On Thursday, Udinese announced the firing of Davide Nicola and the return of Igor Tudor. The Zebrette recently prevailed in two key clashes against Chievo and Bologna, but were then blown out by Juventus and gave up four goals to Napoli too, where they came back from a 2-0 disadvantage but were eventually toppled. The two losses in a row, combined with the recent wins by Empoli and Bologna, caused them to return to the 16th position, just a single point above the third-to-last spot.
Nicola took over in November after the dismissal of Julio Velazquez and amassed four victories, four ties and seven defeats in 15 games. Tudor was first hired by the Bianconeri in April of 2018 and managed four games, collecting seven points, but he was not confirmed for the following season. He previously coach Hajduk Split, PAOK, Karabukspor and Galatasaray. The sporting director Daniele Pradè commented: “It was painful to sack Nicola but we need a shot in the arm.”
While there might be a visible change in the approach from uber-defensive Nicola, the system is similar, as Tudor used a 3-4-2-1 in his first three matches, against Benevento, Verona and Bologna, and a 3-5-2 in the final versus Inter, the only loss. Kevin Lasagna, who is coming off two goals in a row, had a featured role and ended 2017/2018 on a high note, so he could find back the consistent playing time he has lost since the arrival of Stefano Okaka.
Rodrigo De Paul was deployed in a more offensive role, either as trequartista or second-striker, while this year, especially recently, he has often been utilized as box-to-box midfielder. The first tactic could easily accommodate him and Ignacio Pussetto, who has been Udinese’s best player in the last couple of months. Compared to last season, Tudor have a deeper roster to work with and will be able to rely on few new additions that have established themselves as linchpins like Juan Musso, Rolando Mandragora and William Troost-Ekong.
Former Udinese stalwart Giampiero Pinzi, who was in Padova’s roster up until January, might reportedly be tabbed as lead assistant. The Zebrette still have the matches with Empoli, Frosinone, SPAL and Cagliari coming up in their remaining schedule. This is their sixth coaching change in the last two years. The last manager to start and finish a full season was Andrea Stramaccioni in 2014/2015: the following eight were all axed at some point.
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