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A chameleonic team: how Edy Reja gave a new balance to Lazio
With the well-experienced coach on the bench, Lazio never lost a match in Serie A so far. Reja has been experimenting many players and schemes to find the squaring of the circle
by Farbod Matinroshan
Edy Reja was hired by Lazio to replace Vladimir Petkovic after a disastrous first round. The switch happened just before Lazio’s clash against Inter, on 6th January, and it would be Reja’s second stint on Lazio’s bench. He had left the club in 2012 after bringing the squad back to European competitions with fourth-place finish.

This time Reja should change a lot of things; defensive and attacking ability, adding discipline to the team and he should bring back the winning mentality . The task can be achieved only through wins, and Reja has done just that. He is changing the formation and he is trying new players in each game, to finally find his winning team.

Lazio-Inter 1-0: defensive discipline

Reja’s second spell in charge of Lazio started against Inter Milan at home. Reja changed 4 players from Petkovic’s last squad: he replaced the goalkeeper, Federico Marchetti with Etrit Berisha, defender Lorik Cana with Giuseppe Biava, and midfielders Lucas Biglia and Ederson with Alvaro Gonzalez and Hernanes.

Lazio played with a 4-1-4-1 formation in attack and 4-5-1 when they defend. One thing that was obvious from the start was the defensive discipline, especially from the 5-men midfield. Cristian Ledesma was solid in front of the defense. Antonio Candreva played exceptionally in the right flank, helping his teammates in both phases. After recovering the ball he was the one who held the ball, giving his team a chance to come out of defense, and starting their own attack.

Hernanes was part of the 5-men midfield, which limited his attacking ability by defending most of the game, but he was professional enough to help his teammates where they needed him.
The 5-men midfielders defended in a zone defense, each one was responsible for a limited space, with Ledesma in the center, Hernanes and Gonzalez on his left and right, and Lulic and Candreva on the left and right wings.

Lazio’s plan was to defend in their half, waiting for counter-attack, and whenever in position, the attack would start from the defenders,with the ball moving to the sides, and from there directly to the only striker, Miroslav Klose.

The match went according to plans for Reja. Inter started the match well and had the position. Lazio grew little by little, defending well enough, and the winning goal was scored by Klose in the 81st minutes.

Bologna-Lazio 0-0: poor pressure, poor result

Reja’s second  match was away against Bologna. The players seemed to have gained confidence from beating Inter, but Reja was unable to make it back-to-back wins.

There were two new changes, Luis Pedro Cavanda played in defense for injured Abdoulay Konko, and Felipe Anderson replaced defender Stefan Radu, with this change Lulic played as left full-back, and Anderson played in the left wing.

Like the previous match against Inter, Reja’s team stayed put, waiting for an opportunity to attack. The problem was when Bologna had the possession of the ball in their defense, Lazio wasn’t able to pressure the defense and put them in danger. The reason was Klose, who simply is not the kind of attacker who pressure the ball at his age. His game is based on waiting for midfielders to feed him.

Keita was the first change just after half time. He's got the pace, but when he loses the ball he doesn’t try to defend and take it back. Almost all the balls were directed to Klose, especially from Candreva, but Klose wasn’t able to finalize. Lazio seemed to have a lack of ideas up front, and created few chances. The result was a dull 0-0 draw.

Udinese-Lazio 2-3: changes making the difference

After a 2-1 win against Parma in Coppa Italia, Reja played his third Serie A match away against Udinese. He made some changes, and the result was more possession of the ball, more goal chances... and 3 more points.

Lazio played 5-3-2 while defending and 3-5-2 when attacking. The 3-men defense was composed of: Dias in the center, Biava on the right and, as a new entry, Michael Ciani on the left. When the team was in defense, Lulic and Cavanda played as the left and right full-backs.

Biglia and Onazi replaced Ledesma and Hernanes, and in the attack Sergio Floccari played alongside Klose. Most of the attacking plays came from the right, by Cavanda and Candreva. After moving the ball to the side, Lazio players tried to pass the ball to the center, just outside Udinese’s box, where they would play the ball fast, one-touch football, in order to create chances.

Lazio had much more position compared to Reja’s first three matches, and even though they had to play with ten men from 54th minute, Reja didn’t panic and kept attacking Udinese. Reja’s substitutes Ederson and Hernanes made the difference, and Lazio was able to dominate the match and come from from behind twice to gain a well-deserved 3 points.

Lazio-Juventus 1-1: holding the leaders

Finally came the big match for Reja against Serie A leaders Juventus. Reja played with 3-4-2-1. The changes from the Udinese match were Ledesma, who came back to the squad to play the defensive midfielder role alongside Biglia, the other change was Konko coming back to the starting lineup, replacing Lulic as left fullback. Cana also played in the 3-men defense, replacing Ciani. Hernanes replaced Floccari to play just behind Klose as the attacking midfielder.

Even though Juventus played with 10-men for the most of the match, Reja wasn’t brave enough to attack the leaders and grab the 3-points. His first change was a defensive minded midfielder, Gonzalez, who replaced Cavanda. His second substitute was Keita for Candreva, a more positive, yet late change, as is took place just 5 minutes from the final whistle.

Chievo-Lazio 0-2: Keita Shines

After losing 1-0 to Napoli in Coppa Italia, Lazio played away against Chievo Verona in Serie A. Reja created some pairs in all the pitch. The defensive midfielders pair was made of Ledesma and Biglia: every time Ledesma left his position it was Biglia who covered him, and the same happened for Biglia. The other pair was Lulic-Radu on the left side and Cavanda-Candreva on the right. With this mechanism tha players started to understand and cover each other much better.

The biancocelesti’s formation was a classic 3-4-3, with Keita, former Barcelona youth sector player, replacing Hernanes, who left the club to join Inter. Young Keita didn’t disappoint Lazio fans, participating in both Lazio goals; the first goal came from his cross and the second one he scored himslef, after one of Lazio’s counter-attacks.

A disappointing transfer market

The 2013 summer transfer wasn’t a successful one for Lazio, as some of the new arrivals still have to find a place in the squad. Players like the Colombian Brayan Perea, argentinian Novaretti and Brazilian Felipe Anderson are still struggling to play an active role in this season for the team from the Capital. Some others, little by little, are finding moreplaying time, like the Albanian goalkeeper Berisha who has found a place under the new coach. Another player who is finding his way in the first squad is Argentinian Lucas Biglia, who is playing well alongside Ledesma and has demonstrated great passing skills. Some of the players also left the club, the most important one being the French defender, Diakité, who joined Sunderland, and is playing well over there. 

This Winter transfer was also disappointing for the Biancocelesti fans, as Hernanes left the club to join Inter. It will be hard for Lazio to find an attacking midfielder like the Brazilian, and this move will be a big blow for the squad in the long run. That is why, despite a positive new year, it is too soon to cry victory for Edy Reja.

Monday, February 3 rd, 2014
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