Udinese are struggling on the pitch and serious questions need to be asked about the quality of the squad as well as the modus operandi of the club.
After suffering a 2-1 defeat at home to Crotone on Sunday afternoon, the Zebrette have suffered a club record of 11 consecutive Serie A defeats, and they are just four points away from the relegation zone with six games remaining.
Blaming coach Massimo Oddo for this slump in form is arguably the easy way out, and although striker Kevin Lasagna was unavailable due to injury for five of these defeats, his return has not been enough cover over the cracks.
Since the Pozzo family acquired the club in 1986, there has often great turnovers in the squad and changing tacticians is not uncommon in Friuli either. After Francesco Guidolin left the club at the end of the 2013-14 season, the Friulani have had six different coaches including Oddo and nobody has been able to achieve qualification for Europe like Guidolin did.
Perhaps some of the choices in coach were questionable like Andrea Stramaccioni, Giuseppe Iachini, and Luigi Delneri but the quality of the squad needs to be scrutinised too. There are some talented players such as the aforementioned Lasagna, Silvan Widmer, Jakub Jankto, and Antonin Barak but would the rest of the squad have the quality to earn playing time at other clubs?
This is where the scouting model of Udinese needs to be analysed. For many years, the club would unearth talented players from around the world for a cheap price and sell them for huge profits. Although Jankto has been linked with AC Milan in the past, the rest of Italy and Europe are not fighting one another for the Zebrette’s hidden jewels these days.
In the last decade, the likes of Gokhan Inler, Samir Handanovic, Medhi Benatia, Alexis Sanchez, and Kwadwo Asamoah made their career breakthroughs at Udinese and players like Juan Cuadrado, Luis Muriel, Bruno Fernandes, and Antonio Candreva did not establish themselves at the club but they were able to flourish elsewhere.
At the moment, the one player that is on loan from Udinese and that is playing at starring role at his current club is SPAL goalkeeper Alex Meret. He was vital in their promotion to Serie A and he is a crucial part of their ambitions for survival.
The Pozzo family acquired English club Watford in 2012 and gradually they have placed more of their attention on the Hornets. The Premier League club was originally meant to be a satellite club like Spanish side Granada was but it seems that they are more of a priority than Udinese. According to transfermarkt.com, Watford have a squad value of €186.5 million whereas the Zebrette are worth just half of that at €92.75m.
Guidolin’s departure saw the team decline on the field and that continued once talismanic striker Antonio Di Natale retired in 2016 but little has been done to turn things around. Although 11 consecutive defeats do not look good for Oddo, he is still the same coach that earned six victories and three draws prior to the on-field collapse.
Udinese patron Giampaolo Pozzo and his family need to take a serious look at where their hometown club is regressing. Their business model was similar to what American baseball team Oakland did as featured in the movie Moneyball but it is no longer working wonders.
It is still unlikely that the Friulani will be relegated for the first time since the 1993-94 season but if they do, the blame should lie with more than just whoever coaches the players.