13th March 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Ciro Immobile followed on beautifully from what he described as one of the best nights in his career in Lazio's sensational Coppa Italia semi final victory over AS Roma last week by putting in another exceptional performance against Bologna in the league.
Immobile's brilliant brace vs Bologna saw him continue his stunning rejuvenation at Lazio, after tough loan spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla over the last couple of seasons, with the 27-year-old now back to his best, propelling his Serie A goal tally to 16.
The former Capocannoniere winner with Torino in 2013/2014 used his explosive set of attributes, in tandem with his intuitive movement, to put the Rossoblu to the sword in fine style.
From his centre forward slot, his targeting of the left half space was a key theme of his showing, regularly using this area of the pitch effectively. Whenever Lazio attacking midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who usually operated in and around the left half space, would drag his opponent upfield when he dropped deep towards the half way line, Immobile would wait for his opportunity to pounce. Once Emil Krafth, Bologna's right wing back, followed Savic deep, Immobile would immediately angle his runs into the now vacated space.
With his teammates regularly looking for his runs, he regularly latched onto through balls in this area. A key byproduct of this tactic was that Bologna's left sided central defender, Marios Oikonomou, would be forced to track him and leave his post, thus creating vital space in the centre. In addition, by often inheriting passes at pace and not hugging the touchline, he could then isolate his marker in 1v1 situations, using his wicked pace and technical qualities to often beat his man or manufacture space for himself to shoot.
A testament to the success of this strategy came in the 74th minute, where Immobile's superbly timed and angled run in the aforementioned zone of the pitch allowed him to get onto the end of Savic's defence splitting ball and coolly finish beyond Antonio Mirante.
His instinctive movement and enviable poaching instincts, which sees him persistently position himself ideally inside the box, also saw him pop up perfectly to nod home his team's opener.
When recently speaking about how he developed this component of his armoury, the former Juventus man interestingly credited the legendary Zdenek Zeman, who managed him during his time with Pescara, with teaching him. "Zeman taught me the right moves. When the midfielder has the ball there's a rough idea of where you should run to. An important factor is co-ordination, you need to understand where to run and how to finish as quickly as possible," he explained.
"With the pace of today's game it's unthinkable that you'd be able to stop the ball in the area, look around and then kick it. It's about speed of thought, that's what the best strikers have. That's the talent."
Upon factoring in his strong hold up play and capacity to find space in between Bologna's defensive and midfield lines, and Immobile undisputedly led the line with plenty of purpose, skill and ingenuity.
Indeed, there was certainly no better way for Lazio and Immobile to prepare for their captivating contest with Torino on Monday night, which will be billed as a battle of two of Serie A's deadliest marksman in Andrea Belotti and himself. How the teammates at international level for Italy, who have scored 50 league goals between them, fare against one another will definitely be a hugely compelling sub plot.
Getting all three points will be especially vital for Simone Inzaghi's men, for they still harbour dreams of snatching the last remaining Champions League qualification spot. Currently sitting fourth, just four points behind Napoli in third, you get the feeling Immobile's goals will be a vital determining factor if Lazio can, in fact, achieve their goal.
Revitalised, happy in his surroundings and enjoying a real purple patch of form, it's encouraging to see Immobile making the most of his spell in the capital and once again showing us all just what an incredibly gifted striker he really is.
Not bad at all for a player Lazio only paid €8.5 million for who appeared on the wane when they purchased him.
Ciro Immobile: A Key Player in Lazio's Solid Season
13th March 2017. By Edward Stratmann.