With Lazio’s strikers misfiring, does new coach Igor Tudor have to find another way?

Lazio have had a very stop-start season so far, and new coach Igor Tudor desperately needs to find a solution to their goalscoring problem with their forwards struggling this term.

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STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): Saturday night was a painful one for those packed into the northern side of the Stadio Olimpico. Lazio fans have become accustomed to enjoying the Derby della Capitale in recent years; they came into this one on a four-match unbeaten run that included three wins and four clean sheets.

Going further back, the Biancocelesti had won six, drawn three and lost only two since 2019.

It’s little wonder, then, that Roma’s 1-0 victory in Daniele De Rossi‘s first derby as coach was celebrated with such gusto by the Giallorossi players and their supporters.

But once the dust settled, there was more for Igor Tudor to be concerned about than the bitterness of being bested by his side’s bitterest of rivals.

Lazio coach Igor Tudor. (Photo: SS Lazio)

The Croatian hasn’t exactly been eased into the job, with league and cup games home and away to Juventus coming before the Rome Derby in the space of a daunting first seven days as Biancocelesti boss.

While all sorts of new things have been attempted in that period, including a tactical revolution and radical switch in style, the outcome has been exasperatingly similar to what came before under Maurizio Sarri.

Ultimately, whether you play with a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-2-1 or whether you have a more pensive or fiery temperament coming from your coach on the sideline, it matters little if a group of players is as chronically lacking in composure in front of goal as the Lazio of 2023/24.

“We are struggling up front, there is some improvement to be made. We need to understand who can do it and who can’t, especially when you change coach,” Tudor said after the defeat to Roma.

In his three games in charge, Tudor‘s side have scored one goal – Adam Marusic‘s 93rd-minute winner on the Croatian’s debut at home to Juventus.

Adam Marusic celebrates a Lazio goal. (@OfficialSSLazio)

They have mustered five shots on target in that time, but four of them came in that opening game, before Lazio failed to register any in Turin and mustered just one in the derby.

Tudor has tried to get this side ticking in attack. He has delivered on his vow to commit more players to attack, with Lazio flooding bodies into the final third regularly, while he has tinkered with his lineup at every opportunity to try and find the best combinations.

The end result has been that while Lazio have managed to play in the right areas more often under their new coach, they lack players possessing the sharpness and penetration required to stretch defenders and test goalkeepers.

Lazio have averaged 133 passes in the final third per game since Tudor took over.

But a lack of creativity outside the box or clever movement inside it has meant that most of those moves have ended either with the ball being lost or a hopeful long-ranger being fired off target.

Against Roma, Tudor seemed every bit as at a loss for what to do about it as he did a few days earlier in Turin.

Gustav Isaksen and Ciro Immobile were both hooked at half-time, the latter supposedly for a fitness problem but the former because “he was feeling the game too much,” but their replacements, Pedro and Taty Castellanos, were equally ineffective – as they have been all season.

Lazio’s Taty Castellanos heads the ball against Frosinone. [@OfficialSSLazio]

Laziali will live in hope that this increase in attacking pressure – the increased numbers getting forward and time being spent deep in enemy territory – will pay off against weaker sides. They will find out on Friday, with the visit of rock-bottom Salernitana to Rome.

At least one thing is crystal clear by now; Lazio cannot rely on their two strikers to dig them out of this hole.

Immobile and Castellanos have contributed 10 Serie A goals in 55 appearances between them this season.

Four of Immobile‘s six goals have come from the penalty spot, while bizarrely three of Castellanos’ four goals have come against the same opponent, Frosinone.

But things are worse now than ever, with Immobile on a barren run of 10 games without a goal that saw him lose his place in the Italy squad in March for the penultimate meet-up before the 2024 European Championship.

Both players have faced some difficulties, with Immobile battling injury niggles throughout the season and Castellanos rarely getting a chance to show what he can do from the start, but in truth they have fallen well short of expectations.

That much is slap-in-the-face obvious, so Tudor‘s best hope of turning the goal tap on could be to look elsewhere.

Immobile and Castellanos aren’t the only attack-minded players who are failing to convert this season. The likes of Luis Alberto, Felipe Anderson, Mattia Zaccagni, Pedro and Gustav Isaksen have also flopped in the final third.

Tudor‘s best bet might be to ensure he gets as many of these players as possible into better goalscoring positions, or to find new ways to attack the box with the directness and urgency that Marusic showed for his winner against Juventus.

Whatever it may be, Tudor is sure to be spending the next week scratching his head as he tries to scheme a way of transforming final-third possession into goals – and proving he can be the man to fix a problem that so flabbergasted Sarri.

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