Udinese’s final moves make little sense


The deadline day in Italy mostly went as expected, with teams finalizing the deals they had already in place. There was however one were unexpected transition: Udinese sold Cyril Thereau to Fiorentina. It was not a financial decision, as they fetch only mere €1.5M for the 34-year-old forward. The Frenchman has been a staple in the starting XI for four seasons, combining well with either Antonio Di Natale or Duvan Zapata: despite his size, Thereau is a second striker/left winger, whose primary job is to connect the midfield and the attack and feed his offensive partner. He is no stranger to scoring himself, tallying double-digit goals in every season with Bianconeri.

Udinese’s brass has been vocal about the sale, indicating that some tactical and technical reasons were behind it. The sporting director Manuel Gerolin commented: “It was a hard and mindful decision. The current structure of the team needed one pure centre-forward.” They signed Maxi Lopez from Torino to replace Thereau, who is said to be in great shape but has not done much in the last two seasons.

The coach Luigi Delnari stated: “I endorsed the choice to sell Thereau. When you build a team, you can not look only at the single player. He could have scored some goals like in the past, but he did not involve or improve his teammates. On that front, Maxi Lopez is better. We were at the point we were tolerating Thereau’s movements, rather than supporting them. It was no longer endurable.”

The explanations barely hold up. It is true that Udinese have only one big and tall striker, newcomer Riad Bajic, acquired from Konyaspor for €5.5M, who will need some time adapt. Kevin Lasagna and Stipe Perica are more mobile forwards and the fit next to Thereau was shaky, but they could have taken more time to work on it. Perica is well-built and could have maybe grown into a more traditional centre-forward with more consistent playing time, which he has never been given since his move to Italy.

The main hole will be in the creativity and unpredictability areas, where Thereau excelled. He provided that extra zing to their offense, he started most of the actions. Lasagna and Perica can wander around, but they do not have the finesse, the quality feet and the vision of the Frenchman. Delneri could be forced to come up with new solutions to fill the inventive void. The first one could be moving from his hybrid 4-4-2/4-3-3 to a diamond lineup, with Rodrigo De Paul as no.10. If that did not suffice, 4-3-2-1 could be in the cards, with Antonin Barak, who just joined from Slavia Praha, or Andrija Balic as De Paul’s partner behind the lone striker. A scheme that would render some of the recent acquisitions up front superfluous.

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