We came into the fourth season with Atalanta having broken the club’s record league finish in the previous two campaigns – finishing third in 2019/20 and second in 2021/22. So prospects of improvement in 2021/22 were unlikely – especially as rivals Inter Milan and Juventus spent £229 million and £65 million respectively.
We, in comparison, spent just £4.6 million and brought in just £10 million in a very quiet summer. My focus, therefore, was on promoting some of the exciting youth talent from our Under 20s squad, most of which had spent time out on loan in the previous couple of seasons. The oldest player in the squad was 27-year-old Robin Gosens, with the next oldest being 24-year-old Matteo Pessina, and Filippo Melegoni and newly appointed Dan-Axel Zagadou the only two other players over 22.
The image below shows the vast array of potential talent in the first team squad, but there’s even more waiting in both the youth squads. So this was going to be an exciting season of giving opportunities to these talented youngsters.
To start with, things weren’t looking great as we began the season with a 0-0 draw at Cagliari then a 3-3 draw with Inter – in which new first choice striker Cosimo Marco Da Graca bagged a brace – a 4-3 defeat at Juventus then a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina.
To make the start of the season tougher, we were drawn in a Champions League group with Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur, against whom we drew and lost respectively before beating Dinamo Moscow 2-1.
Luckily the league form soon sparked into life with eight league victories sandwiched by a draw at Genoa and a 3-1 defeat at Lazio, in which we had 23 shots to their 13. While in Europe, home wins over Spurs and Dinamo had us in with a chance of qualification from the Champions League, but a 2-0 defeat at Bayern saw us slip into the Europa League.
Four more league wins in a row had us flying up the table as we moved towards Christmas, then our first game of 2022 saw us claim another strong 2-2 draw at Inter, thanks to goals from exciting right winger Frederic Pereira and the ever-improving Antonio Marin cancelled out by a Mauro Icardi brace.
That had us sitting pretty in third in the league behind, unsurprisingly, Juventus and leaders Inter, who had yet to lose in the campaign. But, bigger and better things were to come at the end of the 2021/22 season, and we’ll find out more in Part 10…