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Rocco Cammisola On September - 21 - 2011

Lazio - Trouble At The Back

After 82 minutes on Sunday at the Olimpico, Lazio boss took off left back Senad Lulic and replaced him with the 30 year old Marius Stankevicius. That doesn’t appear to be all that strange, until you see that he wasn’t injured and Lazio were trailing 2-1 that it is a very odd way for Edy Reja to use his final substitution. After the game Reja confirmed the decision to haul Lulic off the pitch was a punitive move.

Lazio have conceded 6 goals in 3 games this season, and even more shockingly they have all transpired from mistakes at left back. Edy Reja will have been tearing his hair out, after sending his side out fully briefed only to be let down by individual errors. A quick run down of the mistakes shows just how much of a caveat the position is at the moment.

First of all there are the performances of Luciano Zauri - not the most popular man in one half of the capital right now - against AC Milan and FC Vaslui. Against AC Milan Zauri turned his back on Cassano allowing him to slip behind and assist the first, then minutes later was outdone by Ibrahimovic at a corner kick for the equaliser. The hard work done to gain a 2 goal lead was thrown away by one man.

When they faced FC Vaslui in the Europa League, Zauri showed great ineptitude when marking for the first goal and then contrived to get himself sent off for a foul as the last man when a clear goalscoring opportunity presented itself to Vaslui. The Romanian side converted the penalty and were only pegged back by a Sculli strike with 20 minutes to go.

Lulic on Sunday against Genoa, before being subbed off ignominiously, he played Palacio onside for the first and failed to track Kucka for the second. A bad day at the office, defensively at least. After the game Reja said “Lulic made mistakes on both goals.” but accepted there were some positives “Even if he gave the team a great deal going forward, we must work hard on improving his defensive skills.”

Lulic is new to the club and has been very attacking in the games he has played so far, there is hope yet that he can be transformed into a full back. Luciano Zauri, though, is 33 years old and has been on loan away from the club for the last three seasons. He hasn’t been good enough to hold down a place at the club for some time and should have been jettisoned some time ago - although this is the case with many other players at the club.

What is most apparent is that the injury to Stefan Radu means he has been sorely missed by the team. Radu, while unspectacular going forward, was as solid as a rock defensively. His performances were so highly appreciated that he earned a berth in the Seria A Weekly team of the year.

Reja spoke worryingly about the defensive phase of the side as a whole “There is a lot of work to be done so we can return to the defensive levels of last season. While the midfielders track back to help out, we are able to keep a good balance, but once those stop we struggle in midfield and consequently in defence.” The defence was the cornerstone of the side’s success last season, conceding just 39 goals - joint 2nd with Napoli.

So as the fans booed the team off the pitch on Sunday, they were left pondering whether Stefan Radu will be making a return - currently predicted to be for match day 5 or 6 - and how on earth they’d got themselves into so much trouble at the back.

Rocco Cammisola

Rocco is a football writer who follows football in England and Italy for a number of sites, including his own - The Football Express ( Most of his writing focuses on the lesser talked about teams, attempting to bring them to the world's attention.

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