14 November 2006

Lazio 5-0 Udinese: when it rains it pours

Lazio had scored just two goals in its previous five games when they stepped onto the pitch at the Olimpico on Sunday. The tide was about to turn. Delio Rossi was giving the 4-3-1-2 another try, after it found only moderate success at Empoli the week before. 90 minutes later, that looked like the best idea possible, and could be the future of Lazio's formation.

From the outset Lazio pressed well. It is obvious that the weakness still lies at central midfield, because the biancocelesti rarely if ever are able to possess and control the ball there, but they moved the ball well along both wings. Usually Lazio can only push up the right side, with Oddo trying to both drive the offense and hold the defense steady. Not only did Oddo get excellent assistance on the right side from Mauri but they were also able to move smoothly up the left wing with Zauri. Once the ball was in the attacking zone, the 1-2 attacking force was extremely effective. The extra man running up the middle drew the defense off of Pandev and Rocchi and allowed penetration into the box.

The attack paid off in the 33rd minute when Rocchi was able to run free up the middle. One on one with Udinese's keeper De Sanctis, he chipped the ball over him. A defender had a chance at a goal-line save and even got a foot on the ball, but it bounced off the inside of the post and over the line to put Lazio on the scoreboard. Just 8 minutes later, Oddo took a free kick from outside the box and a defensive lapse let Stefano Mauri go unmarked and head the ball to the back of the net.

2-0 seemed a satisfactory lead (equal to the past five matches' goals, after all!) but the onslaught continued. In another 8-minute span Lazio scored three more incredible goals: Mauri on the volley from the top of the box after a scoring chance was kept alive, Oddo direct from a free kick just outside the box, and another chipshot from Rocchi after he embarrased the Udinese defense and wove through three men. By the 90th minute, Udinese wanted nothing more than to hit the showers.

So was this a fluke? Is the whole season going to be like this, with four- or five-game-long droughts and then sudden offensive bursts like the 4-0 victory over Torino? If Delio Rossi goes back to the 4-4-2, probably yes. There is no reason for him not to stay with the new system, because it appears to be working well. It has allowed some of our bench players to come off of the bench in the trequartista position, but when the entire midfield is healthy it will still work with the first-team personnel. It is a new look for Lazio, but if it works and can move Lazio towards a UEFA cup spot (only four points away as the classifica stands now) Rossi should have no choice but to utilize it. It finally allows our strong scorers (sorry Goran, you haven't earned that distinction yet this season) to put the ball in the net. It is no coincidence that Rocchi, Mauri, and Oddo are all called up to the national team friendly match this Wednesday against Turkey. They are the heart of the current Lazio squad, and are world-class.

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