How do you solve a problem like Udinese? The Northern Italian club have had a rough time in the last few seasons after losing the most important member of the club. Not Antonio Di Natale, Maurizio Domizzi, or even Francesco Guidolin, it was Gino Pozzo, son of owner Giampaolo.
In 2012, Giampaolo purchased English side Watford, which resulted in Gino Pozzo and the family’s wealth, resources, and financial backing being transferred to England and the Premier League. As a result, Udinese have suffered; becoming the family’s tired old dog, engulfed in the shadow of a fun and exciting new puppy.
And that tired old dog better learn some new tricks, because, quite frankly, Udinese have become a bore. Even a 9-2 pre-season win over local rivals ASD San Luigi Calcio wasn’t enough to get fans excited.
This season, the Zebrette need to pull up their socks, score some goals, and protect the back of their net, all things they haven’t been doing in recent years. This will be the Friulani’s make-or-break season and all of Udine’s eyes will be on captain Kevin Lasagna to lead the herd to greatness. Or into Serie B.
Summer Dealings – 2/10
If there’s one thing Udinese is known for it’s finding unheard players and making them into international superstars. Contemporary players like Alexis Sanchez, Samir Handanovic, and Sulley Muntari, as well as living legends like Oliver Bierhoff, Dino Zoff, and Zico, all had breakout seasons with the Zebrette. So it’s no surprise if Udinese have not signed a ‘big name’ their scouting team usually know things others don’t.
Udinese have lost two of their most experienced players. Longtime defender Danilo was sold to Bologna after a loan last season and veteran defensive midfielder Valon Behrami has returned home to Switzerland. Walace came in from Hanover as Udinese splashed €6million on the defensive midfielder.
Key Man – Rodrigo De Paul
The Argentine forward has been getting quite a bit of attention and with nine goals and eight assists last season, it’s no wonder why. He may not be the heir apparent to Di Natale, but he is almost certainly going to be the leading goal scorer for the Zebrette this season and the one man in the squad who can win games on his own.
One to watch – Giampaolo Pozzo
He is not in the dressing room, but rather, seated at the head of the board room. Owner Giampaolo Pozzo needs to start making some major changes with this team if he doesn’t want a Friulano riot on his hands. With their beautiful new stadium only half full at the best of times – and often with more visiting fans than home – Pozzo is going to have to do something radical to save this club from falling into Serie B and, eventually, obscurity.
The Coach – Igor Tudor
Udinese have been through 10 coaches in the last five years, with no one sticking around for longer than a season. So it’s with cautious reservation that the club welcome back Igor Tudor for his second time in charge in as many years. Tudor managed to save the Zebrette from Serie A extinction once, let’s hope he’s not in for a second-year slump.
Prediction – 17th
Last season, Udinese dangerously flirted with relegation and if their preseason is any indication of 2018/2019, they may as well start sewing their Serie B patches on now. 17th, but barely.