The magic of Francesco Guidolin works well for Udinese

For a team that only managed to secure its first point of the season in the fifth match of Serie A, Udinese have scored eight goals in two games against two of the toughest defences in the league, Milan and Genoa. After battling it out against relegation last season, the underachieving side brimming with potential have finally started to reap the rewards of their impressive attack and that’s largely down to coach Francesco Guidolin.
Guidolin is perhaps best known for his achievements with Vicenza in which he managed to win the Coppa Italia in 1997 despite being in Serie B. However, the astute Coach has repeatedly managed to get weaker sides to perform above expectation. Last year at Parma he kept the team in fourth place until week 17 before then finishing off in a decent mid-table position. Now at Udinese, his team are fast becoming the most attractive side of the league.
Despite achieving most of his success at Parma and Udinese by deploying a 3-5-2 formation, he is perceptive enough to know that shapes need to change according to the challenge. Indeed, he noted that Udinese’s best performance came against Napoli when they played with a 4-3-1-2 shape. During his time at Bologna, he implemented no less than four different formations but his ideas remain the same. Whilst he alternates between either a three or four man defence, his midfield is always heaving with a mixture of defensive and creative talent to permit his teams to impose their character.
However what makes Guidolin different from other up-and-coming coaches is his desire to extract the best out of each player and finding for them the perfect role to utilise their talent. With Alexis Sanchez touted as the next break-out star of Serie A, the club seemed unable to tap into his potential. It was only until Guidolin decided to move him into the role of a trequartista, playing him just behind Antonio Di Natale are we now witnessing the marvellous offensive game of the Zebrette – utilising Sanchez’s creativity to unleash the front- line. At Parma, he converted Palermo reject Davide Lanzafame into a vital component of the attack, scoring seven goals in 27 matches. And notably at Bologna, Julio Cruz went from being a feeble giant into a hard-working forward playing for the team.
Coaching triumphs do not come easily to Guidolin. His successes are largely down to the copious amounts of notes he makes on each opposition and the endless hours of preparation he does prior to each game. He studies the opponent and his players to find ways in which the strengths of his team can exploit the weaknesses of the opponent. The game against Milan perhaps illustrated this point perfectly. Aware of the failings of the Milanesi full-backs and Luca Antonini’s tendencies to stay out of position, Guidolin knew that only the centre-backs had the potential to stifle his attack. As such, he advised his attackers to play their offensive game on the wings and instructed Sanchez to occupy Thiago Silva, drawing him away from position to leave Di Natale with open space to exploit and only Daniele Bonera to deal with. As such, Udinese were the first team to score more than two against Milan this season.
Perhaps Udine will provide Guidolin with the stability required to encourage consistency in results – for that is all that eludes the tactical mastermind.

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