Could Giampiero Ventura replace under-fire Massimo Oddo at Udinese?

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 18 April 2018, 11:08

You would have to go back to February 4th to find the last occasion in which Udinese didn’t lose a game, a 1-1 draw with Milan.

Since then, the Zebrette have been defeated nine times in a row, putting boss Massimo Oddo under huge pressure of the sack. The man who won the World Cup with Italy as a player was only appointed in mid-November, the Pozzo family - who also own Watford FC - having brought him in as a replacement for the totally inept Luigi Del Neri.

Results initially improved, and it seemed like Oddo had been a good choice, even if he had failed to keep Pescara in Serie A the season before. After an initial but understandable defeat to Napoli, Oddo steered his side to win the next five consecutive games, drawing the following two for good measure. By week 20, the Friulian side had risen as high as 8th in the table following a poor start to the campaign, but it was soon to come crashing down for their Coach and his men.

“Our performances aren’t good enough for us to stay in Serie A, so we must intervene immediately,” warned owner Giampaolo Pozzo to Udinese TV after an eighth consecutive defeat to Lazio.

“We’ll have a week in pre-‘ritiro’. The match against Cagliari will be crucial. There’s no longer any room for talk, we’re in a crisis and an emergency. Players like Silvan Widmer, Antonin Barak and Rodrigo De Paul, they seem distant relatives of the ones we got to know. We need to wake up, otherwise we’ll end up like the Titanic.”

Following the owner’s words, the Zebrette took an early lead away to Cagliari last weekend, only to allow that advantage to slip, letting the home side secure a 2-1 victory and all three points. Udinese had never lost nine consecutive matches in their history, and although they sit six points above the relegation zone, a continuation of their current dismal form could have serious consequences indeed.

Such a topsy-turvy campaign must have their supporters puzzled, so how does the Coach explain such a terrible downturn in results?

“I maintain it is purely a psychological issue, as this team is afraid of losing and when it goes in front gets afraid of an equaliser,” Oddo told reporters after the defeat to Cagliari.

“It’s afraid of everything. I realised this was a problem five or six weeks ago. I’m trying everything, the carrot and the stick, support and criticism. It’s the toughest part of being a Coach and the only medicine is a positive result.”

Oddo may have to wait until the weekend match with Crotone for the positive result he so badly craves however, as Udinese face title-chasing Napoli in midweek. Reports suggest that the boss may even rest players versus the Partenopei in a bid to be ready for such a crucial encounter, especially as the Pozzo family have already proven to be owners who are willing to deploy a hire and fire policy.

Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport claimed that they even have a replacement lined up in the way of former Italy boss Giampiero Ventura should Oddo fail to win, the veteran having already declared a desire to return to coaching in Serie A sooner rather than later.

After Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup was almost exclusively the fault of Ventura, it is hard to imagine that anyone on the peninsula is ready to see him return to the dugout even in the league. Yet Ventura has done a good job with smaller sides in the past, even if the Azzurri role was clearly way above his capabilities.

What seems to be the problem here is a lack of stability at Udinese, who are already on their sixth boss since Francesco Guidolin left the club in the summer of 2014. As it doesn’t seem like they will be relegated, it may be best to give Oddo some time, especially as he initially proved he is capable of achieving the necessary results. Yet it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a third Coach in the dugout at the Stadio Friuli this term, and it remains a case of “watch this space”.

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Tony Pulis
Tony Pulis
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