Soccer / calcio

Player Profile: Thomas Strakosha: Lazio's Saving Grace
Background A Greek-born Albanian, Thomas Strakosha has been one of the highlights and rising stars of this Biancoceleste side over the course of the previous few seasons, coming from Lazio’s Primavera. The son of goalkeeper Fotaq Strakosha, the footballer started his career with Greek side Panionios - after just one year in 2012, Claudio Lotito and Igli Tare signed him for only €75 thousand in 2012. An intended signing for Lotito’s second team Salernitana, Strakosha defied all limits, breaking through the ranks of the Primavera (where he was a regular starter) to earn a starting spot in the first team in the summer of 2017, after being a substitute goalkeeper for Federico Marchetti the year before. 2017/18 and 2018/19 Season Over the course of the 2017/18 season, he appeared in 53 matches playing in 4800 minutes of footballing action in all competitions for Lazio; he played in every match except for three in the Europa League, showing his ability to remain match-fit and his terrific conditioning, strength, and mentality. He conceded 63 goals while keeping 17 clean sheets. As a result of his terrific play for the Biancoceleste, when international duty called Strakosha was chosen for the Albanian national team, even participating in a few matches. He was also nominated for the Albanian Sports Ambassador: promoted by the Albanian Sports Federation, this is an award given to reward the men and women of the sport who carry the Albanian flag high in the world. This season, Strakosha has appeared in 20 matches for a total of 1800 minutes of football; once again he has played in every Serie A TIM match for the club up to this date, missing just four matches which have all come in the Europa League. He is one of two players (in addition to Francesco Acerbi) to have played every minute in the Italian league. With 22 goals conceded and 5 clean sheets, he has made 55 total saves in both the championship and European competition for a 71.4% save percentage. Analysis A contract with the Roman club until 2022 and a current market value of €20 million, at 23 years of age Strakosha has made 77 Serie A TIM appearances and 98 total appearances with the Biancocelesti in all competitions. Ever since being given the opportunity to play at the highest level, he has cemented his spot at the helm of Lazio's goal as the number one goalkeeper. Playing with confidence, passion, and composure, he is a reliable and consistent part of the team who assists to Lazio's success. The first key attribute that allows Strakosha to perform day-in-day-out is his positioning: he is able to give himself time to protect his goal from the incoming threat by putting himself in a position relative to the opponent in which he is able to see the ball at every progression in the attack. The second attribute relevant to Strakosha's terrific game is his awareness: by keeping tabs on where the footballer with the ball is in addition to the other attackers on the opposition's side, the Albanian understands when it is right to parry the ball towards the corner flag away from his goal or retain the ball, keeping his rebounds limited. Finally, the third and most important aspect to Strakosha's game is his reflexes: he is able to get to the ground fast and make saves that most keepers would have a tremendous amount of difficulty making. With Simone Inzaghi playing a 3-5-1-1, Lazio becomes very vulnerable on counters and he has to remain sharp and alert at all times, coming off his line to rush players and make the impossible, possible. Truly and quite literally a saving grace, Strakosha continues to make key saves in every match, being the wall at the heart of Inzaghi’s defense. If he is able to remain match-fit, it is a very big bonus to the whole side as they continue to push for a Champions League spot.