Udinese dream of becoming Serie A’s next Cinderella story after stunning start to the season

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No one would have bet a single pound on Udinese’s stunning start to Serie A but this extraordinary beginning to the year has changed all the dreams of a team destined to become the ‘Cinderella story’ of Italian football after Atalanta and Igor Tudor’s Hellas Verona. 

Udinese are flying after five wins in their opening seven games, and have all the skills to surprise the top clubs and show that money is not synonymous with victory in Italy, as in other parts of Europe.

In Italy, for many years there have been no triumphs for mid-level clubs but in England the phenomenon is much more recent, as recalled by the crazy story of Leicester with striker Jamie Vardy and Italian coach Claudio Ranieri leading the Foxes to Premier League glory in 2016. 

Udinese stunned Inter Milan by beating them 3-1 on Sunday to move into third place in Serie A

They dream of becoming the 'Leicester of Italy' after the Foxes won the Premier League in 2016

They dream of becoming the ‘Leicester of Italy’ after the Foxes won the Premier League in 2016

Udinese dream of becoming the ‘Leicester of Italy’ but so far this is a simple desire for the end of the season, and there will be numerous obstacles to overcome along the way.

Manager Andrea Sottil chose Udine because Udine needed a man like him: strong and silent, charismatic but not very noisy, in perfect Friulian style – despite having Sicilian blood flowing in his veins and those of his son Riccardo, a young winger playing for Fiorentina.

Udinese move in harmony like the melodious sound of a country accordion, very often played in Friuli, and cover the whole field with great mastery. 

They approached their latest game with great enthusiasm and managed the most delicate moments of the match well. Taking on Inter Milan, the team had the strength to recover from the initial disadvantage of going a goal down as they came back to win 3-1 against a side that challenged for the Scudetto just a few months ago.

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Udinese have now moved up to third in the table, just a single point behind leaders Napoli.

An unknown team puts Italy’s top clubs on their knees

A midfield enforcer like Walace in the middle of pitch reminds us of Allan, now at Everton and the last real top player sold by the club to a top side like Napoli, but there are many players who have matured in Sottil’s 3-5-2 formation. 

Lazar Samardzic and Tolgay Arslan are two exceptional players who have proven their great technical and character qualities. Above all, Arslan is the perfect playmaker for the 3-5-2 system and has similar strengths to Miralem Pjanic, who was so effective at Juventus and Roma. 

After his humble beginnings in Hamburg, Arslan played in Turkey until arriving in Friuli at the age of 30: today he is the player most loved by the fans who hope he can become the protagonist of a successful season for the team in Serie A.

Tolgay Arslan has become a key player for Udinese, and has similar qualities to Miralem Pjanic

Tolgay Arslan has become a key player for Udinese, and has similar qualities to Miralem Pjanic

Gerard Deulofeu has struck up a formidable partnership with Beto this season

Gerard Deulofeu has struck up a formidable partnership with Beto this season

Roma and Inter were athletically and tactically overwhelmed by Udinese, proving to have a lower technical framework than Sottil’s team. 

Beto and Gerard Deulofeu together look like Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr and yet they cost 50 times less than any single player making up the Real Madrid attack. 

Destiny Udogie, already sold to Tottenham but loaned back for this season, and Jean-Victor Makengo run for 10-12 kilometres in each match and are absolutely decisive in applying Sottil’s tactical teachings. They are two soldiers who run box-to-box to exhaust their opponents.

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Sottil earns £5.2m less than Allegri but has seven more points than Juventus

Sottil’s Udinese compared to Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus is a team with a precise identity and a precise philosophy that allows Sottil to gallop to the top of the standings and to mentally refresh during the international break.

Compared to Allegri, he earns £5.2m-a-year less but has seven points more: only this statistic would be enough to demonstrate the miracle of little Udinese and the catastrophic flop of the giants of Juventus.

Sottil speaks little and achieves exceptional results while Allegri lately seems to have started a new career as a stand-up comedian, perhaps to deflect from the disastrous results on the pitch. 

Andrea Sottil cares greatly for his players and treats them like they are his own children

Andrea Sottil cares greatly for his players and treats them like they are his own children

Massimiliano Allegri has been laughing and joking at Juventus, seemingly trying to take the attention away from how poorly his side are playing on the pitch

Massimiliano Allegri has been laughing and joking at Juventus, seemingly trying to take the attention away from how poorly his side are playing on the pitch

Their two ways of coaching are different but certainly at this time Sottil’s method, made up of sweat and effort, is much more profitable both for the league position and for the club’s financial accounts.

Sottil is not an outspoken coach who craves media attention. He is a closed and reserved man and gives little away to the public, joking and talking only with the players who he treats as his children. 

Gianluca Cristaldi, his trusted assistant, is his best friend off the training ground and the pair are inseparable.

Sottil was a fearsome defender who now scares opponents on the touchline

Looking him in the eye was terrifying when he was a Udinese defender but even today Sottil scares his opponents as a coach. 

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When he was a young defender he wrote wonderful pages in the history of the club and his appointment as coach ignited the flame of enthusiasm in a city discouraged by the disappointing seasons of recent years. 

Sottil likes to play with a back four, but due to his love of the club and the technical characteristics of the team he has chosen to move to 3-5-2.

With this tactical system, the side has managed to operate at 100% and demonstrates great strength and intelligence in the management of spaces. 

Sottil has adapted to his team's strengths, and his fearsome demeanour scares opponents

Sottil has adapted to his team’s strengths, and his fearsome demeanour scares opponents

Udinese are a small team but have a big club mentality thanks to their coach and the Pozzo family, who have always believed in the team and in the economic fabric of the city by building the Dacia Arena.

Eighty-seven games as a player and six goals between 1999 and 2003 demonstrates the loyalty that Sottil has for Udinese, considering the club has rarely reached the heights of Italian football.

Sottil was a tough man who made physical strength and aggression his main qualities and today he is a tactically sophisticated coach who wishes to take the game to opponents – and that is exactly what Udinese have done so far this season.

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