Atalanta 2015/16 season preview: Consolidation the key for La Dea
Tough season awaits for Atalanta. Image credit: footyheadlines

Edoardo Reja and his Atalanta side will be looking for a drastic improvement on last season, which saw a disappointing Nerazzurri side finish 17th and narrowly avoid the drop.


Last season

As mentioned, last season went anything but swimmingly for Atalanta Bergamo, as they limped to a place just outside the bottom three under the guidance of Stefano Colantuono, who was sacked on March 4th.

Having finished the previous season in a respectable 11th place, with 50 points and 15 wins, Atalanta had gained a reputation as an entertaining side with plenty of promise and talent.

Admittedly, Atalanta did lose one of their biggest catalysts in Giacomo Bonaventura to AC Milan for a €7million euro fee, but with players like Denis, Baselli and Estigarribia at the club they always had the chance of achieving a similar finish.

It was clear from the start that this wasn't to be the case, as the blue-and-black's lost four of their opening six games, failing to score in five of them. These included defeats to Fiorentina, Inter Milan, Juventus and Sampdoria, however, so the fixture sheet had not been kind to them.

By round 13 they had just two wins to their name against Cagliari and Parma, two respective favourites for the drop. They hadn't yet slipped in, but had remained perilously close to the bottom three for a long time.

A vital win at home to Cesena in round 14 just about propped them up; the same said for wins against Milan and Cagliari again in weeks 19 and 21 respectively.

Atalanta celebrate a vital 1-0 win against Milan at the San Siro. Image credit: mediaset

Between rounds 22 and 29 Atalanta flirted with the drop again, failing to win a single game, losing five of them as the stretch against Fiorentina, Inter, Juventus and Sampdoria proved too demanding.

By this point, manager Stefano Colantuono had been relieved of his duties as the team lay in 17th position just a matter of points away from the drop.

New man Edoardo Reja failed to really galvanise the team, as Atalanta won just two of their remaining 13 games under his leadership, remaining in 17th place from round 23 onwards. In the end, the Bergamo side finished just three points ahead of Cagliari, with a record of 7 wins, 16 draws and 15 losses resulting in 37 points and a -19 goal difference.

The team reached the Round of 16 in the Coppa Italia, as wins over Pisa (2-0 in round three) and Avellino (the same scoreline, in round 4) set up a match away at Fiorentina, which they lost 3-1 having been 3-0 down after 28 minutes. Subsequently, they were eliminated from the tournament.


Transfers in and out - (excluding end of loans)

In (ten) - Jasmin Kurtic (from Sassuolo - £2.45m), Mauricio Pinilla (from Genoa - £1.4m), Marten de Roon (from SC Heerenveen - £910k), Luca Valzania (from Cesena - £630k), Gaetano Monachello (from Monaco - £350k), Marcos De Paula (from Chievo - free), Davide Bassi (from Empoli - free), Isnik Alimi (from Chievo - undisclosed), Edoardo Ceria (from Juventus - undisclosed), Boris Radunovic (from Rad - undisclosed).

Out - Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City - £4.9m), Davide Zappacosta (Torino - £3.15m), Daniele Baselli (Torino - £3.15m), Daniele Capelli (Cesena), Davide Savi (Chievo), Matteo Scozzarella (Trapani), Doudou Mangi (Sanliurfaspor), Nana Welbeck (NK Krka), Federico Varano (Cesena), Moussa Kone (Cesena), Gianluca Barba (Pescara).

Released - Urby Emmanelson, Lionel Scaloni and Riccardo Cazzola.

Retired - Giorgio Grezzolini and Giuseppe Biava.

Loaned - Prince Gouano, Luca Valzania, Giuseppe Ungaro, Mattia Caldara, Stefano Cason, Roberto Gagliardini, Ruben Betancourt, Alex Redolfi, Luca Zanotti, Antonio Palma, Luca Milesi, Leonardo Gatto, Nadir Minotti, Matteo Contini, Salvatore Molina and Simone Magnaghi.

Baselli (left) and Zappacosta (right) will be big losses for Atalanta this season. Image credit: Corriere Bergamo

Atalanta have once again surrendered to big money offers, selling three core players which will not help their rebuilding effort.

As lucrative as the bids were, one cannot help but feel they could have squeezed more out of the likes of Zappacosta and Baselli as they are such young players with big potentials.

Kurtic will fill in a spot in the midfield in terms of incomings, while the signings of players such as Valzania, de Roon and Monachello continue the club tradition of buying young players and developing them.

Pinilla will provide support for the forward department, while De Paula is somewhat of an experiment having scored just two goals for Chievo since joining in 2001, with an impressive 15 loan spells to his name in that time.


Manager

Edoardo "Edy" Reja has his work cut out with this Atalanta side, and the baord have not made his position any easier with the sale of young assets.

This may just be one of the toughest jobs in his 36-year managerial career, but Reja has the experience and the intelligence to turn this team into a very competitive product, as seen during his first spell at Lazio in which he resigned despite pleas otherwise.

So, as much as the situation looks grim for Atalanta, they certainly have the right man at the helm to give it a real good go this season.


First six fixtures

1. Inter-Atalanta

2. Atalanta-Frosinone

3. Sassuolo-Atalanta

4. Atalanta-Verona

5. Empoli-Atalanta

6. Atalanta-Sampdoria

A tough first six games to judge makes this Atalanta team all the more difficult to determine. As much as they would like to think they can achieve a result at Inter, it is unlikely, but in the games against Frosinone, Verona and even Empoli, they have to hope of getting a result.

Sampdoria hold an upper hand over them, and Sassuolo will be a very difficult trip, but there is no reason that Atalanta can't be looking at at least eight points from their opening six.

This run of games is however crucial to their season. If they only pick up three points from the opening six, the signs look very ominous for them.


Derby days

With Brescia outside the top flight for 2015-16, Atalanta will not have a game against their fiercest rivals from Lombardy.

Games against Atalanta's political rival AS Roma occur on November 29th and April 17th; the first fixture being at the Stadio Olimpico.

Games against Lomarby giants AC Milan are November 8th and April 3rd, with Milan at home first, and their games against Inter are round one at the San Siro and round 20 (17th January).


Predicted Most Important Player

German Denis - The forward is an unsurprising pick for this position.

Although managing just eight goals last season, it is important that Denis returns to his best form in order to give his side the best chance of surviving this season. His 32 goals since joining in 2012 have been a big contribution, but he needs to surpass last season's total.

Known for the weird, wonderful and sometimes shocking, Denis is a larger than life character. He was banned for five matches after an incident in which he punched opposition defender Lorenzo Tonelli of Empoli.

German Denis scores an amazing overhead kick against Sassuolo. Image credit: ecodibergamo

He is also remembered for his magnificent strike against Sassuolo following the backheel assist. However, German must put that behind him and focus on socring goals no matter how they come, as his contribution is vital for Atalanta.


Predicted finishes (All competitions)

Serie A - 19th

Atalanta have lost too many players that are key to them in too short a space of time, without a satisfying amount of re-investment to make me reach a different conclusion.

As much as Reja is a coach who can make a lot out of nothing, he will find it very difficult this season with a uninspiring core.

Coppa Italia - Round four

Similar to last year, the Nerazzurri should have no problem in seeing off lower league opponents in Cittadella in the third round. They should then be met by Udinese, who will likely have too much for them, leading to what could be a prompt exit from the cup.


A tough season awaits for Atalanta, and they may be about to learn their lesson for selling their best assets so quickly.

VAVEL Logo