The summer of 2019 saw plenty of change in Bergamo, with more than 50 players departing the club and a decent handful coming in. With that in mind, and given the fact that most the new arrivals were youth prospects, I wasn’t expecting much.
However, I’ve somehow managed to build an Atalanta team that is already right up there with one of my favourite ever on Football Manager.
The 2019/20 campaign began with another European qualification campaign, during which we successfully saw off Proleter, Osijek and Sion. In amongst that, our league campaign began with a 3-1 defeat at AS Roma, then a 2-1 victory at home to Udinese thanks to a 94th-minute winner from Duvan Zapata.
I’d started the season by trialling a 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow formation, but ditched it soon after getting ripped apart by Roma, reverting to the more familiar 4-1-2-3 Wide approach. And that switch reaped great benefits as our third league same saw us claim a 5-1 victory at Bologna, in which Josip Ilicic and Musa Barrow both scored twice.
That sparked a run of six consecutive league wins and 11 league games without defeat. But our performance in the Euro Cup was, once again, hindered by the league form, and we crashed out without really threatening Ajax, Wolfsberger and Fenerbahce.
With Europe out of the way, we were free to focus on the league and took full advantage – with away losses at Inter Milan and Torino our only defeats in 18 Serie A clashes. That came to a head with a strong run of form to kick off 2020, with a 2-0 home win over Roma – thanks to goals from Barrow and Christian Capone – the catalyst for a club record-equalling seven straight league wins.
That form was only ended by a narrow 3-2 loss at Juventus, who only won it through an 86th minute Fernando Bernardeschi – who always scores against us – winner. That proved to be our last defeat until the final day of the season, going on a 10-match unbeaten run that ultimately sealed Champions League football.
A last minute goal from former Atalanta man Mattia Caldara grabbed Milan a draw, then we salvaged a 1-1 draw at Fiorentina, followed by victories over Lazio, Cagliari and Chievo, alongside draws with Napoli and consecutive 3-3 draws with Sassuolo and Genoa.
That had us sitting in fourth place in the league with three games to go. We notched a strong 3-0 home victory over Perugia through goals from the vastly improved Antonio Marin, Barrow and the impressive Mason Mount, then followed that up with an impressive 3-0 victory at bogey team Torino, with a Matteo Pessina double and a late goal from Capone.
That victory sealed a third-place finish, securing the highest ever league finish in Atalanta’s entire history. Which I think is pretty damn impressive!
The campaign concluded with a home clash against Inter, for which I threw in a load of young players, including the youngest player in the club’s history Danny Gemignani at 16 years 187 days. Unsurprisingly, we lost 3-0, which was just our fifth league defeat of the season.
But that final day loss didn’t cloud what was a pretty unbelievably successful season, the best ever in Atalanta history, an Italian Cup quarter-final and Champions League football to come.
Barrow finished the campaign as our top scorer with 23 goals in all competitions, of which 17 were in the league – not bad for a 21-year-old. Chelsea loanee Mount led the way with just 8 assists, which is a slight concern, and another loanee Boschilia, from Monaco, secured the best average rating of 7.21. I also secured both Manager of the Season, for the second season in a row, and the Managers’ Manager of the Season, and we won the Fair Play Award – with zero red cards all season.
Join us next time as we have more turnover in playing staff for major profit, and enter the Champions League for the first time.