A couple of weeks ago, a Harry Kane tap in from a couple of yards caught my eye. What was striking was how Kane happened to be there to score, on his own, a couple of yards out after a corner.
As everyone in the packed Southampton penalty area drifts toward the near post, the Spurs striker shifts in the opposite direction in anticipation. No one sees it like he sees it. No one senses it like he senses it. Kane scores, and it looks so easy.
I guess it was – for him at least. It’s a rare talent – being in the right place at the right time. He does it so often, you know it’s not a fluke.
Ciro Immobile, who may not have the all-round attributes of the England man, shares this gift, one that is helping him to deliver a second prolific season on the bounce for Lazio and that is reviving a career that had drifted badly at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla.
Goals justify the presence of a striker like Immobile. Often described as selfish, accused of not contributing enough in open play, without the goals, he’s a passenger.
Ah, but with the goals it’s a different story. And it’s with the goals that he’s become a central figure in Lazio’s drive to an unlikely Champions League qualification.
Take a look on YouTube at the Italian international’s 43 Serie A goals garnered in 56 appearances over the last two seasons. All bar one are scored inside the 18-yard box (the other was clipped in right from the edge).
If he’s not ghosting in for a tap in, a close range header, a clever far post finish, or capitalising on a mistake, he’s running on to a through ball and finishing with clinical precision.
The goals look simple. But if it were really that easy, then everyone would be doing it.
Biancocelesti manager Simone Inzaghi deserves much credit not only for Immobile’s revival since he signed from Sevilla in July 2016 but also for Lazio’s impressive competitiveness – given they are the least well-resourced of the Serie A giants vying for the Champions League Promised Land.
Inzaghi, and his brother the arch poacher Pippo, made fine careers from being in the right place at the right time, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he should know how to get the best from Immobile.
In many ways, the Lazio hitman is unfashionable.
So many sides now play on the front foot, all high press and high intensity – systems and tactics that demand the lung-busting engagement of all involved, including their frontmen.
But this is not Immobile. Indeed, it’s not Inzaghi’s Lazio either. The 41-year-old’s team are bucking tactical trends, focusing more on the counter attack than the counter press and exploiting the spaces behind the high lines.
And how successfully they are doing it. Inzaghi’s progress as a manager and that of his side has certainly been eye-catching.
Last season, his first full season in charge, he guided Lazio to a fifth place finish, three places and 16 points better off than the previous campaign.
This season, he has Lazio right in the Champions League mixer in third place (despite back to back defeats in their last two outings), his side are Serie A’s top scorers and they have managed three more points and 17 more goals than at the same stage last term.
And they’ve done so while also making light of a heavier workload by topping their Europa League group.
And Immobile, brilliantly serviced by one of the revelations of the Serie A season, former Liverpool flop Luis Alberto, and the 22-year-old Serbian midfield monster Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has been at the heart of it all.
Twenty goals in his 20 Serie A games make him the league’s top scorer and leave him just 3 behind last season’s total with 15 games left to play!
And he’s proving that he’s more than just a poacher – providing 7 assists for his team mates, leaving him joint second in the Serie A rankings. No mean return for a player who cost Lazio just €8.75 million!
And more evidence to support the contention that the manager who has guided his revival is the most promising and probably the most talented young coach in the Italian game.