With a first-ever European trophy looking pretty in the cabinet at Stadio di Bergamo, our fifth season in Atalanta looked to be one of further strengthening and offering additional experience to even more exciting youngsters.
The summer of 2022 saw more sales add to the Atalanta coffers, including our two oldest players departing the club. Robin Gosens moved to Bournemouth for £7.25 million, Matteo Pessina went to Crystal Palace for £14.25 million and third-choice goalkeeper Agustin Gomez, who had huge potential but took up a Non-EU slot, moved on to Atletico Madrid for £15 million.
There was only one signing worthy of mention, with very exciting young centre back Jakub Maruszewski signing from Legia for £6.75 million.
This was a really odd campaign as the Qatar World Cup was due to be held in December, which meant that Serie A kicked off on 30 July, bizarrely without any pre-season friendly matches. However, our early season form showed that friendlies are irrelevant.
We began the campaign with a 6-0 home trouncing of newly promoted Crotone, with Cosimo Marco Da Graca bagging a hat-trick, Antonio Marin scoring a brace and a late sixth from Dejan Kulusevski – who’s progressed into a very good young central midfielder over the last 18 months.
That was followed up by a 2-0 win at Empoli then a 5-0 victory at Sassuolo – who bizarrely have become one of the richest clubs on the game – in which Marin added another brace, then a 2-0 win at home to Pescara. And that saw us claim a club record seven consecutive games without conceding going back to the previous season.
Four games, four wins, 17 goals scored, none conceded, and top of the league. The main man responsible for this form was Marin, who scored nine goals in his first six games of the season from the left-wing.
We yet again got a tough Champions League draw, alongside the ridiculous Manchester City – spruced up with the £172 million signing of Kylian Mbappe – Valencia and whipping boys Young Boys. Strangely, we played City in both the first two games of the group and worked really hard but narrowly lost both 1-0, then lost 1-0 in Valencia as well. So not a great start, but then we hammered Young Boys 6-0 to give us a fighting chance at qualification.
We backed that up with a 1-0 win over Valencia at home, thanks to a Da Graca winner, then snuck through to the knockout stages with a 4-1 win over Young Boys, with City doing us a favour by hammering Valencia 6-1.
However, the strong start to Serie A soon tailed off. A run of just one win in six games was blown away with a 5-0 win at Napoli thanks to an Antonio Marin hat-trick and a brace from Da Graca. But three more games without a win took us into the World Cup struggling for form but not too far off the fight for Champions League places in 7th place.
December World Cup
That took us into the bizarre occasion of a World Cup in December, in Qatar. England, unsurprisingly, lost 1-0 to Germany in the Second Round, who in turn lost 4-1 in the next round to France.
The surprise package of the competition was Cameroon, who made it all the way to the semi-finals only to lose 1-0 to France. They were joined in the final by Italy who, in true Italian style, beat Portugal on penalties. But they tasted defeat as another 1-0 win saw France become only the second country ever to defend their World Cup crown.
Bizarrely, the World Cup Golden Boot winner was… Holland’s Luuk De Jong, with six goals – although he did score five of those in an 8-0 win over Japan in the Group Stage. Bernardo Silva, who is still at City, won Player of the Tournament.
Join us next time as a disjointed season resumes after a near-two-month hiatus with an upturn in league form required alongside moving into the Champions League knockout stages.