingly arrogant, is crucial in order for us to be able to win games. Yet he was rested today. Despite being fully aware of this, I started hoping. That the Albanian Giant, the one player we brought in to add lungs, heart and quality to the midfield, were a tired Brocchi would simply not be able to run for us another season, would finally get his breakthrough and steer the midfield forward, and let the competent trio of Hernanes-Klose-Cisse finish the dreams of the unknown Romanian minnows. When Marchetti grew larger and larger during the first half tonight, where he kept us in the game with beautiful saves on two volleys, I started hoping that all the bad luck that we had against Juventus (sarcasm, guys) would have accumulated into a win against Vaslui. I kept on hoping for this throughout the game really, because a win here would have at least meant that we were better than last year! We would have achieved something this year that we had not last year – after all it was the team of last year that got us to Europe in the first place. Reaching the next round, beating the main competitors in a game where we simply had to win, would show that we were more experienced now, that we were better prepared, better equipped. We are going for the Champions League!
Just before Rocchi came in I thought Marchetti had for the first time since arriving shown he is from this planet and not the one where Zenga, Buffon, Zoff and other of the likes are being made. But it was offside. That was the sign. The sign that all the games where we have failed to impress, but still managed to win, were not due to anything but close analyzing of the opponent and using our strengths in the best of ways. With the 100 goals in the Lazio shirt legend stepping on the hopes were raised again, and maybe someone out there started hoping that Sculli was actually going to force all the anti-Sculli-ists to finally stop going on about how useless he is. After all, he is a squad player and they are needed, especially when you need to get that crucial goal to keep the hopes of the fans, team, management, owner, God, whoever, up by advancing from a ridiculously (at least on paper, no?) group in Europa League – the tournament where the Great Leader had set the objectives early on: The Final. It was Kozak that was going to get us there in the end, the super-sub, you know. I hoped.
At least we have a good defense. We have only conceded once in quite a few of the latest matches, and recently we have been without Dias at the back. Diakite, the young guy we have all been hoping would blossom into the player to follow the footsteps of other great central defenders having worn the shirt, has been taking some responsibility worth noticing and we are on a good run at the back. We will soon, hopefully, be seeing goals being scored by the players assigned to do so, and then we will be flying high again.
All the hoping is what makes some of us feel sick after games such as the last three. One could say that it is better to stop hoping, but then we would rather stop caring. Some of us sleep, eat, live, love depending on the results the team manages to pull through at the weekend (and mid-week, unfortunately for us), and sometimes the relationship becomes too tense, too dangerous, too hateful or too passionate. But yet we would never want to live without it.
It will take some time to get going after this, despite the fairly positive position in the league and the theoretical chance of advancing to the next stage in a tournament that we might skip anyways so we can compete for the scudetto (or; not the scudetto, the Champions League spot. Or; not the Champions League spots, but the Europa League spots. Or; we should simply focus on the Coppa. Or; at least we can be happy we are not struggling to stay up and are avoiding to be having crucial games against teams such as Cesena; Bologna,Lecce or Novara, to only look at this season. Or. You know what. Let us not complain.).
We could have been bankrupt by now, had it not been for the saviour of all saviours. He saved us. We were all waiting for the club to go into coma, but out of the fire he stepped. He pulled us out of the mess. Imagine if we would have been bankrupt by now. We could have been playing in Serie CSomething. We could have been in the Champions League. I know a sky-blue team that went bankrupt a few years back, but somehow they managed to beat an oil-stinking other sky-blue team the other week. They are improving, from season to season (funny really, how long has their coach been with them? And ours?). Their fans are also hoping.
So am I. And I will continue to do so.
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