Coppa Italia: Round of 16 / Team rating: [6/10] / Top scorer: Kevin Lasagna (10) / Europe: N/A
Sacking Igor Tudor and keeping caretaker Luca Gotti on longer than he anticipated, Udinese ultimately scraped survival again, writes Ciro Di Brita.
Udinese finished the season in 13th position with 45 points, where three wins in the final five games allowed them to extend their stay in the top flight into their 25th consecutive year.
Le Zebrette started the campaign with Igor Tudor on the bench after the Croatian replaced Davide Nicola in March 2019. A 7-1 hammering in Bergamo against Atalanta in October was followed up three days later by a 4-1 home defeat to Roma and signalled the end of the former Juventus defender’s time in charge at the Dacia Arena.
Luca Gotti, who worked as an assistant to Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea last season and had been on Tudor’s staff, was installed as interim Coach in November and lead his new side to a 3-1 win at Genoa in his first game. He was adamant for months that he was only there as a caretaker until the club had found a new coach, insisting he didn’t want the main job and much preferred being an assistant. Udinese, however, were in no rush to take meetings.
After a bright enough start to his time in charge of the Friulani, Gotti and his men ran into trouble in the new year where they went 10 games without a win between the league and Coppa Italia. Things improved following the restart, picking up points that proved to be vitally important in the relegation battle against the likes of Roma, Genoa and SPAL.
It was during this period that Kevin Lasagna rediscovered his goal-scoring boots – the Italy international had only scored once in his previous 13 games before a double in a 3-2 home loss to Atalanta at the end of June.
Without those goals and the endeavour and guile of Argentine playmaker Rodrigo De Paul, Udinese would have been in real danger of going down. Seeing as owner Giampaolo Pozzo’s other team Watford were relegated from the Premier League, perhaps its high time he focused more on the Zebrette before both his footballing businesses are plying their trade in the second tier.
The Bianconeri have been battling relegation for seven seasons now and the old swashbuckling side that came third in 2012 that featured the likes of Antonio Di Natale and Samir Handanovic is but a distant memory.
Coaches - Igor Tudor/Luca Gotti
Igor Tudor was sacked in November after a couple of heavy defeats – the Croatian’s second term in charge of the Friulani was not as successful as his first, where he saved the club from relegation. His replacement Gotti was probably fortunate that the relegation battle was not as tight and cutthroat as it could have been, with Brescia and SPAL looking already doomed months ago. Nonetheless, Udinese are still trying to convince him to stay at the Dacia Arena rather than slink back into the shadows.
Player of the Year – Kevin Lasagna
Rodrigo De Paul and Kevin Lasagna were the two stand out performers for the Zebrette this season. The Argentine midfielder scored seven times in 34 appearances and again caught the eye with several impressive and dominant performances – including the winning goals against Lecce and Cagliari over the Christmas period. Lasagna bagged himself 10 goals this term, six of which came in the space of five games, which coincided with the restart in play after the coronavirus outbreak.
Highlight – Giant-killing
Beating Juventus 2-1 at home in Week 35 was probably their best result of the season, however, the Old Lady were on the verge of sewing up their ninth Scudetto in a row and might have been somewhat distracted after their 2-1 win over Lazio three days previously had more or less given them the title. Perhaps their 2-0 win at Roma in Week 29 was their best performance in the league this season. Lasagna opened the scoring with a close-range finish, Diego Perotti saw red and the three points were sealed when Ilija Nestorovski tapped in De Paul’s low cross in the 78th minute.
Nightmare – Torrent of goals took Tudor
Despite Stefano Okaka opening the scoring in the 11th minute in Week 9 of the campaign, the Zebrette somehow ended up on the wrong side of a 7-1 thumping by high-energy Atalanta. That embarrassing defeat was followed a couple of days later by a 4-0 trashing by Roma at the Dacia Arena. Those two heavy losses saw their coach Igor Tudor lose his job.
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