Udinese got its third consecutive home victory by beating a struggling Parma side 4-2. This was the fifth match of the season and despite having faced tough opponents in the opening, Udinese is well placed on third with 12 points. It started well for Antonio Di Natale as he did 2 goals against his former team Empoli in the season premiere. Then 3 tough matches were coming up; First a 0-2 loss at Juventus Stadium, then we secured a 1-0 victory (Danilo) at Friuli against a struggling Napoli team before we headed to Rome and secured another 1-0 victory (Thereau) against Lazio.
The quality of the games was not the best, both sides struggling with poor passes and lack of creativity up front. The difference was that Udinese finally could secure a win on a relatively poor day at work, which was totally absent under Guidolin’s regime. Is this the so called “Strama effect” we are witness to?
Andrea Stramaccioni (Strama) was appointed to new Udinese coach as Guidolin retired into the dark corners at Friuli as a director to oversee the club portfolio to Udinese. His assistant team was allowed to stay until their contract expired and Strama was allowed to bring in his own team. One of the notable signings was former Inter player, Dejan Stankovic. My first impression was that this could be a very smart signing, mostly due to Strama’s experience with young players. Also, this is a coach for the future and he will be given time in Udinese to develop further and thus sticking around for a while. I am a firm believer in consistency and patient in a clubs coaching team, even in struggling times!
Nobody expects too much of Strama in the début season. The squad remains almost the same; the only difference is that Pereyra left to Juventus and Basta to Lazio. We signed some young prospects and got a few back from loan. The good thing is that the squad remained intact and you may argue that Udinese would have to make new signings in order to improve from last season’s poor performance. I don’t believe in that for two main reasons;
- There is still quality within the team in order to fight for a top 7 position.
- Udinese is in no financial position to purchase top rated established players in order to justify a previous poor season.
So why have Strama managed to guide Udinese to a third position after 5 matches? Of course there are some teams that have performed below expectation, but in the end of the day it doesn’t matter. You have to win your matches regardless others’ performance! Below I have listed some old tweets, mainly from pre-season that can explain some of the success so far.
The pre-season creates basis foundation with respect to strength and conditioning. Previous season it may seem that we have not been fit and we have been struggling with minor injuries. The things go hand in hand. If your fitness level is good, then you are less likely to contract minor injuries, muscle soreness, etc. It also allows you to start the season with oxygen capacity needed to last 90+ minutes. This has been the case so far. Udinese has been able to run for 90+ minutes and thus been able to maintain solid defensive work throughout the entire match. This is probably the most notable change from previous season.
The two posts here are related to the midfield. Previously the defensive contribution in the midfield came from Allan. In that respect he was more or less like a lonely rider in the midfield and it was easy to flank us on both sides. Strama has adopted a “flat 3” in the midfield where Allan is the anchor and Badu and Guilherme are helping him. Guilherme is a new signing and I was somewhat worried that he would turn out like Willians, but luckily he is more or less a copy of Inler. With a flat 3 doing all the grunt work in the midfield, we can allow ourselves to have 3 on top with either 2 strikers and a playmaker or with 2 offensive midfielders with a lone striker. So far both works!
It is a fact that it can be a challenge to have a co-striker with Di Natale. Muriel has so far not worked well with him as they are too similar. The new guy in town is Cyril Thereau. He is a typical target man that is able to maintain possession and either pass to a better placed player or to challenge and create opportunities on his own. Inside the box he is lethal mostly due to his technical skill with the ball. If you go on YouTube and search for his goal you can see that in most cases he is placing the ball in the far corner. The goal against Parma was a typical Thereau goal!
Another notable player that has made a huge impact on regaining possession and mess up the game plan to the opponent is Kone. He is more like Pinzi, but with better technique. He is the person who connects the midfield with the attack and has so far made a huge contribution in Udinese’s decent performance.
The tactical approach has changed a little and the formation varies from 3-5-2-1 to 4-3-1-2. The only thing that remains the same is the flat 3 structure on the midfield, which has proven crucial in order to balance the team in the defensive play. There is also more play through the middle in the latter formation as the former wing backs drop deep down in the pitch. To be it looks like Strama will use a 3 back line when Heurtaux, Danilo and Domizzi are fully fit. If one of them is out, he will drop to regular 4 back line, putting Piris in a left back position and Widmer as right back.
With all respect to what Guidolin achieved with Udinese it is clear that we can say that there is to some degree a “Strama effect” in Udinese. This is achieved both on the training ground and last not least but least through a more strict formation with the flat 3 in the middle. The squad seems fit and we don’t have to read in the official training reports that some players had to carry out alternative training. I am not saying that we won’t have injured players later on or form will drop, but I know that poor fitness level when you start the campaign will always follow you throughout the season. You will never be able to regain lost terrain and the unintended consequences could be that the coach start rotating players more often and swapping between different formation in order to make a quick fix to the table position.
The first goal will be to reach 40 points, as it always has been, and so far we are on the right track in order to achieve that well before the season ends next year. Being a little ambitious, I would say we should try to aim for a top 7 position.