After serving countless loan spells away from AC Milan, Italy striker Andrea Petagna appears to have found a comfortable home in Bergamo with Atalanta.
Over the course of five years, AC Milan has undergone quite the cleansing. Many have departed on a contract expiry or were just sold outright in order to bring stability to a once Italian powerhouse. One of the names that may have slipped through the cracks while renovating the entire squad was Andrea Petagna, who looks to have found a safe haven in Bergamo with La Dea.
Meet Andrea Petagna-
Date of birth: 30 June 1995 (21 years old)
Club: Atalanta BC
Height: 1,90 m
International caps: Italy U-16 (5 app), Italy U-17 (1 app), Italy U-18 (7 apps, 2 goals), Italy U-19 (4 apps, 2 goals), Italy U-20 (5 app, 2 goals), Italy U-21 (0 app).
The burly 21 year-old joined the prestigious Milan academy back in 2011 as a youngster. Though he has been credited with a handful of appearances for his parent club, the Italian truly had never been considered a viable option for any of the Milan sides — and managers — he played under. As a result, he was loaned out on the regular to various Italian clubs in search of first-team football.
Despite having scored 20 goals in fifty appearances for the Primavera, Petagna has served multiple spells in Serie B and most recently Serie A.
In 2013, Petagna’s first stop arrived with Sampdoria where he spent just under 6 months, making five appearances and earning a lone assist. He then returned to the Rossoneri in January with the youth club, briefly, as minutes were fundamental in earning a loan spell in the months ahead.
It was a pit stop with Latina Calcio in 2014 where he failed to impress in 13 goal-less appearances. These struggles away from Milan for lower-tiered clubs were quite concerning and others at his position became more attractive options. Petagna seemed to have vanished in the eyes of the supporters, however despite the woes continuing whilst on loan with Vicenza, it was with Ascoli where he finally began to show promise.
During the summer of 2015, the Azzurrini forward joined up with Ascoli on loan. Though the spell was to expire in January with the Central Italian club, Atalanta came knocking at Milan’s door for the young striker. La Dea paid a minuscule fee of €1m to buy him outright before loaning him back to the Woodpecker for the remainder of the season.
Petagna managed to end last campaign with 7 goals for the Serie B club, impressing Atalanta enough to make him a key component for the current season.
Strengths and Weaknesses
At 1,90 metres, it’s understood that Petagna isn’t going to be blowing by defenders. Speed isn’t fundamental to his game, but that is not to say he doesn’t have good movement for a “bigger” man. Petagna is a brutish centre forward who does well using size to establish himself in the box. Because he is an imposing target at 6’2″, Petagna has the height to win the majority of aerial duels that he is involved in.
Due to his limited mobility, his scoring technique has to be that much more clinical. A left-footer by trade, Petagna has a fair weak foot and one that can find the back of the net from time to time.
Petagna holds his own for a larger forward, but with his size comes some limitations to his game. His footwork when on the ball could use work. While this hasn’t been considered a glaring weakness, this is certainly a trait that needs fine tuning. The former Sampdoria striker does a fair job in trying to add dimensions to his game, like link up ability, but he struggles with his passing.
Unless he becomes a potent finisher in the penalty area, Petagna needs to improve in other departments to compensate. At the Serie B level where he spent the majority of his playing career, these holes in his game were debunked at times. However, internal competition with ex-Swansea striker, Alberto Paloschi, does put him in under the gun to produce. On the contrary, three goals in five games — and 180 minutes of action — has Gian Piero Gasperini favoring the physical striker more than Paloschi who has yet to score in five appearances this season since his return to Italy.
At 21 years old, Petagna still has an entire career ahead of him. Currently, he is still trying to establish himself as a starting striker in Serie A, which could come this season though maintaining a goal per 60 minute scoring rate seems unlikely.
Under Gasperini, youth has been at the forefront through seven matches, and that should remain the case over the course of a long season. What makes Atalanta such a pleasant environment for Petagna is the fact that youth involvement is heavily emphasized; Andrea Conti, Alberto Grassi and Franck Kessié — who we profiled here — are at the heart of this fledgling side from Bergamo.
Perhaps the biggest element working in his favour is the fact that Gasperini looks keen on giving him an increase in minutes while the former Chievo Verona striker struggles. This is positive for Petagna as starting minutes are vital to his growth.
On the international stage, Petagna has quite a bit of experience, despite not having made his debut for Luigi Di Biagio’s Azzurrini side. However, given his recent form, he is hopeful of receiving that first cameo against Lithuania in the Euro 2017 U-21 qualifier next week.
The Trieste-born striker has traveled a long road to first-team football after bouncing around from club to club. However, things are beginning to open up for Petagna at the club level and for country. He is still an unfinished — and unproven — product in the Italian top-flight, but early season indications show that he could have a quality career in Italy should he remain focused.
Atalanta are not considered a formidable foe yet despite the crop of youngsters in the fold, but down the road The Goddess could shape into one with Petagna leading the line.