Summer has started, the leagues are finished and we are all waiting for kick off in the World Cup in Brazil. Like I did last season, I will make a little summary of this years season. The first that comes to mind is disappointment. In the post providing my table prediction, I had put Udinese on a solid 5th place. We all know by now that it didn’t go that well, not even close!
So why the poor 13th spot on the table? This should be a season where we at least should defend or last year 5th place. We maintained our squad intact by only loosing Benatia as the most notable player. We didn’t strengthen any positions as Basta and Silva were still on our flanks, Allan, Pereyra and Pinzi in the midfield with Muriel and Di Natale on top. Promising youngsters such as Fernandes, Widmer, Nico Lopez and Zielinski added quality and depth in the squad. All based on this, together with Guidolin, should make this a promising season.
It all started with Guidolin coming late for pre-season. 2 weeks late with important players in a terrible physique. Brkic was injured and needed surgery, Muriel still fat and Di Natale not in the greatest shape. We also lost Angella and Faraoni in the mercato, which was a disaster in my opinion! Also this season we were competing in the UEFA Europa League, but got trashed by Slovan Liberec in the qualifying round. I guess that was the affirmation that the squad was not at the same level as prior to last season.
Kelava started off as our first choice in the goal. An average keeper, nothing more nothing less. Brkic would still be ruled out for almost half the season. As a backup we would have Benussi and Scuffet. Scuffet is a promising local lad and by the end of the season he would be Guidolin first choice. The problem was that Brkic never made it to last year performance after his injury and Scuffet was a little too inexperienced to play on this level. So basically we were in a limbo state regarding the keeper position. Nevertheless, Scuffet did quite well and I assume he will be our first choice next season.
The defense was more or less intact. Danilo would still be our cornerstone in a 3 man defence. Domzzi was in and out this season due to some minor injuries, but Bubnjic proved to be a good back-up. Heurtaux was amazing as he finally has calmed down and has attacking attributes and by this scoring 4 goals. Unfortunately the mistake rate was higher this season in the back 3, which is one reason why we conceded that many goals.
The midfield section remained intact. Allan continued where he left last season, but didn’t have any competition. Jadson is the second alternative, but he is not near the same level as Allan. Lazzari was the playmaker last season, but his performance was below average and during second half of the season Bruno Fernandes had taken his position and was, in my opnion, the big surprice and one of the most stable attacking players together with Pereyra. Pinzi and Badu were fighting for the other spot on them midfield and Badu had an impressive second half of the season netting a total of 5 goals, which is on second spot behind Di Natale. Pereyra was the attacking force in the midfield and improved a lot from last season. Guidolin had given him more or less a free role so he would drift from left to right during the game. Fernandes would normally stay on the left side and Badu on the right. As for Fernandes he has the same “pace-issues” as Allan, which hinder him to some extent.
On top there is only one man: Di Natale! People expected a lot, as usual, but he had a troubled start of the season and thus people started to think this would be his final season. Moreover, he made a stupid comment after a defeat that he would retire after the season. Luckily this was just a statement in frustration and now we all know that he will carry on for another season. He ended on a total of 17 goals and is the only reason why Udinese did not get relegated. Muriel was the one man everyone was talking about prior to the season. He was the hottest transfer object in the winter mercato, but this season was (again) a disaster. He is no team player and it is easy to read his style on the pitch for the defenders. Put this together and you will see the reason he only scored 4 goals in 24 matches. To compare, Bruno Fernandes scored the same amount in 24 matched from a midfield position! Nico Lopez is the 3rd striker and is more promising. He is a creative player that can function together with another striker. He is not selfish, he has excellent passing skills, faster than Muriel and is a left-footer than can be on the right side (both Di Natale and Muriel prefer the left side). I expect he will be an important player in the years to come
Regarding the formation we all know that 3-5-1-1 is the typical Udinese formation. This season Guidolin experimented a lot with a 4 back line, 2 strikers, holding striker or 2 attacking midfielders behind the striker. To me it seems that we were in an endless pursue after the right formation throughout the entire season and thus the game plan never settled. Another worry is that we never seemed to have a plan B when things failed in the first half of the game. When it comes to the mercato I was happy that we managed to keep the squad intake, but I was disappointed to see Angella and Faraoni leave. When the winter mercato started and we were just above relegation I was really surprise that our response to the situation was to bring in Hassan Yebda from Granada. He is a slow defensive midfielder. In my opinion that is not the type of signing you do if you are fighting to avoid relegation.
I was happy that we didn’t sack Guidolin, even though I questioned several times his attitude and lack of consistency in the tactics and why he continued to use Muriel when he contributed with so little. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long after the season had ended that Guidolin will pursue a technical role within the Pozzo family and the search for a new coach would start. Several were pointing at Luigi del Neri, but I was praying every night that he would end up as coach, due to his style of football and more importantly; what would his motivation to train Udinese be? He is old and expensive and it didn’t take long before the negotiation stalled due to differences in financial terms. Walem, which is the Beglian U21 Manager was another Udinese legend several fans were hoping could take over, but when the negotiation with Andrea Strammacioni started we understood that this would most likely go through. Udinese has allready announced that “Strama” is the new head coach of Udinese and he will bring on his own assistant team, but the existing one will still stay on until contracts expire next year. The deal is a 2 year, but I assume there are options for another if things go as planned. The good thing with “Strama” is his skill with yongsters. He did quite well at Inter as it was other circumstances that made up for the poor performance when he was sacked. Nevertheless, he has the right motivation to train Udinese and he will still have to deal with Guidolin sneaking in the corridors at Friuili
Below I have listed the best formation and lineup during this season. I was eager to put Widmer instead of Basta, but as Basta contributed with 3 goals and 2 assists, I chose him. Bruno took over for Lazzari as he scored 4 and had 6 assists. Badu only on the basis of the performance in the second half of the season.
Best Udinese Lineup 2013/14
My predictions were quite OK. Top 4 is always easy in Serie A, but Torino, Catania and of course Udinese was a smack in the face!
Serie A Table 2013-14