Serie A Previews: Udinese Is A Herd Of Zebras, Indistinguishable From One Another

CESENA ITALY - FEBRUARY 13: Giampaolo Pozzo owner and president of Udinese looks on during the Serie A match between AC Cesena and Udinese Calcio at Dino Manuzzi Stadium on February 13 2011 in Cesena Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra/Getty Images)

Udinese keep selling players. They're still a top-half team. Make it rain, Mr. Pozzo.

Udinese have operated on the same model for a long time. They scout better than everyone else, find value and stash their young players elsewhere until they're ready to contribute. They sell their stars at the peak value, then bring up one of the hoards of players they co-own or have out on loan to replace them. It's a solid system that keeps Udinese profitable in an era of dropping attendances.

Unfortunately for Udinese president Giampaolo Pozzo, their system has been a little too good. See, everyone was happy when Udinese was using their system to consistently obtain mid-table and Europa League finishes on a tight budget. Then a bunch of Italian giants went in the toilet at about the same time and Udinese finished in Champions League places in consecutive seasons. They're still selling players and their fans are kind of pissed.

Last Season

Thanks for being crap, Lazio, Roma, Napoli and Inter Milan! Udinese finished third to get back to the UEFA Champions League playoffs, even though they sold Alexis Sanchez, Gökhan Inler and Christian Zapata, three of their best players from the previous season. No one understood it then and no one understands it now.

Who's Gone

A lot of people. The list of guys who have departed is way too long to go through completely and it's a complete waste of my time and yours to partake in that exercise. Here's an abbreviated list of the three most important departures.

Samir Handanovic: The long-time Udinese goalkeeper is now the Inter Milan goalkeeper.

Kwadwo Asamoah: This one is going to hurt. Sure, Udinese has some decent central midfielders in their ranks, but Asamoah was a star. He's going to make Juventus better instantly.

Mauricio Isla: Also off to Juventus, for reasons unknown. Not that Juventus isn't an attractive club, and not that Isla's not a good player, but he's not getting into their center of midfield or right wingback spot.

And as an added caveat, left wingback Pablo Armero has been linked to a move away from Fruili as well. Don't expect him to be on the team come September 1.

Who's In

Here's a picture of all of Udinese's new signings.


Get it?!? They're just an indistinguishable group of little zebras. Eight totally random dudes have joined the squad, and Mexican star Javier Aquino is rumored to be on the way. He's probably the biggest name signing that they'll make this summer, which says a lot about Udinese, since most of the people reading this probably just asked "Who the hell is Javier Aquino?".

Quickly, a list!

Wojciech Pawlowski: A young Polish keeper who is probably going to sit on the bench or get loaned out somewhere.

Willians: Actually, a fairly well-accomplished Brazilian midfielder. He'll do an okay job replacing Asamoah.

Miacosuel: I can't decide if this is the best or worst Brazilian shirt name ever. He's been pretty average for Hoffenhein and Botafogo after starring for Cruzeiro as a younger man. He'll play some attacking midfield behind Antonio Di Natale, but don't expect him to do too much.

Thomas Heurtaux: Got relegated with Caen last year, but is decent cover for Udinese's back three

Jean-Alain Fanchone: Played for Udinese last year on loan and has since signed with the club. He'll be thrust into action on the left if Armero departs.

Zeljko Brkic: With Handanovic gone, he appears to be the starting keeper. He had an average year with Siena in 2011-12. Good luck with that, Zebrette!

Allan: A pretty raw utility man who should eventually replace Mauricio Isla. If he comes close to doing that this season, Udinese is officially smarter than everyone else.

Marco Davide Faraoni: A versatile player who can play wingback or outside defense in Udinese's 3-5-1-1 system. Solid cover for multiple positions.

A quick thought on fan confidence

It's low.

The answer, of course, is yes. That happened to Sampdoria very recently. They sold their best two players, Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano, in the middle of the season. While Udinese are unlikely to duplicate their third place finish from last season, they're unlikely to fall to those depths. And they probably won't sell Dusan Basta and Mehdi Benatia in January. We think.

Keep an eye on

Udinese fans on Twitter for funsies, basically. I'm not naming a player here. Since, you know, indistinguishable pack of zebras.

Predicted finish

Top half, probably even top seven. This sounds insane looking at their squad, but who else is going to break into that top seven? Parma, who sold Sebastian Giovinco? Bologna, who are probably selling Gaston Ramirez? Chievo, who sold Michael Bradley? Fiorentina, who have gone through an overhaul? Palermo? Genoa? There's a big drop-off in quality after the top six in Serie A, even if the big teams like throwing away points to inferior sides on a regular basis.

Udinese are still good enough for seventh place, which is kind of sad.

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