Atalanta may have no SB Nation site just yet, but no means do La Dea have a shortage of quality English coverage. Far from it, in fact. To prepare for Saturday’s all Nerazzurri matchup, we reached out to Las Vegas Atalanta to get the low-down on Gian Piero Gasperini’s side. They’re well-worth a follow on Twitter here and co-host the superb podcast AtalantaPOD with Atalanta_Passione. We discussed everything from La Dea’s slow start to the season to the impact of Cristian Romero’s exit to Teun Koopmeiners highly anticipated signing. A big thanks to Las Vegas Atalanta for stopping by!
Q: Atalanta haven’t had a smooth start to the season, especially in the final third. What’s been up in Bergamo? Anything to be concerned about or will La Dea get back to their best sooner rather than later?
A: Yes, the attack has certainly been a little bit less potent to begin the season than one would expect. At this point, we’ve only scored 6 goals in 5 games. It’s always a bit concerning when we don’t light up the scoreboard, but this season started with a Duvan injury and then when he came back, top scorer Luis Muriel was hit with a muscle problem that will keep him out until October. We’ve also not seen the Ruslan Malinovskyi that we saw at the end of last season. He’s the driver of creativity in the side, his late-season form saw him with 12 assists to finish the last term, second in Serie A only to Luis Alberto. Lastly, midfielder Marten De Roon was out for the first 4 games of the season as a result of the suspension he received for pushing the referee in the final match of last season against Milan. His presence, despite being a central defensive midfielder, is key to Atalanta’s ability to win the ball quickly in dangerous positions and attack deep in the opponents’ half. He is also is so key to covering our attacking center backs, especially Rafael Toloi, when they push forward. The good news for La Dea fans is that De Roon is back, Duvan seems healthy and Malinovskyi had his best match of the year so far against Sassuolo. Things are looking up. While we may not see 90+ goals out of Atalanta this year, we should see a more recognizable La Dea squad in attack sooner rather than later.
Q: Atalanta had one of the busiest summer windows in Italy. Serie A Defender of the Season Cristian Romero now resides in London, while Merih Demiral, Matteo Lovato, Davide Zappacosta, and Teun Koopmeiners are the newest members of the Nerazzurri. How will losing Romero affect La Dea? Which of the new signings are you most excited about?
A: Romero was such a beast last year. His departure was both surprising, and will definitely be felt on the pitch. There’s no way Percassi could say no to 50M for him, particularly since they had just purchased him from Juve for around 18M. Luckily, that money looks well spent, at least for depth. Matteo Lovato is definitely a depth upgrade from Mattia Caldara (sadly as we were all pulling for our boy to get back to top form). Merih Demiral has yet to show that he’s a straight swap for Romero, but his recent match against Sassuolo shows that he’s well on his way. Luckily, veteran Jose Luis Palomino has been arguable the player of the season to date for Atalanta. His form in central defense has been really key to our “stingy” start to the season. 4 goals in 5, well, that’s stingy for Atalanta. Lastly, it’s important to note that last season with Romero, we only improved goals conceded by one. The best defensive transfer of the season may very well be Juan Musso in goal. He has been in sparkling form to start the season, particularly his MOTM performance in the UCL against Villareal. He may be the best “replacement” for Romero and it would be no surprise if our goals scored goes down, but our goals conceded goes down even more.
While Musso is potentially the best defensive transfer, on the offensive side of defense, Davide Zappacosta is really exciting and a steal of the window. We were forced to sign wingback depth after Hans Hateboer’s injury that could keep him out of the lineup into the holiday season. Joakim Maehle has yet to show his Euro 2020 for La Dea, and Zappacosta has quickly supplanted him as the titular right wing back. He can play both flanks and has shown that he’s taken to Gasperini’s system very quickly. He even played attacking midfielder against Salernitana. Wingback offense is so key to Atalanta, and DZ77 has shown he’s up for it. The two Atalanta goals against Sassuolo came from Gosens on the left and Zappacosta on the right.
But all Atalantini will tell you that they’re most excited for the arrival of central midfielder Teun Koopmeiners from AZ Alkmaar. He’s the coverage for De Roon and Freuler that we have been needing for years, and he brings an attacking skillset that is unmatched on the team. Excellent defensively, but offensively, so good at long balls, takes free kicks and penalties, and is just another great creative outlet. He scored 15 goals in the Eredivisie from central midfield (8 from the spot)! He got his first start against Sassuolo and played an amazing match, also allowing a rest to Remo Freuler.
Q: What does a successful 2021/22 season look like for Atalanta in domestic and continental play?
A: Success for Atalanta this year? Whatever you do, don’t listen to Antonio Percassi as he is still sticking to the “prima salvezza” party line! LOL. While that may be humble, and true, the goal is always to finish in European positions. Preferable top 4 to continue our run in the UCL. That cash and notoriety will make us an attractive destination for the players that we need and continue to propel the club forward. In the UCL, getting into the knockout rounds. We did this in the first two years, and with our group, we should do this again this year. Lastly, the Coppa Italia. Atalanta have lost in the final 2 of the last 3 years. Certainly we’d like a deep run, and another finals appearance. But for this Atalanta fan, we need a trophy. The Coppa Italia is the most realistic one to add to our display case (which is pretty bare if you take away the Serie B and Primavera trophies).
Q: What’s your prediction for Saturday’s Nerazzurri derby? How will action play out?
4)Oh boy, playing Inter now are we? Great. As well as we played against you guys in the past few seasons, there’s something about this new version of Inter that really scares me. Maybe it has something to do with you have the best defenders in Serie A and the best attack, and how you’ve essentially been wiping the floor with the competition? I’ll come out and say this is the first loss for us that I have predicted this season. Edin Dzeko loves to score against us. So if he plays, I’ll give him a goal, and Milan Skriniar a goal from a set piece. I believe that we will get a penalty (payback from Lautaro’s lucky escape a while back—yeah, the streets don’t forget), it will be late in the game as a consolation, and this will be Teun Koopmeiner’s first goal for La Dea. 2-1, Inter.
This will be a great match. End to end. Despite the result, playing well will be enough for La Dea as they move into the midweek UCL match against Young Boys. Forza Atalanta!