Serie A 2012-13 season review: Udinese finish on a high to reach Europe again

Claudio Villa

After an indifferent start, Udinese came on strong in the second half of the season, putting together a record number of consecutive victories to power into next season's UEFA Europa League

5th; W18 D12 L8
Udinese Calcio

The question that always surrounds Udinese at the beginning of a season is 'how will they cope now that their best player/players have left' and the answer, come the end of the season, is usually 'just fine, thanks'. This season was no exception. Mauricio Isla, Kwadwo Asamoah, Samir Handanovic and Juan Cuadrado all made for the exit, while Pablo Armero followed in January, but Francesco Guidolin's side shrugged these departures off and simply got stronger and stronger as the season wore on.

Indeed, the first half of the season looked as though the constant stream of transfers out of Udine were finally taking their toll. Between August and the Christmas break, Udinese only managed five victories and a string of draws and were languishing in mid-table at the halfway point in the season. Something appeared to click for Guidolin's side in 2013, however, and with Luis Muriel beginning to get amongst the goals, the Zebrette got better and better as the season went on, finishing with eight consecutive victories culminating in a 5-2 final day thrashing of Inter Milan to secure European football once again.

Most significant match

Inter Milan 2 - 5 Udinese (19 May 2013)

After storming up from mid-table, passing a free-falling Inter on the way, Udinese needed a victory on the final day to guarantee European football regardless of other teams' results. Already on a run of seven consecutive wins, and with their opponents a bedraggled and injury-ravaged side desperate for the end of the season, Udinese went to the San Siro and played with a freedom and joy not seen by the fans of their opponents for some time. Five different players found their way on to the scoresheet to seal European participation in the most emphatic of ways.

Biggest surprise

They never seem to get any worse

Strange, isn't it? The past five seasons have seen Udinese lose Alexis Sanchez, Gokhan Inler, Cristian Zapata and Simone Pepe as well as Asamoah, Isla and Handanovic who all left before the start of 2012/13. Udinese's business model relies on bringing players in cheaply and selling them on at a profit, so it's no wonder players are constantly going out the door, however it's a small miracle that over the past three seasons, Francesco Guidolin has consistently guided his oft-shifting squad into Europe.

Biggest disappointment

Another early Champions League exit

After drawing Arsenal in the qualifying round for last season's Champions League, Udinese were probably slightly relieved to have drawn Braga this season. Udinese undoubtedly had the better of the two legs with only sheer profligacy costing them, Pablo Armero being the most guilty of this. After a pair of 1-1 draws, Braga went and won on penalties, denying Udinese a place in the Champions League group stage and relegating them to the Europa League for a second consecutive season.

What needs changing?

Things will change, however nothing needs changing. Whoever is wearing an Udinese shirt come August, you can be sure Francesco Guidolin will have them motivated and hungry for the season ahead, the other motivating factor being that Udinese is now such a renowned shop window for all of Europe, clubs really sit up and take notice of their players.

Who's off in the summer?

This being Udinese, it really could be anyone. Mehdi Benatia has been impressive for a couple of seasons now and he has been linked with a move away, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu is a solid performer in midfield and so will attract attention, Dusan Basta had a good season filling in where Mauricio Isla left off meaning clubs could be looking his way and the breakthrough performer of Udinese's season, Luis Muriel, is attracting admiring glances from all around Europe following 11 goals in 22 appearances in his debut top-flight season.

If Udinese could keep one individual...

Antonio Di Natale

Well this kind of goes without saying. Toto is Udinese's club captain and is unlikely to leave which is a huge plus for the Zebrette. At the age of 35, he added 23 goals this season, meaning he has scored 20 or more in each of the last four seasons and he shows no sign of slowing. He still possesses a boundless energy and is one of the deadliest finishers in the world. His age prevents him from being an attractive transfer target, which is definitely Udinese's gain as he continues to rack up the goals year after year.

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