Campioni D’Italia yes we have won our first Serie A title after a fantastic season that ended in Lyon with us also winning our first European trophy when we beat fellow Italians AC Milan in the Europa League Final. So without further a do read on to find out how our season panned out.
We entered January in top spot but we knew that we had to maintain our form from the opening months if we are to mount a serious challenge for the title. If you have been following our exploits you will know that we sold Alejandro Gómez to Monaco for £11.5m and Marco D’Alessandro to Dortmund for £12m when the window opened. I also decided to bring in to the club the versatile 19 year old Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic for £10m. Ajer is a very promising talent who can fulfil a number of roles in our system. I never intended bringing anyone in until we had an horrendous injury crisis in our midfield with Gasperoni, Freuler, Valzania and Melegoni all sidelined. Our first game of the month ended in a 0-0 draw at home to Torino. Another home game followed this time a 5-1 win against Carpi with the king of Bergamo Alberto Paloschi netting 4 of the 5 goals after a superb performance. Louis Schaub hit our other goal. A below par performance followed has we scrapped a 2-1 win in Florence with a 2-1 win against Fiorentina with goals from Dolberg and Dramè. We then took on Lazio in the Coppa Italia and suffered a 1-2 defeat with Franck Kessie netting our consolation goal. Lazio stayed in Bergamo for our league game which we won 1-0 with a Paloschi goal. Next up a visit to Napoli and another head to head for me against one of my favourite managers Marcelo Bielsa who I have a good head to head record against and that continued with us winning 2-1 courtesy of Dolberg and Paloschi which resulted in the club from Naples sacking Bielsa after the game. We ended the month against another legendary manager when we took on Zeman’s Pescara which resulted in Paloschi netting a brace in a 2-0 win. The double strike took Paloschi’s total to 35 in all competitions.
The month of February started with a 0-1 defeat at Sampdoria which would be our only blip of the month with us realing off back to back wins against AC Milan 4-1 (Paloschi 3, Dramè 1) Paloschi is just a dream in this form which continued in to the Europa League 1st Roundbut first 1st leg game in Belgium against Standard Leige were Paloschi scored a brace in a 3-1 win. Jasmin Kurtic netted our other goal. Our next league game saw us visit Gian Piero Gasperini’s Chievo were we needed goals from Dolberg and Schaub to pick up all 3 points in a 2-1 win. We then went in to the 2nd leg tie against Standard confident of finishing the job off after a a solid 1st leg win and we did just that winning 4-0 that saw the much wanted Franck Kessie score an hat-trick which put a few more pounds on to his value. Louis Schaub got our other goal. We finished the month with a 2-1 win in Bergamo against my bogey team Bologna with strikes from Paloschi and Kurtic, Paloschi took his tally to 41 goals in all competitions with his 6 goals this month.
The draw for the 2nd round of the Europa League paired us with CSKA Moscow, however we had an important league game first in Turin at Juventus who are now managed by Rafa Benitez after Max Allegri took over the Italian national team. We came out of a tough game with a priceless 1-0 win thanks to a goal from the returning Remo Freuler. The long trip to Moscow took its toll on us with us running out of steam in the 2nd period against CSKA who punished us with 2 second half goals thus inflicting a 0-2 defeat on us that dashed our European hopes. We returned to winning ways back home beating Palermo 4-1 with goals from Mazzocchi 2, Schaub and Caldara. I decided to keep Mazzocchi in the starting line up for the visit of CSKA to Bergamo. We started well against the Russian side and led at the break through a Kurtic goal, I told the lads that I was not happy with their performance in an attempt to psychologically get them fired up for the second half. The second period was one way traffic with us peppering the CSKA goal looking for a much need goal and then on 78 minutes Kurtic slammed the ball home that looked like extra time until the skilful play of Schaub was rewarded after a CSKA defender brought the dashing Austrian down in the area Peeeenalttttty. Up stepped young Simone Mazzocchi to send the keeper the wrong way with a superbly taken penalty to give us a 3-0 win and put us in the Quarter-final draw. We then drop points at home to Sassuolo with a 0-0 draw before beating Roma 3-2 courtesy of Louis Schaub 2 and a own goal. The draw for the Quarter-final of the Europa League pulled us out of the bag against Bayer Leverkussen who would visit Bergamo to open next months games.
