“Atalanta communicate that they have accepted the resignation given today by Mr. Antonio Conte,” This was the news that started to filter out of the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on January 7. Only four days later and journeyman and former Atalanta Coach Bortolo Mutti had returned to the Bergamo hotseat.
Bortolo Mutti is the 55-year-old former Atalanta forward and Coach whose experience is vast in both Serie A and the lower divisions. The Bergamo-born tactician spent four years playing for Atalanta in a career that saw him score goals for a number of Serie B and C teams. Once his playing career was over he started in management straight away and has managed 12 clubs in 22 years, including a spell at Atalanta in 1997/98. Mutti gained top flight experience as a Coach with Piacenza in 1996/97, keeping them in the division, and then with Napoli the following season where he wasn’t as successful – sacked after a poor run of results. Further Serie A experience came in an unsuccessful time with Reggina in 2003 followed by his most eventful stage in his career with Messina from 2003 to 2006 where he managed promotion to Serie A and then an impressive seventh-place finish only one place from an unprecedented UEFA Cup spot. He was however then sacked in 2006 for poor results and fear of the drop back to the second flight. Now he has the chance to shine again in trying to relive another great escape act.
The Atalanta fans will at least know what type of football to expect from the veteran front-man of the Orobici. It is no wonder that the players welcome the appointment of a man who already knows his way around. Simone Tiribocchi has been quoted saying: “A lot more calmness and serenity has come into the changing rooms since Mutti’s arrival. We are also trying more simulated events in defence than attack. Our salvation depends on it, as the fewer goals we concede, the better. The strikers, including myself, will have a lot of work to do. Just like the defence needs to ensure that no goals are allowed, we need to finish off the opportunities we have.”
It seems clear that Mutti will focus on the defence and their constant inability to keep clean sheets. The football may not be pretty but it may just be their salvation. Atalanta are second from bottom with a dismal 13 points from 18 games and look at this moment in time as though the lure of Serie B is just too strong to escape from. Other than a creditable home draw with champions Inter, Atalanta’s last win was recorded on November 22 away at bottom club Siena. More importantly the once notoriously hostile Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia has not seen a home win since October 25 when visitors Parma were beaten 3-1 and it is worth noting that this is their only home win of the season and only their third win of the whole campaign.
Simone Tiribocchi’s six goals need to be added to by the team and with 15 scored this is the second worst total in the league coupled with the third worst against. January’s fixtures of Lazio at home and three consecutive away games to Bologna, Genoa and Sampdoria look extremely ominous on current form. Lazio visit Bergamo in improved form, the new year has seen a 4-1 win at Livorno followed by a 1-1 draw with Udinese then a Coppa Italia 2-0 victory against Palermo. Sitting in lowly 15th place, Lazio will want to use Atalanta as a stepping stone to move up the table.
This is where Bortolo Mutti’s vast experience will come in extremely useful as he will in no way be overawed by Atalanta’s plight. The camp is by its own admission already a calmer place just by the man’s presence, whilst his emphasis on defence will hopefully be the making of a team that will be hard to beat and his focus on taking the few chances they get will be vital. He has been here before and relegation battles are much better fought when one knows where the points need to come from, Mutti will be looking for a point at least against Lazio in his first game in charge. If he can get Tiribocchi, Roberto Acquafresca and Ernesto Chevanton firing on all cylinders as well as shoring up the back-line then it would be unwise to write Atalanta off for dead. For if like King Iasos you do, do not be surprised to see Atalanta still standing when the dust has settled.