With the Pozzo family's attention elsewhere, Elio Salerno worries what 2019-20 will bring for Udinese.
Coach: Igor Tudor
Last season: 12th, 43 points
Player of the Year 2018-19: Rodrigo de Paul
Look out for: Ignacio Pussetto
Prediction: Flirting with relegation/bottom half finish
Despite the threat of relegation looming over them for the majority of last season, Udinese’s 12th-placed finished was their highest of the last five years. Collecting 10 points from the final 15 available, the returning Igor Tudor guided the Friulani into mid-table security.
After starting 2018-19 with Coach Julio Velazquez at the helm, the Spaniard was dismissed in November with just two wins. The club quickly moved to appoint Davide Nicola but the former Cutrone boss only lasted until March. Tudor was then called to save Udinese from the drop, just as he had done the year prior.
Argentine attacker Rodrigo de Paul was undoubtedly the star of the show, helping himself to nine goals and eight assists. The Udinese No. 10 will need to be at his best again if his team are to build on their strong finish to last term.
This summer’s transfer window has passed quietly without significant investment. Whilst the Pozzo family continue to fund their Premier League club, Watford, Udinese are being left behind. Amid low-key acquisitions and exits, the best piece of business the club have done so far is holding onto talisman de Paul.
Aside from de Paul, there remains some interesting talent in the squad. Italy international Rolando Mandragora is developing into a fine central midfield player. His cultured left foot and excellent passing range is complimented in midfield by the dynamic Seko Fofana.
A player that caught the eye during his first season in Italy is another Argentine, Ignacio Pussetto. The wide player, who can play in a variety of roles is a pacey attacker with strong physical attributes, complimented by his dribbling ability. And n arrival providing intrigue is that of Cristo. The exciting young Spaniard moves from Real Madrid Castilla having scored 22 goals in 41 appearances last term.
Coach Tudor will hope stability can provide a platform for a solid start to the new season. An early Coppa Italia fixture will give them a taste of competitive action before kicking-off with a tasty looking home fixture against Milan. With their opponents in transition, Udinese will be looking to take advantage and three points against a top six side would be a confidence boosting start.
Undefeated in nine of their last 10 home matches in Serie A, Tudor has made the Stadio Friuli a tough place to visit. Collecting 29 of last season’s 43 points on home soil, if the Udine club want to prevent another fight against relegation they must improve their away form.
The top six finishes at the beginning of the decade must feel like a like time ago for fans of the Zebrette. Udinese have scraped by in recent times and it is hard to see this changing. Bettering 12th appears to be a tough ask with a couple of sides around them showing signs of improvement. But the black and white stripes of Udine will yet again find a way to remain part of calcio’s top division.
The Coach: Igor Tudor
Croatia tactician Igor Tudor is preparing for his first full season in charge of Udinese. Despite this being his second spell at the club, the former Juventus defender has previously only been tasked with steering the Zebrette away from relegation in the League’s later stages. Favouring a 3-5-2 shape, Tudor’s team are direct and look to catch opponents on the counter. In what looks set to be a difficult campaign, Tudor will have his work cut out to stay in the job all year.
Key summer signing: Ilija Nestorovski
The 29-year-old free transfer from Palermo could prove shrewd business. The Macedonian striker knows how to find the net and comes with previous Serie A experience. Having reached double figures during his last stint in Italy’s top flight, Nestorovski will be hoping to match the 14 goals he bagged last season in Serie B.
Key summer sale: Valon Behrami
The veteran midfield player has returned to Switzerland to see out his career with FC Sion. An injury hit second half to last season restricted Behrami to 19 games. The 34-year-old was a regular in the XI prior to injury striking. With over 200 Serie A appearances to his name, the former captain’s presence will be missed in what is a relatively young Udinese squad.
Predicted XI [3-5-2]: Musso; Samir, De Maio, Becao; Pussetto, de Paul, Mandragora, Fofana, Larsen; Lasagna, Nestorovski