With so many young players emerging as stars in Serie A this season, the exploits of Libor Kozak could easily have gone unnoticed. To the untrained eye, it may appear that the Czech forward has been something of a bit-part player for Lazio, starting only four times and appearing mostly from the bench. However his actual contribution has been far greater than his appearance record suggests.
In his four starts and eight substitute appearances, Kozak has notched five goals including late winners against Fiorentina and Sampdoria. His impressive performances from the bench have led to him being involved from the start in consecutive game against Fiorentina and Milan. In these two games, Kozak showed just why he has the potential to be such an important player for Lazio.
Against Fiorentina, he kept his cool to convert a penalty and then secured the result with his second goal of the game. Forced to plough a lone furrow up front after Sergio Floccari went off with a knee injury, he led the line admirably. Kozak is a very different type of striker to any currently on the books at Lazio. His physical, aggressive style offers Edy Reja an interesting alternative to the guile of Floccari and the flair of Mauro Zarate, and his ability to play as a lone striker as well as with a partner makes him an invaluable asset.
Kozak demonstrated just how much of a handful he can be in the 0-0 draw against Milan. In an elbow-jostling display, the forward left Mario Yepes and Nicola Legrottaglie requiring medical attention but also impressed by not being overawed by the occasion, and proved a handful for the Milan defence. While his aggressive style may have garnered some negative attention against Milan, it is exactly this facet of his game that could be the most beneficial to Lazio. Kozak offers Reja a plan B, a forward who is comfortable chasing long balls, hassling defenders and generally making a nuisance of himself.
His physicality does have a down side, however, as he has picked up three yellow cards, more than Floccari, Zarate and Rocchi put together. He has also committed more fouls than all three despite having significantly less playing time. These are hardly surprising statistics, though, for a player plucked from the obscurity of the Czech Second Division in 2008.
Kozak boasted an impressive scoring record for former side Opava but was less impressive during his time on loan at Brescia. This season, though, Kozak boasts a goals-per-minute ratio only bettered by the goal-scoring machine that is Edinson Cavani. His prowess in front of goal coupled with his power make him an intimidating prospect for any opposition.
Despite his tendency to commit too many fouls, Kozak is a genuine threat. Whether playing as a lone striker or alongside a partner, his ability to occupy defenders with his physical presence, and his knack of scoring important goals, means that he has all the tools to be a massive asset to Lazio not only for the rest of the current season, but also for many years to come.