In February of 2010, SS Lazio found itself in an unthinkable position: fighting for survival in Serie A. It was so apparent for some time that Davide Ballardini had lost it with the team and that persistence to continue with him at the helm of Lazio was seriously jeopardizing Lazio`s Serie A status.
Once Claudio Lotito and Igli Tare had made up their mind to sack underperforming Ballardini, they switched their attention to none else than Edoardo Edy Reja, former coach of Napoli and who was coaching Hajduk Split back then. Reja apparently had a clause in his contract that if a club calls from his country, he was entitled to leave the Croatian side and take over the opportunity knocking on the door. And once Lazio came knocking, he grabbed the chance and signed for Lazio. His goal was to save the team from relegation, and he did just that, while applying a clear 3-5-2 tactics.
Reja had achieved what was expected from him -saved Lazio from relegation several weeks before the Season`s end. But what people did not expect from Reja was for him to make Lazio a tough team in the next season, leading the standings for several weeks and at the end failure to miss a CL spot only due to the goal difference.
But how did he do it, what was his formula for such an upheaval for Lazio?
First of all, he asked Lotito to resolve the situation concerning Cristian Ledesma with immediate effect. Also, all other players who had contract disputes had to resolve them ASAP. He wanted his players to be focused on the club and performances in the pitch, and not to have distractions.
Once he achieved that, he presented the club management with players he would like to have for the next season. While defense was pretty much covered with the arrivals of Dias and Biava earlier, he insisted on several midfielders and a striker. The club partially fulfilled his requirements, but since Hernanes proved to be one hell of a signing, lack of a striker was forgotten fast. Only to be activated during the winter however, when Lazio faced injuries and sudden goal drought. We know how the rest of the season unfolded. Lazio fought for a CL but missed it just.
Now dilemma arose instantly, people calling for Reja to resign or be sacked for missing a CL spot. I agree, he has done some terrible tactical mistakes and player selection in the process, but really, Lazio was so unlucky in the last couple of matches that a mere shot could have changed all this. Had Kozak`s attempts had gone in against Inter and Udinese, a different story would have been told now. Had Zarate made the penalty against Udinese, the same. The season must be viewed as a whole and not as convenient episodes.
Edy Reja is the right man to guide Lazio into the next season. He knows the limits of the current squad and asked for reinforcements. He is well respected by the players and his authority appears to be solid. I really could not find a more appropriate man to coach Lazio in the next season. Could you?
Edy Reja signed a one year contract with Lazio with an option for another one. “He wants to work with one year contracts, that`s his method of doing things” – Lotito said after the signature. Well done both of you.