As the Serie A season enters the winter break, Lazio sit firmly in fourth position on 30 points after an encouraging start to the season. They have only lost two games in the league (against Juventus and, once high-flying, Genoa) and they have qualified from the Europa League group stages. The additions made to the squad in the summer have been incredibly influential in helping carry the squad forward.
From back to front most of the new signings have made their importance felt and have secured first team places in their positions. Federico Marchetti, Abdoulay Konko, Senad Lulic and Miroslav Klose can all be considered starters for the capital club now. Though, Djibril Cisse hasn’t had as emphatic a season as expected, so far.
Initially, the partnership with Klose appeared to be a dream combination. Cisse scored four goals in his first three competitive games for Lazio, including Lazio’s second in a 2-2 draw away to Champions Milan – to date his only Serie A goal. Cisse spoke at length about how often he spoke with Klose after training, even in the showers, discussing technique and tactics to work out what areas they need to improve on.
Despite all the talking his last goal for the club in all competitions came way back on 15 September in the Europa League at home against FC Vaslui. Since that Thursday night Cisse has choked on numerous occasions.
So far, Edy Reja has shown a substantial amount of faith in the striker, allowing him 11 starts, though he has been substituted in almost half of those games. Cisse has often become visibly frustrated as the game wears on. He will look to drift inside and, when he does, will unleash a hasty shot from outside the penalty area.
His shots are rarely on target, shooting practice appears to be what is required. Cisse’s four goals this season have come from 54 shots, only 15 of which were on target. The full extent of his poor shooting is revealed when we compare him to other Lazio strikers: Klose has scored 14 goals from 43 shots (24 on target) and Tommaso Rocchi has scored 4 from 21 (12 on target).
His annoyance spilled over in a more public manner after failing to score, again. This time away to Romanian side FC Vaslui a few weeks ago in the Europa League. ESPN soccernet have quoted he tweeted after the game, aiming it at a number of ‘fans’ on twitter who had thrown abuse his way.
One possible source of Cisse’s frustration is that he has been played either on the left of the forward band of 3 in a 4-2-3-1 or in a pair of strikers in a 4-3-1-2. In both systems he has been tasked with maintaining width on the left flank; a job that sees the striker far away from goal for much of the game.
Rumours have been circulating regarding a loan move to French side, Auxerre, in the press for a few days now with the club chairman declaring “He’s a player we like. He was formed here we know his qualities.” There is a chance this could help discover some form for Cisse. He enjoyed his best season, in terms of goals scored, at the club from the Burgundy region when he netted 29 goals in 46 games during the 2003-2004 season. But his wage might be considered too high for a mid-table Ligue 1 club, and he it is very unlikely he will be sold. So this may all be hot air.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though with Cisse patching things up with the Lazio fans last week after the Europa League clash against Sporting Lisbon. He celebrated with the fans under the Curva Nord. The fans accepting him, bathing him with their praise, and Djibril reciprocating by waving a scarf and screaming proudly: “I won’t give up, you are all dear to me and I hold Lazio in my heart.”
While he hasn’t been scoring, he has at least been creating goals for his team mates to put away. His assist tally currently stands at 7. This is his highest ever number of assists, and the season is only 40% complete.
Edy Reja will have plenty of patience with the striker, provided he asserts himself for the good of the team. When asked about whether he will leave him out of the starting line-up against Novara, Reja’s response was that “Everyone is a first team player here”. It is probably too early to effectively judge his impact, especially relative to some of the other signings, but as Gabriele De Bari writes in Il Messaggero:
“The affection [with the fans] has returned, and soon, so will the goals”.