FEATURE | How Teun Koopmeiners stepped up for Atalanta this season

Serie A side Atalanta won the Europa League recently and while the performance on the day against Bayer Leverkusen was sparkling, the journey to the finals was just as brilliant for La Dea. Teun Koopmeiners was key for them in the entire competition and without his presence, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side may have never won the Europa League.

Before the season started, there was an air of uncertainty at Atalanta. There was a possibility that Gasperini could depart before Rasmus Hojlund departed to Manchester United and Jeremie Boga returned to France. Soon, Duvan Zapata joined Torino and in the January transfer window, Luis Muriel also departed. El Bilal Toure was signed from Almeria but he picked up a long-term injury early on, leaving La Dea more limited with their attacking options.

Charles de Ketelaere arrived and so did Gianluca Scamacca but there was a feeling that La Dea could be light in the attacking department. When the season started off, it was clear that the burden would fall on Koopmeiners to prove his versatility and show how effective he can be in the final third. While he did play as an attacking midfielder sometimes last season but he has been used rather prominently in the attacking midfield this season in what has been a revelation of a season.

He has 12 goals, which is certainly more than his Serie A tally of ten from last season. He has played 23 times in attacking midfield, becoming a very vital figure in the final third for La Dea and when the need has arisen, he has also played as the midfielder that Atalanta rely on for build-up.

His most prominent goalscoring performance, perhaps came against Juventus and that is when the Dutchman played in attacking midfield and grabbed a vital brace when the spotlight was completely on him. He didn’t let anyone down, also scoring once in the next game against Napoli in a 3-0 win for Gasperini’s side.

It isn’t just his goalscoring prowess that has come to the fore though, as Koopmeiners has proved at creating and being progressive in possession. He ranks, as per FBref, 88 percentile for progressive passes per 90 minutes with his numbers standing close to six progressive passes per 90 minutes. 

He has become the lynchpin of the side this season and a lot of it comes down to his versatility, with a lot of the play revolving around his movement across the midfield.

As a result, Koopmeiners has had the most number of touches in the final third out of any Atalanta player – 641. He is also top five for most touches in the midfield – 813, which suggests a lot about how important he is to the side and how he always takes iniative, which perhaps goes back to how he often captained AZ Alkmaar.

Atalanta’s dynamic attacking approach requires a player like Teun Koopmeiners too, with the Dutchman providing that dynamism that they need. His movement between the lines helps Atalanta open up the opposition and he then finds spaces in the final third to take shots off or to score. Combine that with his tendency to take responsibility, he can be devastating against any team in the world.

In general, Koopmeiners is a rare profile in the game because of how he can play multiple roles in the heart of the park. More than that, he plays those roles effectively too. And with the game slowly heading towards a stage where versatility is appreciated more than it ever was, a player like Koopmeiners will be incredibly valuable for the future. 

Whether he leaves Atalanta or not remains to be seen but he has already made a mark in the hearts of the Bergamischi with his goals, versatility and sense of responsibility. More than that, he has silverware to show for it.






Kaustubh Pandey I GIFN

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