An Udinese Revival

At the flag end of the last season, Udinese found themselves in a desperate fight to get out of the relegation battle. And when survival was finally achieved with three rounds to go, the Friulani breathed a collective sigh of relief at what had been a strange year.
Regular followers of Serie A will agree that Udinese have been one of the most inconsistent teams of recent times. The Bianconeri are as capable of breath-taking dogged displays as they are of an utter and complete collapse. The first few rounds of the season cannot highlight this fact any better as Udine started it in dreadful manner with four consecutive defeats before embarking on a run of a draw and three victories. The weekend’s win against Palermo was particularly impressive in light of the Sicilians’ excellent form coming into the game. Francesco Guidolin had his men very well organised and one has to say they deserved the victory based on their performance. This reversal in the trend of fortunes for Udinese can most likely be attributed to Guidolin’s arrival at the club who seems to have found the formula to keep his side ticking without exploding.
Following what had been a dismal year for the Friulani outfit, the club offloaded some of its best talent in the summer in pursuit of financial stability. The team lost Simone Pepe and Marco Motta on loan to Juventus, while Gaetano D’Agostino and Felipe left south for Florence. Serbian Aleksandar Luković also departed for the petro-dollars of Zenit St. Petersburg and despite these departures, Udinese still had a decent side. Last season’s Capocannonieri, Antonio Di Natale’s decision to stay at the club despite interest from the Old Lady has greatly helped keep the team united. Gökhan Inler and Alexis Sanchez may not be household names in Italy but the Swiss and the Chilean contribute immensely to the Udinese midfield. Kwadwo Asamoah is another of those players that Guidolin loves to have in his squad – a hard worker covering a great amount of distance in every game and always willing to help out defensively.
What the Zebrette lack in quality they make up in quantity with plenty of players ready to sacrifice themselves for the team. Mehdi Benatia who arrived in July from French second division side Clermont Foot has proved to be a decent bargain as he has scored crucial goals against Cesena and Palermo. Guidolin’s teams have always been sound defensively sound and his tactics are paying off as Udinese have conceded only a single goal in their last four outings. This season the dependence on Di Natale also seems to have dropped as Antonio Floro Flores is stepping up and showing signs of maturity as a striker. Germán Denis by no means a fan favourite is again a player who puts a full game shift in and this aids Guidolin’s side control the midfield a lot better. The next few games for Udinese will surely test their credentials as they face Bari, Cagliari, Catania and Lecce – not the toughest games, but ones where the side will have to prove their consistency in performance.
The dream days of five years ago when the team qualified for the Champions League may be a distant memory now but the Zebrette are a side that cannot be underestimated. Under the right guidance, they could still pose problems for the big boys as was witnessed in their game against Inter and can certainly think of challenging for a place in the top half of the table.

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