We can all agree that Twitter (and the entire internet, for that matter) is largely a cesspool full of sub-human chuds spouting off idiocy. On the other hand, it’s also where we first met Nige Mannering, who’s not only frighteningly knowledgeable about all things Atalanta, but is also one of the few bright spots on the network for his unflagging enthusiasm. He ran the wonderful @AtalantaNow account and is now @AtalantaNige; he’s also writing for AtalantiniOnline, if you’d like to find more of his work. He was kind enough to take some time out of his super busy week to chat with us about the upcoming festivities.
Viola Nation: What’s new for Atalanta compared to last year, besides the addition of a beautiful, perfect Colombian striker? Any other notable signings or departures?
Nige Mannering: Thankfully we have kept much of the team together that had so much success last season. Obviously we have brought in Luis Muriel and I am fairly certain you’re going to be familiar with him! Ruslan Malinovskyi has joined from Genk and he looks a very exciting addition to our midfield options. We signed and them Terminated Martin Skrtel which made for a fun couple of weeks. Simon Kjaer has joined as his replacement from Sevilla while we have also taken Guilherme Arana on loan from the Spanish side. Only major departure was Gianluca Mancini, who joined Rome.
VN: We all know Gasperini’s 3-4-3ish shape and how it generally works. Is he adding any new wrinkles to it, or is this the same system we’ve grown to know and fear over the past few years?
NM: It’s quite an interesting question because Luis Muriel’s arrival genuinely gives us a chance to play two top forwards together with Papu in the number 10 role. Last season we had Duvan and Josip as the most advanced players and you will know what Josip is like, he will go and play deeper than Duvan and be creative. Muriel and Duvan up top is a mouth watering combination. Gasperini did try this against Getafe in preseason and it did not go well. So for now I would expect it to be the normal 3-4-3 with Papu, Duvan and Josip the first choice front three but I expect to see the Colombian duo paired at some point soon.
VN: I almost don’t want to mention it, but feel like I have to. Is this team ready to go after getting shelled in Zagreb on Wednesday? Any players need to be rotated out? More importantly, what’s the mindset after that? Are the players going to be in a mood, or will it refocus them?
NM: It was great to make our debut in the competition on Wednesday. There is always huge pride seeing Bergamo represented in Europe. The result and performance were a shame. In answer to your question, any of what you have suggested is possible. The mindset is the one thing that troubles me most. Remember this time last season, Copenhagen in the Europa League playoff? When we went out we crumbled for a few weeks, nothing went our way. Our game against Fiorentina in Florence last season was right in that middle of the run and it took us so long to get over the playoff defeat. Hopefully it will be different and the team will have learned from last season and be ready for Fiorentina on Sunday.
VN: While the attack has been humming away, the defense has looked a bit shaky this year, what with conceding two or more goals in 3 of 4 games thus far. What gives? Is it just bad luck or is there a deeper-lying factor at play?
NM: We have concede a few goals to many. I think there is a degree of inevitability about us conceding goals with the attacking style Gasperini likes to deploy. It is a case of if you score 3 we will try and score 4! Pasalic starting never helps the defensive side of our game, we typically look a better defensive unit when de Roon and Freuler playing.
VN: Prediction time: What’s the final score, who gets the goals, and what’s the overall tenor of play?
NM: As I mentioned earlier that Copenhagen game last season had a huge knock on effect on the team last season. For that reason I am not feeling very confident which is unusual for me. I think it will be either a 2-2 draw or a 2-3 Fiorentina win. Luis Muriel and Josip are 100% scoring in this one and I quite fancy this French prospect you have signed called Ribery to get a goal.
Thanks, Nige! We’re hoping for Atalanta to win every match but two this year. And yall, if you ever run into him, buy this man a beer.