My third season with Atalanta comes to an end (almost…) and there’s so much to mention. Aside from the results, there’s also the matter of how I solved one of the problem I mentioned in my last post.
Am I happy yet? Almost.
SEEING OUT THE WINTER TRANSFER WINDOW
I had mentioned my concerns about seeing a flurry of late interest in our players. In the end, it didn’t really come and the only departures were two I was happy enough to allow to leave.
Bosko Sutalo has been on the cusp of my first choice XI since the day I arrived but for various reasons has never managed to crack it. When Arsenal came calling (hello again, Arsenal FC!) with an offer of £22m I willingly accepted and allowed the young centre back to move on to pastures new. Remo Freuler has been a peripheral figure since the arrival of my dynamic midfield duo: Camavinga and Çalhanoğlu (Camanoğlu or Çalhavinga – take your pick). With 18 months left on his contract and his constant gripes about any and every trivial matter, I decided it was time to let him fly the nest – Lokomotiv Moscow the destination for a relatively cheap £7.5m.
There was only one final incoming transfer and it was another one for the future. Yet again we used our Scandinavian contacts to bring in another Danish youngster. Marc Petersen’s £850 move from FC København will help to continue my efforts to fill out the youth squads with potential talent.
There’s not too much more to say on our Coppa Italia campaign for this season. We faced Napoli in the Quarter Final and played abysmally. Victor Osimhen is a beast in the physicals, maybe one that I’ll consider in future windows…
While we failed in the Coppa Italia, we excelled in Europe. I would say that perhaps we got the favourable side of the draws in the competition but the semi-final win over Chelsea was especially pleasing.
I’m now facing my first Champions League Final since FM12, against a talent stacked Liverpool but one which I have already got the better of once in this save so far!
In the league, it was an up and down start to the back end run of fixtures. In between impressive performances against Genoa, Lecce and Sassuolo there were blanks drawn against SPAL and Hellas Verona – the latter managing to take maximum points from us.
In March we were undone away to Benevento, burnt by the curse of the loanee as our own Alessio Rosa scored a fantastic goal to give his temporary side the victory. We seemed to be hitting a bit of a rough patch when we couldn’t even hold our 2-0 half time lead at home to Udinese but a ray of light shone through at the end of the month when Thiago Almada’s goal gave us the win away to Roma. It was our sixth win in all six games against side with a suckling rhino on their badge.
April was a fantatic month with four wins from five as we kept up our pursuit of an unprecedented Serie A title. Playing Milan and Juventus back to back to start the month off was not an exciting prospect in my eyes but we completed a professional job against Milan thanks to Thiago Almada’s penalty before blowing Juventus out of the water – Adam Hlozek the hero with four goals and all despite going down to 10 minutes after just 18 minutes.
Things seemed to just be going our way as we came back from 2-0 down to beat Brescia 3-2 before we came up short in our travels to Bologna. Two goals in two minutes against Parma gave us a much needed bounceback win.
May brought the final six games of the season and we still occupied top spot in the league but the chasing pack were closing in after those dropped points against Bologna.
First up was our nemesis Cagliari and still we haven’t managed to beat them in the league. João Pedro’s second half penalty leveled the scores and allowed Inter and AC Milan to get within 3 points of us. We struck back against Napoli and the 4-2 scoreline makes it appear a closer game than it actually was – even despite Alejandro Gomez’s 86th minute goal… the less said about him, the better.
A trip to Fiorentina next and we played miserably. Compounded by conceding through a José Luis Palomino own goal. That result and those of the teams around us meant we slipped back to 3rd in the table. Once again we needed a reaction and got it against Lazio, scoring twice without reply in a match where we appeared to have our swagger back.
The penultimate game of the season was a trip to play against Inter. The occasion must have gotten the better of the players and they failed to get up and running at tall. Nikola Vlasic’s strike from outside the area on 57 minutes was enough to grant them the victory and, indeed, the Serie A title in our stead.
With nothing left to play for and resigned to a 3rd place finish, I sent out a second string team to play against Napoli. There were first team debuts for four players, Niels Poulsen taking full advantage to grab himself a goal. The result was irrelevant, it was a good chance to rest our first choice XI for the game to come…
Consecutive third placed finishes in the league confirmed. I’m not too disappointed as I feel it gives a good indication of how far we still are from being considered the best club in Italy. It does rankle somewhat when I consider the length of time we spent on that top spot. The gap to the top is finalised at 9 points but there are so many “What If…?” moments that have contributed to that – two draws against Cagliari being in amongst that.
THE NUMBERS BEHIND THE SEASON
Brenner’s 43(1) appearances are the most in the team but it is Dominik Livakovic who played the most minutes with 3,870.
Livakovic kept 19 clean sheets over the season, conceding 33 goals. That’s one less clean sheet but one less goal conceded since last season.
I had mentioned my annoyance at Brenner being the runaway top goalscorer and this changed somewhat in the second half of the season, owing mostly to switching Brenner and Adam Hlozek as AF/DLF. Brenner still finished the season as top scorer with 26 goals but Adam Hlozek ran him close with 25. Thiago Almada was next with 9 and Eduardo Camavinga with 6. My next aim will be trying to ensure we get more goals out of our midfielders.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu racked up the most assists with 13, Pedro Porro and Thiago Almada both registered 8 each. Interestingly Brenner was next with 7 – his move to DLF paying dividends on that front.
“BUT AREN’T YOU MISSING SOMETHING?”
Yes, there is the small matter of a Champions League final to come. Given it’s significance to me (my recent lack of European success over a number of FM editions) I want to give it a bit of an elevated status so I’ll discuss that in its own right.
I’m also planning to look more into how my squad is built and to find a more strict way to control the high player turnover we’ve experienced over the first three seasons.