So Bayer Leverkussen at home kicked the month off and to my delight we were leading 3-0 via Kessie 2 and Dolberg going in to the last 10 minutes of the game in Bergamo, however my delight turned to anger has we shipped 3 goals in the last 10 minutes of the games to finish 3-3. The draw felt like a defeat and that showed in the next game away in Sardinia has we drew with Cagliari 1-1 after Kasper Dolberg netted for us. We travelled to Germany knowing we had to win the game against Bayer Leverkussen or our European dream was over. I picked a strong side after resting a few players in Sardinia and the boys put in the performance of the season with a 2-0 win with Paloschi’s 43rd and 44th goals of the season to put us in to the Semi Final. Alberto Paloschi picked up a knock that would keep him out of our next few games none less so than our next fixture in Milan against Inter with us needing a win to secure the club’s first title in our long history. We scored early on with a 6th minute Louis Schaub goal that we managed to hang on to giving us a 1-0 win that sparked mass celebration on the streets of Bergamo with us being confirmed as Campioni D’Italia. The Boys From Bergamo had made history and their city proud winning the title with 4 games to play. The draw for the Europa League Semi Final paired us with Tottenham Hotspur with the first leg away from home but first we had an home game against Genoa to play first in front of our own fans who wanted to celebrate their Champions return. I decided to pick a fully rotational side for the game to allow our first choice 11 a rest before we travelled to London for the first leg. An entertaining game with Genoa finished 1-1 with Gaetano Monachello netting his first goal under my leadership after a successful loan spell at Anderlecht. So off we set for London and Wembley Stadium for the Semi Final 1st leg against Tottenham Hotspur which ended in a 1-1 draw coming from the unusual source of young substitute defender Alessandro Bastoni who netted a priceless away goal from an header in the 89th minute to keep our hopes alive. This was probably the best game of football all season with both sides giving their all. With a game against Verona to end the month I decided to pick a strong team to try and get some momentum going before the 2nd leg. Mazzocchi, Paloschi and Kurtic all netted in a 3-0 win.
The atmosphere in Bergamo was fever pitch for the visit of Tottenham and the Bergamo boys responded by firing us in to our first European Final in the club’s history with a superbly executed 3-0 win against a strong Spurs side, Paloschi, Kurtic and Dolberg set up a Lombardy Derby against AC Milan who overcome Celta Vigo in the other Semi Final. We entertained relegated Spal for our final home game of the season and took all 3 points with a Dramé goal that gave us a narrow 1-0 win. We ended our league game with a 1-2 defeat at Torino that saw Conti grab our consolation goal. With just the Europa League Final left to play we headed for France were you can read about below.
Europa League Final 2018 Atalanta v AC Milan
I decided to name our starting line up on the eve of the game encouraged by the fact that Carlos Bacca was out of the Milan starting line up, Bacca always scores against my teams so it was welcome news. The XI that I picked to start the game was: Sportiello, Conti, Tolòi, Mancini, Caldara, Dramé, Kessie, Freuler, Schaub, Paloschi (capt) and Dolberg. Just under 57’000 fans waited in anticipation in The Parc Olympique Lyonnais for the 2 sides to take the field for the biggest derby of Lombardi to take place. When the game got under way we were on the front foot and tested the Milan keeper with a couple of half chances in the first 15 minutes, Milan had a couple of long range efforts but nothing to worry our back line. The next 20 minutes saw us impose our game on the Milan giants without reward. I am feeling nervous and want nothing more to deliver a European trophy for the Bergamo people. I am watching the game intensely and start to to think about my half time team talk, I considering making a change at the break and introducing Simone Mazzocchi and then on the stroke of half time we win a penalty when the referee awards the kick for obstruction. Up stepped captain Alberto Paloschi who sends the young Milan keeper Donnarumma the wrong way Goooooaaaal 1-0 Paloschi with his 47th goal of the season what a player he has been for me. Half Time. Inside I am ecstatic however I tell the boys assertively that I am not happy with that first half performance, the whole dressing room is fired up, I decide not to make the change of bringing Mazzocchi on and send the same 11 out for the 2nd half. Milan look rattled and in the 51st minute Goooooaaaal 2-0 Dolberg from close range, come on!!! I am now glad I didn’t make that change because it was Dolberg who was coming off. 52nd minute Milan win a free kick Goooooaaaal 2-1 Bonaventura pulls one back for the Rossoneri. I get that feeling the game could turn I encourage the boys passionately and we get back on the front foot and get our reward in the 60th minute Goooooaaaal Dolberg gets his second 3-1. I make a change on 66 minutes Freuler off and Kurtic on, Freuler has worked hard and was tiring so I have freshened things up. 72nd minute Goooooaaaal Dolberg Hat-trick 4-1 get in, I shout to the boys to concentrate we are on the cusp of history, all we have to do is see the game out but Milan look a beaten side and another change is made Dolberg soaks up the love from the Bergamo tifosi has he makes way for Mazzocchi. 89th minute Goooooaaaal 5-1 Albeerrrrrtttto Paloschi thunders a shot in to the Milan goal for his 48th goal of the season and writes his name in to the history books, the referee blows up full time. We have pulled it off and completed a domestic and European double, I am delighted with the boys and let them know.
