A perfect project – Udinese show Italy how to do it

This season, one finds it difficult to describe Udinese and their style of play without falling victim to the exaggerated use of superlatives and hyperbole. An Italian nation beguiled by the exquisite play of a team so perfectly balanced, has finally been gifted the chance to see the results of a fantastically well planned project. With Gino Pozzo regularly asked to spill the secrets behind this sensationally attractive Zebrette side, his response is always is the same: “Udinese is the only team in Italy adopting Spain’s philosophy of football in the sense that we try to prioritise technical qualities to develop a game that makes the difference.”
Both Pozzo Senior and Junior deserve much of the credit for the technically brilliant and financially stable team gaining momentum by the second in Serie A. Having watched his father attract talent such as Oliver Bierhoff, Zico and Nestor Sensini, little Pozzo learnt a fair bit about ensnaring huge talent himself and successfully managed to capture the sublime Alexis Sanchez.
All that has been missing was a Coach apt at finding the key to unlock all the stunning talent that has been painstakingly scouted and he has finally arrived. Francesco Guidolin armed with copious amount of notes and a unique approach to team bonding that sees him regularly invite his players as guests to his house has finally found the right formation to unleash the genius within the side. After toying with a number of shapes including the 3-4-3 formation, the 3-5-2 shape has brought with it the right result – a team that excels on the wings, vicious on the counter-attack, perfect in midfield and defensively sound. However, it is far too naïve to describe Udinese’s unique style of play as simply a 3-5-2 shape. For one, Guidolin’s tactics creates the illusion the squad is playing with more than just 11 men and for another, the likes or Pablo Armero rarely stick to one place, often alternating wings in order to invade space horizontally.
With a dazzling offence and a secure defence, it should be noted it is the midfield that makes this engine tick and their ability to shift tasks in order to exploit weaknesses. Defensively they alternate depending on the opposition. Whilst most of the time the two wingers come back to form a 5-man back-line, against Inter it was the middle three that stayed close to the back-line to make it a 6-man defence. Meanwhile in offence, it is a case of either using the wingers to stretch the opposing defence wide to create space in the middle to exploit or using pace and mobility to pull central defenders away to allow the wingers to exercise their impeccable flair for delivering accurate crosses into the middle.
A squad packed with players representing 13 different nationalities, the most prominent member is undoubtedly Sanchez. Moved to the middle and alongside Antonio Di Natale, the duo’s collective pace, mobility and sheer ability has created a feared partnership. Not only apt at scoring, both forwards help to maintain pressure acting as the first line of defence as they attempt to snatch possession deep in the opposition’s half in order to exploit their skills to take the advantage.
12 goals in three games and unbeaten in the last 12 rounds of Serie A sum up the push this team is making in order to snatch a coveted Champions League place. The only question one can pose is – can the Zebrette hope to keep their stars for next season to show the world what modern calcio is all about?

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