Recent years of have seen Udinese lingering in and around the relegation zone for most of the season. In a team that was desperately struggling, many were left to question Ali Adnan’s abilities given that he was unable to earn any gametime in a supposedly poor side. Many raised valid questions, including various media outlets who linked the Iraqi international with moves away from the Stadio Friuli after only one season.
Ali’s first year saw him featuring a fair amount in the Udinese side, with him sitting out certain periods, which is to be expected for a player adjusting to a new team in a league he’s not fully accustomed to. He made a noteworthy 28 appearances, with 7 of those coming off the bench. However, the second year saw him abandoned and forgotten; a measly 14 games with only 8 starts. Constantly changing managers also made it difficult for Ali to earn any gametime. The future looked bleak for the Iraqi and it was almost certain he would be sold in the summer. Despite the challenges facing him, he dug his heels in and insisted on staying at the club, where his fortunes have changed drastically.
In the 20 fixtures Udinese have played this season, Ali Adnan has featured 12 times. However, the start of the season once again saw Ali used sparingly, with an occasional substitute performance possibly showcasing him to other clubs who may have been interested in the fullback. In the 8 matches where Ali has not played, Udinese won only 2 games; both cup fixtures. The remaining 6 league matches were all straight losses.
Ali Adnan’s first start of the season came vs. Juventus in the league, where he was used as a makeshift right back. It was the beginning of a resurgence and Udinese have enjoyed 6 league victories from the 8 games in which Ali has started since. Understandably, both losses during that spell came against fierce title challengers Napoli and Juve. Udinese’s win rate with Ali Adnan starting this season has been an impressive 75%, as opposed to their win rate of merely 25% when he has not featured. Including substitute appearance, Udinese’s win rate with Ali Adnan is an impressive 75%. Amongst the many accolades earned during their recent surge in form is a tremendous win over Inter Milan at the San Siro. Ali started and played a key role in their 3-1 win against the then unbeaten league leaders.
Despite a difficult spell at Udinese, Ali Adnan is fighting tooth and nail to maintain his current purple patch and his side are benefitting from his efforts. They currently sit 9th in the league with winnable fixtures approaching in the Christmas period. Udinese also have a game advantage on both Atalanta and Fiorentina, who occupy 7th and 8th respectively.
Udinese’s fine form is no coincidence with Ali returning to the side. They currently experience 39% of their attacks down the left flank, which is occupied by the Iraqi fullback. His marauding runs and pinpoint crossing are a constant threat to opposing sides, but it’s his composure at the back that has also shored up Udinese’s defence. With his new found confidence and self-belief, Ali has put no foot wrong in recent games. WhoScored.com rank him as the 2nd best performer in the entire Udinese squad with an average score of 7.19, just behind Widmer at 7.2, despite playing 200 minutes more than the Swiss international.
Adnan currently boasts the third most interceptions in the Udinese squad, averaging 1.8 a game. Likewise, his average of 2.7 tackles a game also ranks him as third in the squad, behind Behrami and Widmer, who have both played significantly less games than him. Further defensive examination ranks him as the fifth highest at clearances (average of 2.9) and the fifth best at aerial battles (average of 1.6). Ali Adnan is also the second most successful dribbler at the club, averaging 1.2 successful runs per game.
Udinese’s convincing 4-0 win over Verona marks Ali Adnan’s 51st appearance in Serie A. His current renaissance is testament to his courage and commitment in succeeding right at the top. Despite suffering under previous managers, he has now had a great start with Massimo Oddo, who took over from Luigi Delneri. The former 2006 World Cup winner, Oddo, has completely turned the club’s fortunes around and starting Ali Adnan has been a key feature in his tactics. The 24 year old has improved his defensive game tremendously, with his positioning far appropriate than before. Likewise, his decision making has also progressed. Under pressure to perform, Ali would previously win the ball back and embark on mirading runs down the left flank. He has sacrificed this risky aspect to his game and instead understood the importance of maintaining possession, which is crucial given the quality of counter attacking players in Serie A. Rather, he now plays the simple and often correct pass to a teammate. Though he is more defensively assured, his attacking presence is still threatening. What has changed now is the frequency of his attacks. Instead, Ali holds a more defensive position than previous, only attacking when a clear opportunity presents itself. During these attacks into enemy territory, Ali Adnan’s crossing is second to none. Occasionally, he will also cut in and have a go from distance, twice hitting the crossbar in recent games.
The improvement Ali has made during the last few years is notable for all to see. He has grown at Udine and exploited this opportunity to improve his game. His success story is further proof of the importance of Iraqi athletes seeking opportunities abroad and learning from the very best in the game. Hopefully, his success continues and opens up the door for future Iraqi footballers to finally make their way to Europe’s top leagues.