Two half transfer windows, a solid showing domestically and an epic Champions League group stage are what’s on offer in this blog.
THE WONDERKIDAVINGA CHRONICLES
Before the summer transfer window had finished, there was time for two more signings to be made. With the loss of Djimsiti and Tolói, we were light at the back and so it was back to the One Year Interest list I ventured to pull another rabbit out of the hat – Anel Ahmedhodzic for a mere £3.5m from Malmö has turned out to be an absolute steal!
The final summer signing was the one I deliberated over for long enough for me to consider it a well thought out decision. Eduardo Camavinga is one of the most highly rated young midfielders in Europe at the moment and so it seemed hard to believe that I could actually convince him to make the move to Bergamo. £46m (rising to £58m with clauses) is a massive investment for me but after plenty of discussion in my FM Slack channel I plucked up the courage to confirm the deal.
The last big departure of the summer is Marco Sportiello. I had mentioned that I felt he would be part of the vital spine in the team but he ended up rotating plenty with Gollini toward the end of last season and I feel that the signing of Livakovic is a more than adequate replacement in goal. A less than impressive £2.4m (rising to £3m) was the price we received for his departure to BSC Young Boys of Switzerland.
We begin with our Serie A fixtures and that difficult opening five from which I guessed we’d accumulate 9 points. What a guess that was! Brenner’s double on the opening day secured an audacious comeback away to Roma before he grabbed another in a fine victory at home to Inter. We lost at Juventus thanks to a ridiculously fluke effort from a mis-hit Danilo cross. Thiago Almada’s first goal set us on our way to the win against Napoli before we came up short away to Udinese.
In October we claimed four wins from four league games with 11 goals scored and just 2 conceded. Eight different goalscorers shows not only our ability to get goals from all areas of the pitch but also the squad depth to be able to rotate with confidence.
We had less luck in November, drawing a blank in consecutive league games – continuing our inability to claim victory over Lazio with a loss in a Lombardo Derby with Milan. We bounced back with ease against Torino, Dodo continuing his impressive first season with us by scoring his third Atalanta goal in Serie A.
December saw us kick on from that Torino win to claim three wins in our next four games. Particularly pleasing to see Hakan Çalhanoğlu getting himself on the score sheet along with youngsters Alessio Rosa and Matteo Ruggeri. There was also a first goal for the expensive investment Camavinga!
REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD
I talked last season about how important I feel the January transfers can be. This time around I think we have as strong a first choice XI (and rotation options) as we can get at this point. Despite that, I was happy to make some moves that I felt would benefit us in the long run and satisfy that board vision of signing players for profit.
The first move was actually a departure as our back up goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini left for RB Salzburg in a £7m move. This was all pre-planned as we had already secured the free signing of 6 foot 7 inch giant Tim Rönning from IF Elfsborg. He’ll be a good deputy for Livakovic although I don’t see him as that far off pushing for a first team place. Another signing made for the future is that of young Adam Hlozek for a bargain £2.7m from Sparta Prague. He’s already in double figures for both caps and goals for the Czech National Team and will no doubt see his place in my starting XI in the near future.
Sam Lammers never really made it into my thinking for Atalanta and so I was happy to allow him to depart for DL Pro in China for £6m – a net loss on what the club paid for him before I arrived. There was also a move for 24 year old Marco Carraro to Genoa for £1.5m which freed up some more space in the squad.
The signing I was most pleased of, however, is the subject of the title of this subsection. Carles Aleña is a player you may remember from literally any FM save I have ever done since his introduction to the database. When I got the notification to say his contract was due for expiry in 6 months, I moved immediately. The deal was sealed and I coughed up with the agreed £1.6m to sign him early. The prodigal son returns!
Those players aside we’ve also brought in three Danish youngsters that will either see us earn a serious profit in a few years or push themselves into first team contention. I’ll not bore you with the full details but here they are: Jakob Petersen (goalkeeper, £2.5k from AaB), Malthe Lassen (defender, £3.2k from AaB) and Søren Knudsen (attacking midfielder, £5k from Midtjylland).
The final matches of the Serie A andata this season saw Atalanta continue a period of good form by claiming maximum points. We made easy work of these three games, continuing to see goals coming from all sorts of players – even a first Atalanta goal for new signing Hlozek!
We finish this round of fixtures sitting 3rd in the table among the usual suspects.
We had two home fixtures in the Coppa Italia just a week apart in January. With us being in the midst of a good run, I’ll admit to an ounce of complacency going into the Fiorentina match and it very nearly backfired. Thankfully Czech superstar Adam Hlozek was on hand to seal progression in the second half of extra time. We left it late again in the Quarter Final, relying on a 93rd minute winner to see us through against Torino – but who doesn’t love a last minute winner?!
I promised an epic in Europe and I’m sure this won’t disappoint on that front.
We kicked things off in style by putting Dortmund to the sword at Gewiss Stadium before labouring to a solitary goal victory away to Anderlecht.
We got so much more than I expected from the double header with Liverpool – a point at Anfield and somehow managing to turn them over when they came to Bergamo.
With qualification already secured, we switched to our newly developed third tactic for the final two fixtures. Luis Muriel’s fine form in the group continued as he championed our victory at Signal Iduna Park before a much rotated side finished the group unbeaten for us by completing a double over Anderlecht.
THE SEASON SO FAR
Who would have thought that I’d top a Champions League group containing Liverpool and Dortmund never mind remaining unbeaten! We’re also sitting in a more than respectable position in the league.
The squad is probably further along than I’d have expected at this point not only those who are first choice but I feel we’ve built a good depth and have impressive young players pushing through.
THE THIRD TACTIC
This tactic represents a bit of a cross over from The LQ Save – having created a tactic for OGC Nice, I decided I liked the look of some of the link up play. A few swift changes to individual aspects and it’s now fit to play as our third tactic.
There’s not too much special going on here. We’re capable of playing the ball out from the back so that is very much encouraged. A switch to a four man backline will give us a different dimension for the odd times that we look to be struggling with our usual three – or in a heavy run of fixtures where I might need to rest and rotate.
Stats-wise, it is Luis Muriel and Brenner leading the scoring charts with 14 goals each. Dodo has 8 assists with Brenner and Çalhanoğlu one behind on 7. Dominik Livakovic has conceded 20 goals in 29 games with 13 clean sheets along the way.
Just under two weeks of the January window remain and I’m fairly confident with the business we’ve done so far. The only moves I’d expect are potentially shifting some more dead weight.
We have that aggressive start to the ritorno with Roma (home), Inter (away), Juventus (home), Napoli (away) and Udinese (home) – we’d surely have to aim for higher than 9 points this time around.
February will prove to be a tricky task as we have a Coppa Italia 2 leg tie with Juventus before the first leg of our Champions League knockout tie with Atlético de Madrid.
Champions League qualification remains the aim and I’d really expect to improve on our 4th place finish from last season. Juventus in the Coppa Italia are stern opposition but if we can manage to squeeze by them, I fancy our chances in the final.