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Wednesday June 13 2018
Odds against Velazquez

Julio Velazquez is a strange appointment for Udinese, writes Daryl Hammond, but he does at least break the mould.

After going through three Coaches last season, Udinese are seemingly crying out some stability on the bench. A experienced campaigner who knows the league and its challenges.

On the face of it then, 36-year-old Spaniard Julio Velazquez doesn't exactly fit the bill.

Given that the Pozzo family go through managers like copy paper though, stability likely isn't the priority. Instead they have opted for an ambitious young manager in the hope of kick-starting something new in Udine.

In more ways than one the appointment of the Spaniard is one that breaks the mould. Before Croatian coach Igor Tudor joined for a month in April, all of Udinese's last 13 Coaches had been Italian.

Having spent most of his career in the lower echelons of Spanish football, managing the Zebrette is his biggest job to date. Not exactly a confidence boost for fans.

Moreover the most high-profile role of his career was a failure. After Villarreal were relegated, he was tasked with taking the side back up to La Liga. Though a team clearly too good for Spain's second division, they struggled and he was ultimately sacked.

The fact that Villarreal would later be promoted under replacement Marcelino, is indicative of the side's strength without him, losing only twice in 21 matches. His appointment to the role only came in the most tragic of circumstances, with former Sporting Gijon Coach Manuel Preciado dying of a heart attack just 24 hours after being appointed as Villarreal boss.

Only 30 when he took the role, he has understandably learnt and grown since. In his last job as Alcoron manager he was able to save them from relegation, likely convincing he could at least do the same in Italy.

Like many young Spanish coaches of today he draws inspiration and similarities with Pep Guardiola in terms of the football he aspires to play.

He wants to play expansive passing football, but recognises they will not always get their way. He insisted in his first Press conference he knows his teams can control games without the ball, and can score in both 15 passes and three.

However, it’s debatable how suited the current Udinese squad is to playing the style of football he wants. For a squad consistently lacking in investment - and subsequently quality - even treading water is a challenge.

The Zebrette finished 14th in Serie A but were only five points ahead of relegated Crotone, as opposed to 14 off 10th place Sampdoria. Also shouldering the league's fourth-worst defence, little is likely to improve on that front under Velazquez.

The whole situation may mirror that of the one Premier League side Watford found themselves in this season.

Also owned by the Pozzo family, the Hornets appointed a young and talented Coach in Marco Silva after seeing how he improved Hull City.

Despite the ambition to play better football, at the first sign of trouble, no matter how innocuous, he was canned in favour of a more pragmatic option in Javi Gracia.
There is also a question of respect in the dressing room. At 36, he is younger than goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri.  With little top-level experience either, inspiring a group of loanees and also-rans that their destiny under him will be any different will be difficult.

With little money, experience and likely time, the odds are stacked against Velazquez. But as someone who has had to go the extra mile to prove himself his whole career, he may yet step up to the plate. Or at least convince those who matter most he is worthy of time.

Have your say...
Udinese should make it their habit to invest in Italian youth & groom them, helping them to grow..
on the 13th June, 2018 at 7:54pm

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