Atalanta’s consistent and prudent approach saw them achieve a respectable 11th place finish last season. With some smart - and nostalgic - recruits, they seem set for another strong campaign, as Luca Persico reports.
Atalanta are a refreshing case of a well-run Serie A outfit. Backed by a proven academy and with a strong Italian core, they have found their place as a respectable mid-table side.
Since current Coach Stefano Colantuono brought them back into Serie A in 2011, they have gradually improved each season, with last term’s 11th placed finish their best since placing ninth in the 2007-08 campaign.
Key to Atalanta’s consistency has been continuity. Colantuono, for example, is in his fourth consecutive season at the club, while the squad is rarely overhauled in the way other Serie A outfits are during pre-season.
That blueprint has been continued this summer, with a focus on plugging gaps and strengthening the forward line. Former academy player Rolando Bianchi is perhaps the most notable offensive arrival. The veteran, who made his competitive debut for Atalanta in 2001, has been signed from Bologna as a replacement for the troublesome Marko Livaja. Richmond Boakye, scorer of seven goals in La Liga with Elche last season, is also in on loan from Juventus.
At the back, Giuseppe Biava finally gets a chance at 37 to represent his local club, while Boukary Drame, Nicolo Cherubin and Yohan Benalouane are all proven in Serie A. Young Davide Zappacosta is also one to watch.
Colantuono’s squad looks set for the new campaign - they beat Chievo 3-0 in a recent friendly - but assertions from new technical director Giovanni Sartori and President Antonio Percassi that the likes of Giacomo Bonaventura could be sold may hamper his methodical planning. Atalanta flirted with the Europa League last season, but the loss of the diminutive attacker and perhaps others would hinder their chances of matching that.
At the same time, the creative midfielder’s departure shouldn’t push Atalanta towards a relegation battle, but with the 24-year-old in his side, Colantuono will be confident of once again challenging for the top 10.
The 51-year-old tactician is starting his fifth consecutive season on the La Dea bench. After initially having a mixed two year spell - 2005-2007 - with the club, Colanuono returned in 2010 to lead them back into Serie A and has not finished lower than 15th since.
Atalanta’s strength is very much the collective rather than any individual, but in Denis they have a vital difference-maker. Signed initially on loan from Udinese in August 2011, El Tanque has gone on to score 44 goals in 109 appearances and has been Atalanta’s top scorer in each of his three seasons at the club.
He may have turned 37 in May, but the Bergamo native remains a reliable centre-back. With Mario Yepes and Stefano Lucchini departing, Biava will replace their experience and leadership at the heart of an already well drilled back four.
The 22-year-old broke into the first-team with 31 appearances in all competitions last season. Schooled by the under-rated Luca Cigarini, Baselli showed himself to be composed and assured in central midfield. If he can continue to demonstrate similar levels of maturity this term, then Antonio Conte may be tempted to take a closer look.
Consigli; Benalouane, BIAVA, Stendardo, Brivio; Raimondi, Carmona, Cigarini, Bonaventura; Moralez; Denis
If key players are retained, then Atalanta should be capable of matching last season’s 11th place finish.
|Benalouane (Parma)||D||Colombi (Cagliari)||GK|
|Biava (Lazio)||D||Rossi (Lupa Roma)||GK|
|Drame (Chievo Verona)||D||Zanotti (Carrarese)||GK|
|Cherubin (Bologna)||D||Almici (Latina)||D|
|Zappacosta (Avellino)||D||Lucchini (Cesena)||D|
|D'Alessandro (Roma)||M||Contini (Bari)||D|
|Spinazzola (Juventus)||M||Canini (F.C. Tokyo)||D|
|Bianchi (Bologna)||F||Redolfi (Pontedera)||D|
|Boakye (Juventus)||F||Conti (Virtus Lanciano)||D|
|Rosseti (Juventus)||F||Nica (Cesena)||D|
|Milesi (Pro Vercelli)||D|
|Yepes (free agent)||D|
|Gouano (Rio Ave)||D|
|Agazzi (Virtus Lanciano)||M|
|Livaja (Rubin Kazan||F|
|De Luca (Bari)||F|
|Gatto (Virtus Lanciano)||F|