Taty Castellanos vs Ciro Immobile? Debate around Lazio strikers is missing the point

Much has been made about whether Lazio should start Taty Castellanos or Ciro Immobile going forward, but there is another part of the squad that should be getting the focus.

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For years, Lazio fans pleaded for the club to sign a serious backup for Ciro Immobile. Felipe Caicedo was a strike partner rather than a stand-in, Vedat Muriqi was never the right fit, and Matteo Cancellieri simply wasn’t a striker.

In Taty Castellanos, Lazio look to have finally found a proper No. 9 who can lead the line and, with a bit of time, keep the goals flowing when Immobile needs to be rested or rotated.

Problem solved? Well, not quite, because as soon as one issue was resolved, another kicked off as people began to bicker about who should be first choice.

Who should start in attack for Lazio?

The Ciro vs Taty debate exploded quickly, and fuel was thrown on the fire when Immobile gave an interview hitting out at fans for criticising him and hinting at a move to Saudi Arabia – comments he subsequently retracted.

Judging by the Olimpico crowd on Monday night, there is no doubt who is the top dog around here – Immobile’s name was sung as he warmed up, roared when he came on, and screamed when he scored the last-minute penalty to beat Fiorentina. But any suggestion that Lazio’s attacking issues can be resolved by either of the two strikers alone was always flawed.

While it’s true that Immobile still needs to rediscover top form and Castellanos must start taking his chances – he’s missed some big ones in the last two games – Sarri has every right to demand more from his wide forwards.

Only three outfield players have had more game time this season than Mattia Zaccagni and Felipe Anderson: defenders Alessio Romagnoli and Adam Marusic, and midfielder Luis Alberto.

Yet after 13 starts each, they have mustered one goal apiece – the same number goalkeeper Ivan Provedel has contributed.

Alberto, on the other hand, has stepped up since the generational talent of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic left the Eternal City, taking all of his goals, assists and key passes with him. The Spaniard has become the creative hub of the side to a point where they look worryingly dependent on him and he is being asked to start every game in Serie A and in Europe.

But Anderson and Zaccagni must do more to repay their coach’s unconditional faith and justify their nailed-on starting spots, something Sarri hinted at in the Olimpico press room after the game.

“The new guys have mostly come in from other leagues and don’t know the language,” he said. “Our problem since the start of the season has been the old players, who haven’t performed like they did last season.”

Anderson is a favourite of Sarri’s and was his most-used outfield player last season. He has shown his brilliance at times this year, including starring roles in matchday nine’s win over Sassuolo and September’s victory away to Napoli. Those teasing flashes of magic have made it hard for Sarri to drop the Brazilian.

Lazio’s Luis Alberto and Felipe Anderson celebrate. [@OfficialSSLazio]

“He has the potential to be the best player in this team,” Sarri said. “If he put some character defects and inconsistencies aside he would be playing for one of the best teams in the world. Yesterday he did a perfect training session. I told him that if he played for 15 minutes today like he did in that hour of training, we would be fine. He does phenomenal things.”

Anderson has four assists this season, more than any other Lazio player, but inconsistency continues to be an issue for him. The same can be said for Zaccagni, who has a single goal and assist to his name this term.

Time for Sarri to rotate more frequently in attack

It is perhaps time, then, to give the two players waiting in the wings, Pedro and Gustav Isaksen, more opportunities.

After all, Sarri has already been regularly rotating every other part of his squad this season to deal with the demands of a busy schedule.

The full-backs swap regularly, Patric and Nicolo Casale alternate in the centre of defence, and which midfielders line up beside Luis Alberto feels like a roll of the dice from week to week as Sarri works out his most capable combinations.

So with Immobile and Castellanos now taking turns leading the line, why not freshen things up on the wings too?

Lazio’s Pedro celebrates in the Champions League. [@OfficialSSLazio]

Isaksen is only 22 and needs time to settle into life at Lazio, but the exciting Dane has already shown some promising signs and seemed to be improving until being left as an unused substitute in the last three games.

Pedro has shown in the Champions League that he still has a lot to offer, scoring the late winner at Celtic Park and a consolation against Feyenoord, but his start against Sassuolo last weekend was his only of the season.

Lazio’s misfiring attack led to loud groans in the Stadio Olimpico against Fiorentina, when the team was whistled off at half-time after 45 minutes of poor decision-making and execution in the final third.

A team total of 13 goals in 10 games is unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of opponents, so now that Sarri finally has some depth to his forward line, it’s time to use it.

Lazio need a fresh and motivated front three working in tandem if they are to unlock the goals – only then will whoever plays through the middle, be it Castellanos or Immobile, truly benefit.

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