With Inter’s Monday evening clash with Atalanta one of the Nerazzurri’s toughest tests yet, it seemed fitting to mark the occasion by getting in touch with Las Vegas Atalanta Supporters to see how La Dea are faring this season. They graciously answered all of our questions about Atalanta and are well worth a follow on Twitter here for top-notch coverage of Gian Piero Gasperini’s side.
Q: One of the biggest storylines this season has been Papu Gomez’s exit from Atalanta. What went wrong between him and Gian Piero Gasperini? How has Atalanta adapted with the Argentine player maker?
A: Well, what went wrong? Just about everything seeing that he’s gone. The exact details are still a bit of a mystery, but I think the core of it is that Gasperini didn’t take kindly to Papu questioning his tactics and refusing to do what he said. Surely this had been bubbling over even prior to the Midtjylland match where it all went down. I’m not 100% sure why, but the team seems to have moved on quite well and quickly, from a mental standpoint. There wasn’t a lull, or any seeming rift in the dressing room. I think the club and the players both backed Gasp, and that was that. On the pitch, the rise of Matteo Pessina to fill Papu’s slot, made adaptation quick and easy. Pessina offers something much different than Papu. He’s much more direct, less creative, but also a much more effective presser and more willing to take on defensive duties. There are also a heavenly host of other attacking midfield options, like Miranchuk, Malinovskyi and Pasalic, that all can offer something a bit different. Ultimately, without Josip Iliic in his best form, we do miss a bit of that unexpected creativity in our attack, so we have been slightly predictable and have had a harder time breaking down parked buses since Papu’s departure.
Q: La Dea are known to score boatloads of goals but what else is there to their game? What are Atalanta’s biggest strengths?
A: We usually have a really great possession-based game that lends itself to a high defensive line and a subsequent “high press of death”. Our midfielders and center backs position themselves in such a way that many teams have difficulty transitioning from defense to attack. This leads to turnovers deep in the opponent’s half and excellent scoring chances.
That being said, we do have an underrated counterattack as well. Whether it’s Duvan holding up the play for oncoming wingbacks and midfielders, or Muriel’s pace on a through ball, Atalanta can hurt you in a couple of ways.
Q: Where do Atalanta struggle that Inter could look to take advantage of?
A: The past few years you would easily have said, “getting caught on the counter with long balls,” but that has changed this year. Cuti Romero has really given the backline the solidity, speed, and grit that it has needed, seeing as Toloi and Djimsiti aren’t the paciests of CBs in the league. Jose Luis Palomino has pace, but it also known for his headless errors, so Romero’s emergence this year has been key to our success.
That being said, Atalanta will struggle in the same spot everyone struggles against Inter, containing Lukaku and Lautaro. They’re just too good. The deal is that Atalanta usually Atalanta plays a man-marking scheme that basically is all about winning the 1v1 matchup. Not to be negative, but there aren’t a whole lot of 1v1 matchups that we can win against Inter. Inter’s desire and capability to play on the counter is definitely a problem for us, because this is not a team that won’t be able to overcome our high press. I think Gasperini will have to retool tactically if we want to get a good result.
Q: Atalanta is still in the mix for three competitions: Serie A, UCL, and Coppa Italia. How do you want to see the club finish the season and what constitutes a successful 2020/21?
A: Given what happened in the first leg of the Real Madrid match, I think we can already say that our UCL campaign was a success, even if we don’t pass the round. We did much better in the group stages than the year before. Given the profile of our opponents in the round of 16, I think it’s ok that we don’t go as far as we did last year.
Coppa Italia, being in the final is great, but we need to win. Yeah, it’s against Juve, but this team needs a trophy. The cabinet is looking a little bare Mother Hubbard! Seeing as our only other senior trophy is a Coppa from 1963, hardware is something that is necessary for us, and this is the best chance.
Serie A, we need to make it into the top 4. Europa League would be good too, given the tightness of the race, but if we don’t make it to UCL again, you will probably see this team dismantled.
So that being said, top 4, and winning the Coppa. To me, that’s success.
Q: And finally, what’s your score prediction for Monday? How do you see the game playing out?
A: This Inter is so good. We usually do really well against big clubs but Inter in this form is hard to bet against. 3-1 to Inter. Lukaku and Lautaro score in the first half to put us in a bit of a predicament. Miranchuk pulls one back for us in the second half. We press for the equalizer, and Lukaku catches us on the break for his second goal of the night.
A big thanks to Las Vegas Atalanta Supporters for their time. Don’t forget to follow them on Twitter here!