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Reja: The reluctant miracle worker

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By Suhail Seedat

Sunday 18 March 2012

There's no denying the task performed by Edy Reja on a weekly basis is nothing short of miraculous. Having taken over the role as Coach of Lazio from the hapless Davide Ballardini in 2010, the 65 year old rescued the team from near relegation. This was followed by the Biancocelesti narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification to Udinese on goal difference.

With Reja disappointed with the club failing to reach the lucrative European competition, the club signed seven players during the summer. Miroslav Klose, Djibril Cissé, Federico Marchetti, Abdoulay Konko, Senad Lulić, Marius Stankevičius and Lorik Cana joined to bolster what initially was a threadbare squad. President Claudio Lotito isn't known for his lavish spending, indeed he declared, “It is necessary to change policy in football. The theory that who spends most wins is no longer valid. The winner is the one who carries out a proper project, based on values.”

That theory came to the fore in January as the club offloaded several players and were replaced by Emiliano Alfaro and Antonio Candreva. The supporters were promised a big signing with names like Keisuke Honda and Nilmar. Neither materialised which frustrated Coach and supporters alike.

Despite the lack of transfer activity and mounting queue for treatment in the medical room with six players injured, the club have performed what can only be described as efficiently. Reja has opted to play a 4-2-3-1 system largely throughout his tenure, mainly due to the lack of striking options. Having signed German international Klose on a free in the summer, the team has been looking to play to his strengths. Much like the German national side which Klose was part of and was successful in attaining crucial goals, Lazio aren't a side who monopolise possession averaging 50% in every game.

Their efficiency is also displayable in the amount of shots they attempt per game (13.3) illustrating that the side look to be incredibly proficient when given the opportunity. Lazio produce less chances than eight other clubs in the league, furthering the reliance on Klose to produce consistently. Klose himself has five shots per goal which can only be bettered by Diego Milito (3 shots per goal) and Rodrigo Palacio (3.8 shots per goal).

Like a lot of clubs in Italy, Lazio play without much width and look to break teams down using precise and accurate passing in the middle third of the pitch. Their passing accuracy averages aren't as impressive as the teams around them (79%) though their shining light and perhaps their biggest force, Hernanes has to pull the strings for the side. The team's dynamics have changed since last season thought the Brazilian has still managed to remain productive. Last season, Hernanes was asked of a more free roaming role, working the flank areas a lot more when supporting Tomasso Rocchi or Mauro Zarate. This season, the team have narrowed their midfield which has restricted Hernanes opportunity to venture wide as Reja has opted for inverted wide men, as a ploy to provide more for Klose from the inside channels taking into considering Klose's devastating movement and cerebral finishing quality.

Considering's Reja has been working with his hands tied behind his back, Lazio have done well to remain with an excellent chance to gaining qualification into the Champions League.

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