An Ode to Simone Inzaghi as He Reaches 200 Lazio Games

Simone Inzaghi reached the 200 game mark when his Lazio side lost at Sampdoria last weekend, but despite the loss and the slow start to the new 2020-21 Serie A season, it’s time to appreciate the good work he’s done with the club.

After an initial caretaker stint in charge of Lazio, Inzaghi was handed the managers’ job on July 8, 2016. Since then, a lot has happened around the world; Donald Trump became president of the United States, Liverpool have won a Premier League and a Champions League trophy and, of course, coronavirus has hit the globe harder than we could all have ever imagined.

But for Lazio, Inzaghi marks the first amount of sustained time for a coach since Delio Rossi managed four years in charge of the club, which ended in 2009. The time between then and Inzaghi’s appointment saw five different managers at the helm, with now Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa stepping in for a couple of days in between Inzaghi’s caretaker and full-time appointment.

Despite his older brother Filippo being a more clinical striker, Simone Inzaghi has so far been the more prolific manager.

His reign has brought about some profound stability. Before, Lazio were finishing all over the Serie A table – 12th one season, 5th the next, Coppa Italia champions one season, quarter-finalists the next. But in the past four seasons, Lazio under Inzaghi have finished 5th, 5th, 8th, and 4th. Add to that a Coppa Italia last year, wedged in between two Supercoppa Italiana trophies and it makes for pretty good reading for the Lazio boss.

Last season though was arguably Lazio’s best chance in a few seasons to make real history. They marked the turn of the century with their last Serie A title to date and an age ago that now seems. In the time since the closest they’ve come to replicating that feat is a 3rd-place finish on three different occasions, the last coming back in the 2014-15 season.

A 2-0 win for Juventus over Inter marked the temporary break in the last Serie A season. It left Maurizio Sarri’s side on top, but only a point ahead of 2nd-placed Lazio. Inzaghi’s side had remained challenging throughout and kept the pressure on Juve right up until the break, but after, it was a different story.

As mentioned above, Lazio would eventually finish 4th, level on points with Atalanta who, come the time of the break in the footballing season, were 14 points behind Lazio. In truth then, the stop in the season really took the wind out of Lazio’s sails and Inzaghi will be ruing the unavoidable. His side lost at Atalanta in their returning fixture, before losing 6 of their remaining 12 fixtures, winning 5 and drawing the one game at Udinese to allow both Atalanta and Inter to overtake them.

It wasn’t as if Juve ran away with the title either; there was just five points separating the top four in the end, with Inter finishing a point behind Juve and Atalanta finishing ahead of Lazio only on goal difference. Although this new season hasn’t quite gone to plan for Inzaghi and Lazio, it’s time we respect the fine job that he’s done to date, in stabilizing a rocky club and transforming them into an exciting team to watch, and genuine title contenders in the process.

Simone Inzaghi has been a popular figure among Lazio players

His 200th game as permanent manager of Lazio could’ve gone better. A 3-0 defeat at Sampdoria has left his side in 15th after the first four games of the season, already eight points behind leaders Milan who’ve enjoyed a perfect start to the season under former Lazio manager Stefano Pioli. So what now? And where next for Lazio?

They’ve got the Champions League group stages to enjoy next. The likes of Dortmund, Club Brugge and Zenit will all travel to Lazio to face Inzaghi’s side, who resume league duties against Bologna later this month. With the pressures of Champions League football and the obvious hurdles that will come with the current global situation right now, this season may well be a write-off for many teams.

Lazio had their best chance in 20 years to be crowned Italian champions last time out and the lessons learned will be hard, but learned nonetheless. Inzaghi is prevailing as one of the league’s most prolonged managers now, and one of the more attacking-minded, exciting and dynamic ones too. A future Azzurri boss in the making potentially, but for now, he and Lazio will only have returning to the top of the pile of their minds.