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From David Silva dreams to Andreas Pereira reality: How Lazio’s Champions League plans fell apart
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20-Oct-2020, 03:06 pm

From David Silva dreams to Andreas Pereira reality: How Lazio’s Champions League plans fell apart


Ciro Immobile David Silva Andreas Pereira Lazio GFX

Two days before Lazio's Serie A opener at Cagliari, one of the club's ultra groups hung a banner on the railing of the Ponte Milvio overpass in Rome.

That biblical put-down was aimed at Lazio president Claudio Lotito, who has a reputation for being rather frugal.

Of course, prudence is hardly unwise in the current economic climate. Lotito, though, has plenty of previous when it comes to disappointing the club's supporters in the transfer market.

As far back as 2013, Lazio fans were boycotting the start of matches and proclaiming their summer window "another dud". The following year, many did notturn up at all for a Serie A game against Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico.

Still, the latest backlash is a little bit different. Even accounting for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Lazio's summer transfer market was expected to go well.

After all, by finishing fourth in Serie A last season, the Biancocelesti ensured participation in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2007.

Signing players, then, should have been easy. Unfortunately, it proved painfully difficult.

When the window opened, Lazio looked poised to sign Manchester City legend David Silva. When it closed, they had instead picked up Manchester United reject Andreas Pereira.

The fans' pessimism going into Tuesday's Champions League opener against Borussia Dortmund is, therefore, understandable.

However, there are some grounds for optimism. For starters, the draw has been kind to them.

Dortmund are obviously overflowing with exciting young talents, but Lazio will be optimistic about their chances of finishing above Zenit and Club Brugge – if they can field their first-choice line-up in every Group F clash.

And therein lies the crux of the issue.

The reason why the fans were so upset by the lack of stellar signings during the summer was the squad's obvious shortcomings.

Lazio have a strong starting 11. Indeed, last season, the likes of Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto, Francesco Acerbi and Thomas Strakosha put the capital club in a fine position to win a first Serie A title since 2000. However, Covid-19 changed everything.

When play was suspended in March, second-placed Lazio were just one point behind leaders Juventus and undefeated in 21 games in the league.

When football returned in June, Lazio lost six of their final 12 games and ended up finishing a distant fourth.

A small squad that had benefitted enormously from being knocked out of the Europa League at the group stage was stretched to breaking point by a hectic, post-lockdown schedule that forced them to play nearly every three days.

Lazio were undoubtedly unlucky with injuries, but fitness problems are the inevitable result of putting too much strain on the same players in each and every game.

It was clear, then, that Simone Inzaghi's pool of players would need deepening over the summer, in order to cope with the demands of competing on two fronts this season.

Only six players have arrived, though – Pepe Reina, Gonzalo Escalante, Vedat Muriqi, Mohamed Fares, Pereira and Wesley Hoedt – and at a combined cost of €27.5 million (£25m/$32m).

Fares is a clever addition, given Lazio were in dire need of a new wing-back on the left-hand side, while former Fenerbahce forward Muriqi should hopefully ease the goalscoring burden on Immobile, who equalled Gonzalo Higuain's single-season Serie A record last term (36).

The hope – rather than expectation – is that Pereira performs more like the promising player he was on loan at Valencia rather than the shambles he proved to be at Old Trafford, and that Hoedt's second spell at the Olimpico goes far better than his first.

All things considered, though, it's easy to understand why the fans are so underwhelmed. Their club did notmake a single stellar signing during the summer. Not one of the new additions even looks like a potential game-changer.

It must be acknowledged that there was little they could have done about the Silva situation. The Spaniard had agreed to move to the Stadio Olimpico only to change his mind at the 11th hour and join Real Sociedad instead.

It is also worth noting that Lazio have actually increased their wage bill this season, at a time when nearly all of their rivals are slashing theirs.

In addition, sporting director Igli Tare has rightly pointed out that the goal all along was to add to the squad, and he has certainly achieved that goal. Whether he has actually strengthened the supporting cast remains to be seen, though.

Lazio's limitations have already been exposed in Serie A, where they have collected just four points from their first four games while suffering heavy defeats to Atalanta and Sampdoria.

Expectations have, thus, been lowered considerably going into their first Champions League match in 13 years.

Inzaghi, who has done a wonderful job since taking over in 2015, is trying to remain upbeat. He made it clear that reinforcements were required before the Cagliari clash and has spoken optimistically about the subsequent signings.

He still believes Lazio can have a "great year", as does Lotito.

"The squad has everything needed to do well," the president recently argued, before ominously adding: "I have always said that I don’t sell dreams – only solid reality."

The reality is, though, that the merchant may well find himself dealing with even more calls for him to be cast out of the temple if Lazio's Champions League and Scudetto dreams are over by Christmas.


Source : goal.com

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