Massimo Oddo | The man behind the revival of Udinese Calcio

Oddo | FI

Udinese fired former coach Luigi Delneri on November the 21st after just four wins in 12 matches. The decision  to fire the old coach and hire Massimo Oddo has paid off in a big way. Udinese has improved their game ever since. The Zebrette needed a young coach with new ideas and a fresh concept – Oddo delivered just that.

The officials of the club and the fans alike,  must be very pleased at the moment. Oddo and his staff have brought a positive attitude and a balanced attack to the Friulian side. The former Italian international and 2006 World Cup winner has set the ground running and bring Udinese to top half of the table relevance after everything seemed to be going the wrong way for the club prior to his appointment.

“We can be like Atalanta were last season. At this moment, the players and fans are feeling this atmosphere of positive enthusiasm. I’ll never try to cut that down, because enthusiasm is at the heart of everything and not just football.” said Oddo to the Corriere dello Sport newspaper.

Last season Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta recovered from a slow start to finish in fourth place, qualifying for the Europa League.

It is not just hope that has improved in Udinese. Oddo’s opening game was a tough test versus  a strong Napoli team. Oddo and his team had to accept a 1-0 defeat at home to the Partenopei. Since then the team won five out of six Serie A games. Including a suprising 3-1 win over Inter Milan ending the Nerrazurri’s unbeaten streak of 16 matches.

Udinese scored 15 goals since Oddo took over in late November. Additionally they only conceded 3 goals. Young Italian striker Kevin Lasagna has benefited the most from Oddo’s game plan. Oddo put a lot of trust in the 25 year old striker and Lasagna paid back in style. He scored in 5 consecutive games and has improved his all-around performance.

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Who is the man, who breathed new life into a struggling team?  Oddo played for several Italian clubs throughout his career, although he is mainly remembered for his time with Lazio, where he won the Coppa Italia, and in particular, Milan, where he won several titles, including the Champions League and the Scudetto. At international level he represented the Azzurri at UEFA Euro 2004, and was also part of the team that won the 2006 FIFA World Cup. After his retirement Oddo found his way into coaching.

On 9 June 2016, Oddo led Pescara to Serie A promotion . On 15 July 2016, Pescara extended Oddo’s contract by three years, keeping him as manager of the club until June 2019. He was sacked on 14 February 2017.

One of the most important parts of the teams latest success is a new established fighting spirit, but Oddo has improved the tactical scheme and skills as well. The general morale of the squad has been lifted massively while Udinese have become a very hard team to break down. All this must be attributed to Oddo, who has instilled tactical discipline in the team and it is showing on the pitch, both in terms of performances and more importantly, results.

Udinese generally sits deep in a 5-3-1-1 shape, looking to burst forward on the counter with Kevin Lasagna, Rodrigo de Paul and  Jakub Jankto, while Seko Fofana plays as a holding midfielder.

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When Udinese is in possession of the ball, they switch to a 3-5-2 system and the wingbacks show their offensive skills and provide attacking support on the flank. They often create overloads on the flanks and try to use accurate crosses to find open players in the box. As is the case in any system that makes use of three defenders at the back and two wingbacks, the wingbacks are tasked with getting up and down the pitch, with emphasis on holding their shape to defend first, and burst up on the counter to help provide options and outlets in attack.

Another reason for their current success is Udinese’s ability in negating central spaces, which requires stamina and the willingness to make one step more than the opponent. They look not just to apply pressure in the final third with the aim of stopping the opponent from playing, however, they also use a variety of techniques to win the ball in the opponent’s half, and then counter attack.

With a compact centre, Udinese are more than capable of holding out their opposition and break o the counter. Their counterattacking prowess has been there for all to see, as they have quite a few strong carriers of the ball in their side. Both the wingbacks, coupled with the likes of Jankto and Barak, are a huge threat on the counter. The commendable work rate shown by the players goes a large way in how the team plays, and why they have become a very difficult side to go up against.

Asked about his philosophy after the Inter game Oddo replied: “I always say that the Coach has to find the team for his players and not the other way round. This is a different team from the one I had at Pescara and there are very different characteristics. There is a great deal of power, physicality and stamina, so I try to make the most of that. I try to put my players in the best situation to perform. It’s not the system that counts, it’s the concept of football and movement both on and off the ball. At this moment, we don’t have time to work on long-term situations, so we can just focus on building solidity and belief.“

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Oddo has a good pool of very talented young players in his squad. Jakub Jankto turns 22  this month and has been a revelation this season. The Czech international has five goals and six assists this season and is an important part in Oddo’s counter scheme.  Antonin Barak is one of the most promising midfielders in Europe (7 goals 2 assist) and Seko Fofana is a physically strong central midfielder with great understanding of the game. If Oddo can keep his youngsters focused, Udinese could have a great season.

A period of stability, followed by decent investment can see Udinese get a grip on the top half of the table. From there on, it remains to be seen as to how high Massimo Oddo can take them.