La Dea: 2021/22 Ritorno

This time last season it was a cautionary tale of not acting in the January transfer window. This time around I completed all my incoming business early as I discussed in the last update. The only action to happen after this point was the sale of Matteo Pessina to Torino for the sum of £9.5m, he’d only made 12 appearances for me since I began with Atalanta with just one of those being as a starter.

RESULTS

As before, we’ll begin with the European results. As I mentioned, we would face Atlético de Madrid in the first knockout round. In the first leg we pulled the game back to 2-2, away goals in our favour, after conceding two early goals. Sadly Donyell Malen struck a fierce long range goal in injury time to give Madrid the victory but the away goals did give us cause to be optimistic. Atléti came to Bergamo to finish the job swiftly and Álvaro Morata’s 6th minute goal did just that for them in the second leg. We pushed but Robin Gosens’ second half dismissal left us a bit toothless and we succumbed to a 4-2 aggregate defeat. No great shame given the opposition.

In the Coppa Italia we couldn’t repeat our escapades of last season and were struck out by Juventus in the semi-final. Yet again we were fighting back from a losing position – in both legs we came from a goal behind to draw 1-1. With the tie going to penalties both sides were four for four going into the last round of penalties. Sadly for us, Cristian Romero’s weakly struck effort down the middle and Juventus converted their fifth to seal progression to the final.

In Serie A we began the Ritorno with that tricky opening five fixtures. We were aiming to better our 9 points gained in the same fixtures in the Andata and confidence was high after taking maximum points from Roma and Inter before holding Juve to (another) draw! We just took too long to get going against Napoli and simply never got going at home to Udinese, despite the visitors being reduced to 9 men with ten minutes to go.

Putting those results behind us, we went on to record four consecutive league wins. Brenner hitting a neat bit of form with 7 goals in his next 3 matches including back to back hattricks. We battled hard with table toppers Lazio, going a goal down to taking a 2-1 lead before collapsing to defeat in the second half.

We were certainly no fools in April, kicking the month off with a 5-0 devastation of AC Milan – one of the teams chasing Lazio at the summit. As you can see, we had a wide range of goalscorers throughout the undefeated month. Youngster Alessio Rosa getting himself back in amongst the goals.

As we headed into May we knew that 1st and 2nd place were beyond our reach, however, we had a great chance to climb to 3rd and improve our previous season’s league position by one place. All we had to do was hold our nerve and see our the remaining four games.

We Spurs’d it against Cagliari before blowing away already relegated Empoli and completing the job against Hellas Verona. So it came down to the final matchday against Parma. Juve were 3 points behind us but would leapfrog us based on head to head record if they could close that gap.

We went 2-0 down inside 10 minutes and so it was the proverbial “squeaky bum time” for La Dea. Anel’s headed goal from a corner gave us a glimmer of hope and lo and behold in the 92nd minute, Czech wonderkid Adam Hlozek found the back of the net to secure that all important point to seal our 3rd place! I’ve romanticised this ever so slightly since Juventus ended up losing to Torino thus meaning we’d have taken 3rd place even with a loss. A bit of an anti-climax I suppose.

Lazio became the first side to disrupt Juventus’ Serie A dominance since AC Milan way back in 2010/11. It was a bad season for The Old Lady as they just about secured Champions League football, no surprise there then that Ivan Piazza was subsequently given the big boot of Italy.


NUMBER TIME

A blog isn’t a blog until you start throwing numbers about like they’re COVID fines for houseparties.

Dominik Livakovic played the most minutes this season with 3,990 minutes spent between the sticks. That was 44 appearances and 21 clean sheets with 34 goals conceded.

Despite leading on minutes played it was Brenner who made the most appearances with 44 starts and 4 substitute appearances. The bargain signing for £10m also takes the plaudits for being the highest goalscorer at the club with 28 goals laying on a further 7 for his teammates. Luis Muriel scored 20 goals himself.

Speaking of assists it is Dodo’s 11 that lead the way from right back – he also registered 6 goals of his own. Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Thiago Almada are joint second on assists with 10.

Young Alessio Rosa managed to record the best Goals Per 90 minutes with 1.33 – this thanks to his 5 goals from 2 starts and 7 sub appearances.

FUTURE PLANNING

This season may have seemed like it just fizzled to an end as we just matched last season’s European exploits and fell short in the Coppa Italia semi-finals. However, we did see progress on the Serie A front by exceeding last season’s points tally (and then some) and in turn managed to improve upon our final position from last year. It’s noteworthy that our league points this season would have been enough to see us win the league last season.

Looking ahead to how we can improve, it really is hard to say. I’m quite happy with the squad I’ve assembled so far – sure, there are players I could bring in that would improve upon it immeasurably but I’m not quite ready to make £100k/week contracts the norm at Atalanta just yet.

José Luis Palomino is 32 years old now and I feel this is an area I will need to look at in the near future. Boško Šutalo and David Heidenreich have both proved useful when rotated into the squad this season while Davide Bettella will return from his loan at Monzo as the season ends. Whether any of the three will be ready to become an immediate replacement for Palomino or not is a big question.

We’re resigned to losing Papu Gómez as he refuses to discuss an extension to his current contract but I’m not too concerned here as Thiago Almada has already proven his worth and been our first choice at AMC this season. Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Eduardo Camavinga have started to forge a decent partnership in the midfield but I feel that both need to significantly step up in the next season in terms of both goals and assists.

Luis Muriel is 31 now and Arsenal have started to sniff around him again (bloody Arsenal!). I’m sure I could convince him to remain in Bergamo but if an offer comes in that is too good to refuse then I will need to consider if Adam Hlozek is ready to step into his place. If not then then it’ll be back to the Transfer Shortlist I head – already having moved 3 players from the One Year Interest list to the Immediate Interest list.

Aims for next season: consolidate our place in the top 3 of Serie A, return to the final of the Coppa Italia, advance in the Champions League. All very simple indeed.

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