Di Natale’s 100th goal the icing on the cake for Udinese

With Saturday’s win over Sampdoria, Udinese have now won five of their last seven matches and are unbeaten in 2011. This is arguably the result of Coach Francesco Guidolin’s many achievements at the club, the most remarkable of which has been avoiding the sack by temperamental President Giampaolo Pozzo despite a very poor start to the season. After all, he lost patience with previous Coach Pasquale Marino, who Pozzo fired in December last year to then hire him again just two months later.
Guidolin started his second spell on the Udinese bench playing a 3-4-3, and then he shifted to a 3-4-1-2 formation before finally reverting to his preferred 3-5-2 in the first half of November. He moved Alexis Sánchez closer to Antonio Di Natale and offloaded Antonio Floro Flores, despite his mobility and ability to play in a wide position.
Di Natale and Sánchez were instructed to move and create spaces by dragging defenders out of position to allow the Bianconeri midfielders to run into the channels, although this has not distracted the two strikers from scoring goals. Di Natale is the team’s top scorer for the season with 16 goals, and on Saturday against Sampdoria he celebrated the 100th Udinese goal of his career. Sánchez follows with seven goals and his tally seems sure to increase if he can keep up his present form.
When not in possession, Udinese keep pressure high up on the field to try and win the ball. When defending, the wide men retreat to form a five man line with the central midfielders closing the space around them. But it is the defence that has been the weak link on some occasions. Too many times this season the defenders have suffered from a lack of concentration and that has cost the team points in a number of games, but the recent unbeaten run of seven matches is a sign that Guidolin is working on that side of his team too.
Having retained the services of Sánchez until the end of the season and knowing that they can always count on the evergreen Di Natale, the Zebrette have the necessary firepower to aim for a place in the Europa League next season and if the defenders can stay as solid as they have done in the past seven games, that target is definitely within reach. The season is not finished yet, there are still enough games left and many dangers around every corner that can jeopardise all the good things achieved so far. Both players and Coach need to keep their feet on the ground, keep the momentum and ride this New Year’s wind that has taken them to their current 6th place in the table as long as they can.

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