Gian Piero Gasperini and his Atalanta side have set tongues wagging with the Italian tactician’s unorthodox style producing goals aplenty this season.

There are no surprises that Atalanta have been one of Europe’s most-entertaining sides in 2019/2020. With 87 goals in all competitions this season, scoring has been the least of Gasperini’s sides worries. 

La Dea occupy fourth place in Serie A, having scored a mammoth 70 goals in 25 league games, 20 more than Champions Juventus and 10 more than second-placed Lazio (who have the league’s top scorer with 27 goals, Ciro Immobile, in their ranks).


Having knocked Juve out on the way to the Coppa Italia final, they finished third in 2018/2019 to qualify for Europe’s premier competition for the first time in their 111-year history

A first Champions League campaign started slowly as La Dea registered only one point from their first four group games, before sneaking into the knockout rounds.
Preceded by an 8-4 aggregate win over Valencia in the Round of 16, where Slovenian marksman Josip Iličić put Los Che to the sword with five goals in the tie; scoring a remarkable four in the second leg to become the oldest player to score a hat-trick in a Champions League away game and the fourth player to score four goals in the Champions League.

Atalanta’s left-footed marksman, Josip Ilicic. (Getty Images)
Iličić is fast being regarded as the best player in Italy currently for his consistency, with the most goals by a Serie A player in all competitions, 14, in 2020.

However, situated in Bergamo in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, one of the most badly-hit by the Coronavirus pandemic in Italy. Atalanta fans were not able to witness their team make history as the city had been on lockdown, with public gatherings banned before the Italian authorities and duly the rest of Europe followed suit last week.

It is a remarkable story for the club with the 12th-highest wage-bill in the Italian top flight, about €35million.
Atalanta average the second-highest league goals per game (2.8) in Europe’s top five Leagues, behind only Bayern Munich, and boast the most shots per game (20.1) in Europe.
Gasperini’s men have scored seven goals on three occasions so far in 2019/20 and memorably hit AC Milan for five.
How then, have Atalanta dispatched opponents with consummate ease?

Gasperini’s 3-4-2-1 shape is nothing new in Italy but his unconventional system features ultra-aggressive attacking with a high-risk, high-reward mentality that encourages crisp passing, dribbling, through balls and shooting from distance.
Defensively, the team is set in a fluid man-marking system which allows the forwards to press very high up the pitch. While the three centre backs engage opponents man-to-man, the wing-backs maintain the width of the pitch in attacking areas with two rigid central midfielders creating a midfield square with the creative duo behind a centre forward; for which Gasperini usually prefers the pairing of a hybrid attacking midfielder (Gomez) and an inside-forward (Iličić).

This system allows the attackers to pin the opposition with their man-oriented pressing and combine their attacking talents to wreak havoc.
Atalanta have been one of the stories of the season. (Getty Images/ Emilio Andreoli)
The 62-year-old has used his group of misfits, who have finally launched their careers in one way or another; Duván Zapata, Luis Muriel, Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez, Mario Pašalić and even Iličić have found a home in Bergamo.

Simply put, Gasperini is a master of the art of over-achieving. He led Crotone and Genoa to promotion to Serie A in his first year and is leading Atalanta’s fairytale via a disappointing spell at Inter Milan in 2011, and another at Palermo (where he was sacked twice in the same season). 

Having seen Europa League qualification in his first year followed up by Champions League qualification and now a first appearance in the knockout rounds. Gasperini has Atalanta well on the cusp of evolution and they possess a trusted academy system that continues to produce when their players move to bigger clubs.

Drawing many parallels with Leicester City’s improbable rise from the lower-leagues to the Premier League title in 2016. The City of Bergamo has seen its group of foreign misfits become the most entertaining side in Italy.

Indeed, Gasperini has turned his unorthodox style into a goal-scoring machine. Putting Atalanta on everyone’s lips.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blog Meets Brand