Before we get started, a quick warning. If you’ve come here expecting a full tactical analysis of our opponents, then sadly you’ve come to the wrong place because I’m not a footy hipster. But if you’re like me and know next to nothing about European football then feel free to read on as I take you through a series of potentially random, irrelevant facts. Please….
So, here goes. After the absolute dogsh*t we were served up against Spurs a welcome distraction has pushed us back on the road to Lyon as we head to Italy to take on Atalanta. Traditionally a mid table side, they defied expectations last season by finishing 4th ahead of the likes of Milan, Lazio, Inter and Fiorentina, so they should by no means be underestimated. I have to be honest, I know absolutely nothing about them whatsoever other than the fact that their badge looks like something off a shampoo logo. Makes you wonder then considering his habit for plugging hair products whether Joe Hart should’ve gone there last season rather than Torino.
Despite being regarded as a mid table side for much of their history, in recent years they have earned a reputation for having developed or bought various young players who have since gone on to better things elsewhere in Italy or abroad. Basically the Italian Southampton then. Some of these include Andrea Conti and Franck Kessie who both moved to Milan this summer, Davide Zappacosta who went on to impress at Torino and is now at Chelsea, Simone Zaza (who could forget that penalty run up in the Euros?), Manolo Gabbiadini, now at Southampton, and in the 1990s Fillippo Inzaghi who went on to Juventus and ultimately two Champions League wins with Milan. (If I could I’d be able to get away with claiming to know about their academy but I’m not that convincing a hipster unfortunately, so shoutout to @EFCCHXRLIE for getting the random facts ball rolling there).
Interestingly unlike some of their Serie A rivals, their name doesn’t originate from their location. We’re getting desperate here aren’t we? If you think this is bad up to now, wait until we play Apollon Limassol then. The club are based in the city of Bergamo (thanks to one of my FansCorner bosses @jackgerrard_ for that one. Incidentally does mentioning you get me a pay rise mate?) and are named after a character in Greek mythology. So sophisticated those Italians aren’t they?
Their coach Gian Piero Gasperini is in his 2nd season in charge having spent much of his career at Genoa. His nickname in Italy is “Gasperson”, apparently inspired by Alex Ferguson, although it actually makes him sound like a Scandinavian with breathing issues. I assume he got that nickname because he’s considered to be a decent manager and not because his face looks like he’s been drowned in a pool of Vimto. He was once sacked by Inter after 5 games in 2011 so perhaps not. Mind you in the wake of Frank De Boer’s ridiculous sacking by Palace this week maybe that’s being a little harsh on him.
As he was linked to us last season before Koeman arrived it’s only fair to discuss that briefly. Sacking a manager after 4 games, really? I mean Palace have been a rugby team for nearly 5 years now having had Pulis, Pardew and Big Sam, so what Steve Parish was expecting De Boer to do in such a short space of time was anyone’s guess. Was he expecting them to play like Aax overnight or what? Either way he panicked, it’s as simple as that. If they had been in the bottom 3 in November then fine, get rid then, but not after 4 games. Or actually as Roy Hodgson had been mentioned within seconds of his sacking it seemed, maybe the decision had been made much earlier. Either way it’s a joke and it shows the state of football today in my view. And as for Woy, who could forget that classic line “I don’t know what I’m doing here” after the Iceland defeat? I think he summed up his entire career in that moment.
Anyway back to our opponents. One danger man we’ll have to look out for is their Argentine captain Alejandro Gomez who had an excellent season last term so I’m told, as he scored 16 goals in Serie A and provided 10 assists. (Shoutout to @oiiyrefc for those much needed stats there. What would these previews be without them?) As we all know as Evertonians there’s a striker at almost every club we go up against that has a woefully average record who suddenly turns into a world beater against us. Atalanta’s man in question is Andreas Cornelius who cost Cardiff £8.5m in 2013 (or 141 Seamus Colemans on the massively overpriced scale) only to play just 8 times without scoring a goal before being hastily sold back to Copenhagen. Another ex Premier League player to look out for is Marten De Roon who rejoined this summer from Middlesbrough. Now I’ve mentioned them they’ll go and have masterclasses now won’t they?
I’m really hoping that European action provides Koeman with the opportunity to freshen things up and give others an opportunity. After Saturday there is no way that the likes of Martina and Williams deserve to feature so hopefully Jonjoe Kenny who had another great performance for the Under 23s at the weekend, and Phil Jagielka will replace them. Lack of pace has been our biggest issue so far this season so I’m hoping that Koeman will look to sort it by giving Ademola Lookman and Nikola Vlasic starts out wide. Lookman scored an excellent goal for the Under 23s in the 4-1 win over Spurs on Sunday so if he doesn’t feature then god knows what he has to do to get noticed.
Oumar Niasse scored twice but he hasn’t been registered in the 27 man squad for the group stages so he won’t feature. That’s unfortunate for him because the Europa League would’ve provided him the chance to get some game time and show what he can do. It’s likely then that Calvert-Lewin will be getting the nod up front with Sandro getting rested for Utd on Sunday. Moving forward though I think Koeman should consider playing those two up top or DCL up on his own with Sandro out wide so he can utilise his pace to cut inside and create opportunities because at the moment he’s struggling in Koeman’s current system.
Having not won in 4 now, only scoring twice in that time, our lack of attacking threat has been a real concern and it must be addressed. Ok we got a point at City and played Chelsea and Spurs in that period and realistically I never expected much from them but to be so comprehensively beaten in successive games was worrying. Hopefully European action will provide us the chance to turn things around.
*If you got a mention here it means that you’re a legend that gave a clueless idiot something of note to write about. Not that my lack of hipster knowledge has ever stopped me before.
Up the Toffees.