Cesena and Udinese the example for Serie A

The temporary downturn in the fortunes of the most well-known team playing in black and white in Italy this season has allowed the spotlight to shine on the less popular Bianconeri. Udinese are currently experiencing great success with their brand of vibrant, attacking football – being regularly acclaimed as the best team to watch in Serie A.
They are not the only team looking to attack to achieve their goals this season – at the other end of the table Cesena are a more than useful footballing side, certainly compared to their rivals in the relegation battle. One of the few teams to use genuine width in Italy, their 4-3-3 with Luis Jiménez and Emanuele Giaccherini out wide poses a question to opposition sides that is not often asked in Serie A. They are more than happy to leave the three forwards further up the pitch in search of goals and victories, as opposed to bringing them deeper to gain draws.
In many ways these two clubs are an example to many teams in Serie A. While other Coaches are turning to increasingly negative tactics and styles of play, Francesco Guidolin at Udinese and Massimo Ficcadenti at Cesena are showing what can potentially be earned by going against the grain.
The situation is worse at the bottom than the top with regard to stodgy football. The last month or so of Domenico Di Carlo’s Sampdoria reign summed up the mentality that is gripping a lot of teams in the league. Upon realising that his side were struggling for goals, Di Carlo changed the system entirely to a 3-5-1-1, and simultaneously provided a wonderful example of why numbers alone are not enough to define a team’s style. Udinese use exactly the same formation, but while they employ a far more adventurous mentality (and, it must be said, have an exceptional player in Alexis Sánchez that is absent from Samp’s squad), Di Carlo’s change was an attempt to make up for the lack of goals at one end by ensuring they did not concede at the other.
It did not work, and he was sacked after losing to the more forward-thinking Cesena 3-2 at home. Indeed, all it has succeeded in doing is dragging Sampdoria closer to the relegation zone – Serie B is becoming an ever-increasing threat for the Genovese outfit. Brescia’s Giuseppe Iachini performed a similar stunt on his return to the bench, changing to 3-5-1-1, and although it has been slightly more successful for his outfit, they are still in the relegation zone, while the more attacking Cesena has climbed out for the time being.
The better quality of player that exists at the top means the sort of football displayed by Brescia and Sampdoria is not as prevalent, but it has not stopped a focus towards defence. Lazio have the second best defensive record in Serie A, but are comfortably the lowest scorers of the sides that occupy the European slots at the moment. For long periods of this season it kept them in the Champions League places, but Udinese’s incredible run of form, combined with eye-catching attacking football, has seen them overtake Lazio for fourth place.
Purists would argue a victory for the game of football should Udinese and Cesena succeed in their ambitions this year. But far simpler than that, it might convince Coaches next season that there is more than one way of achieving results, and that will only improve Serie A.

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