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The Big Eight Download: Lazio and Their Hopes of Europe

Does Lazio have the ability to defeat the big guns this year? Was last year the anomaly or was two seasons ago what to expect from Lazio. This Series will attempt to answer this question for seven of the big eight in Italy.

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Lazio had a tumultuous season that ended with an 8th place finish, which was wildly disappointing for how the team was performing over the course of the first half of the year. Over the last two months of the season, the team gained ten points while dropping seventeen. Over the back half of the season, Lazio had the 9th best record in Serie A. That sort of a negative points gain is an indictment on the state of the team and possibly the direction of the franchise. Lazio as of now has nine important players who could be considered one of the fourteen most common starting players on the squad.

Consistent starters under the age of twenty-three include Felipe. That’s it. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic seems to have lost much of the market that had existed for him, and with Juventus signing the midfielders they have, he seems to set to remain at Lazio for another season. Lazio’s young players now are mostly twenty-four and without a new injection of ability or youth, their future holds more Europa League finishes. Lazio scores 1.47 goals per game, however, they allow 1.21 goals per game which is average for the league. The 1.21 goals against per game tie Atalanta for goals conceded, however, the offense does not match the level at which Atalanta’s was playing. AS Roma was the only team to have a worse defense in the big eight Italian teams.

The defense needs to improve to be able to catch up to Inter and Milan. That is a .3 change in goals per game which is very significant. Going to .94 goals per game puts Lazio into the top five teams in Italy conversation. Thirty-five goals against put them on par with AC Milan and Inter Milan. They both finished with European positions. The defense needs to improve, or the offensive needs to make a massive twenty goal jump. I’ll pick the defense.

Lazio plays a 3-5-2 with a deeper center defensive playmaker, they could use a more ball dominant player with another passer who sits back more, but somebody must play Marco Parolo. This is the expected goals map (likelihood of individual shots of scoring, takes into account location, type of shot, and then creates a decimal point for each goal likelihood, pink means goal) from Lazio’s last important game of the season against Atalanta, not great!


This is Thomas Strakosha’s job, no if and or but’s about it. Proto plays when the team is playing clubs like Apollon Limassol. Europa League is an easy thing to sparse out starts, however, push comes to shove, Strakosha is the main man. However, is he any good? He’s about average, data from eighteen of his forty-four starts from last year has him about half a goal under goals save above expected, what expected goals were compared to the goals actually given up. This is fine, not great, and in all honestly should be better over the course of almost half of the games he featured in. Strakosha is the best keeper Lazio has on roster and they will continue with him.

Center Backs:

Francesco Acerbi is not going anywhere this next year. He played 37 of 38 Serie A games and should continue to fill the place of De Vrij. Acerbi had been a staple of Sassuolo’s back line and an ex-promising Italian player. He’s solid for Serie A, but if they have hopes about winning knockout legs in the Champions League, he should not be the guy. Felipe is the only player on the back line who seems to have the potential to still grow. He’s only twenty-two and the space for growth is not as large as one would hope, however, it is certainly there. Felipe could become the answer for the center-backs and that should not be ruled out. Radu, Wallace, Bastos fill out the rest of the back line, however, that average age is twenty-eight. Really the issue here is Radu is thirty-two and should be replaced. Wallace is twenty-four and should see more time next year. There is some youth here, however, compared to other teams in the top eight in Serie A, it does not match with especially the upper echelon of this youth. Expect this defense to remain fine for next year.

The Midfield:

Wing backs are fun, and Lazio has two main ones, Marusic and Lulic. These two should still be the key figures of the wing backs on the team. Durmisi will be the main cover with Patric on the opposite side. This is not great and definitely could see an upgrade, however, it is sufficient. Lazio creates over 40% of their attacks down the left wing. The activation of the left side is crucial for Lazio. The wingbacks do need some help and that should come from purchases.

The center midfield is when Lazio becomes very interesting. Parolo, Leiva, Badelj, and Milinkovic-Savic are the key players in this midfield. They play the vast majority of the games and should be considered the starters going into next season. Badelj and Leiva rotate in the center defensive midfielder role and Cataldi can play backup. On occasion, Alberto will slot into the Milinkovic-Savic role and will play an aggressively offensive style of a 3-5-2. Either form is solid, however, Playing Milinkovic-Savic is a must.

If Lazio wants to attack aggressively, they should rotate into a 3-4-1-2 with Milinkovic-Savic in one of the midfield spots with Alberto in behind Caicedo and Immobile. However, in the current three-man center midfield, Milinkovic-Savic determines the success and the box-to-box midfield style of Parolo should start to be replaced. They are missing this full field advantage that the better Serie A teams have. Lazio will not be able to compete at a higher level until they remedy this issue. There is too little quality, and a lot of age, in that midfield. It needs new players and there has not been an injection of youth. Until then, the midfield will be flawed.


Ciro Immobile, the man born offside, is good. He played thirty-one games from the get and another six off the bench in Serie-A. He scored fifteen goals and assisted on six others. Every time he pops up in the box, opponents’ fans heart should drop. Twenty-one goals, scored and assisted, in thirty-eight games ranks him fifth in goal contributions last year. He’s one of the most powerful offensive players in Serie A. He has scored twenty in Serie A twice and has contributed to over twenty goals in four different seasons, he has six seasons with more than ten games in Serie A.

Luis Alberto and Felipe Caicedo play the other two primarily attacking roles for Lazio. Alberto was a man to be feared in 2017/2018 with twenty-five goals in which he was a contributor. That is an elite level of production and should not be considered any other way. However, he followed up that impressive season with nine contributions. That will not be enough to help a poaching striker like Immobile. If Alberto cannot improve, the team will stay stagnant.

Caicedo is a solid backup and should be considered a luxury backup after his last season. Ten-goal contributions in twenty-eight games are very impressive and are enough to turn a player into a high-quality backup. Caicedo is not a starter and should not be played like that, which he has not been. Joaquin Correa is the next man for Lazio and his speed and his ability to escape from defenders is fantastic. Correa is a very dangerous backup and allows a substitution to add a level of creativity with his movement. On ball and off the ball movement is a strong ability of Correa and he adds a different area of movement. Unlike Alberto, who drops deep to grab the ball, Correa creates his damage closer to goal. They are both better at deeper movement than Ciro. Lazio needs this movement from Correa and Alberto to allow Immobile to reach his full power.

The Prediction:

This is a fine Serie A team. Could they be better than Roma? Certainly, however, they most likely will not compete at the same level as they had been last season. Players have aged and some will hit a harder age curve. Pedro Neto has been fully purchased and may turn into a starting right winger for the team, however, the midfield does not seem strong enough to be able to win consistently to qualify for the Champions League. The fall off the team had last year should show the prediction of where they will exist in Italy next year. Like many teams, Mandragora would be a perfect transfer for them, however, there is no feasible market for him because Udinese is looking to better their twenty million Euro purchase. Lazio should qualify for the Europa League and not win any major silverware. Sixth is a good spot for them. Fifth would not be much of a surprise, however, that seems unlikely. Lazio needs to be smart about transfers and reshape the midfield to replace Parolo, Lulic, Badelj, and Leiva. A youth movement would be a smart idea and getting young players to hopefully build into the next half-decade. However, for 2019/2020, Lazio should be expected to not progress in actual skill but take advantage of the fall probably off for Roma and Torino next season.