Paloschi the goal machine!!!
Pierluigi Gollini Loan Deal Clause Activated
I have decided to make Gollini’s loan permanent and paid the £4m release clause.
I have made a change to my backroom staff by bringing in Andrea Carnevale to work as our chief scout replacing the departing Gabrielle Zamagna whos contract expires in June. I felt that a change was needed and welcome Carnevale to Bergamo.
Summary Of The Season
Most club’s experience highs and lows in a season and there are no surprises what our high points are but I will go through them anyway, winning Serie A and the Europa League are pretty much obvious but it’s the way we have done it that pleases me. I introduced a new tactical system in to the club last season and tested it with our youth teams before introducing it to our first team at the start of this season. The players and staff throughout the club have embraced it and made it a huge success not only with the first team but with the youth teams as well with our under 18’s winning the league and the under 20’s just being pipped to the title on goal difference. We also won the Youth Invitational tournament beating Mainz in the final. I also promoted 8 youth team players in to the first team set up who have been a huge part of our history making season. Gianluca Mancini has started most of our games this season and has become a quality part of our first team. Bergamo born Fillipo Melegoni is another who has featured regularly despite picking up a few injuries during the season. Simone Mazzocchi has been nothing short of fantastic when called upon and as scored 12 goals during the season. Bastoni, Valzania, Gasperoni have also all featured this season and will hopefully continue their development next season. The players I recruited at the start of the season have been fantastic, Kasper Dolberg has scored 23 goals and free transfer Louis Schaub has netted 18 times and got 21 assists in his debut season for us which again is absolutely fantastic. Kristoffer Ajer joined in January and has done a super job covering a number of positions at critical times during the second half of the season. Franck Kessie has been a rock and both Rafael Tolòi and Mattia Caldara have been solid. Both full backs Dramé and Conti have both had very good seasons. Marco Sportiello is developing in to a top keeper and made saves that were worth at least 10 points for us during the season and of course Alberto Paloschi who I have nicknamed The King Of Bergamo has led the side with both the armband and his astonishing amount of goals breaking records for fun along the way. Whilst there have been many highs I have also noted a couple of low points the first being the form in front of goal from Andrea Petagna who has failed to find the net for us this season when called upon, I am puzzled to why I can’t get him to play in our system which resulted in me sending him out on loan to try and give him the chance to try and build some form. The second low point is also player related and regards Leonardo Spinazzola who is in his second season on loan to us with a buy out clause in his contract however I have decided not to trigger the clause as again I have failed to get the best out of him and will let him return to Juventus this summer. Mattia Caldara will also join up with Juventus has his loan spell also runs out. The summer will see our very own Roberto Gagliardini complete his move to Inter after a 2 year loan spell in Milan, a deal that was done before I took over in Bergamo. The summer months will be interesting we are now a Champions League club next season so I am hoping that will help me keep hold of our players. Thanks for reading and all the messages discussing the save and tactics, look out for my next update as we prepare for the European Super Cup Final and a Champions League campaign.