The spread of the coronavirus in most parts of the world has led to the suspension of major footballing activities around Europe. Among those footballing activities affected is the Italian Serie A.
This season’s Italian Serie A has been one of the most competitive and exciting ones in several years. The competitiveness of this season is due to the import of world-class players into the league along with the rapid rise of several unknown talents in Italian Football. As a result, Italian sides are producing outstanding performances in both local and continental football. The surprising addition to the list of Italian teams dominating on both the local and continental scene is the small club from Bergamo, Atalanta B.C. In a season where the likes of Juventus, Napoli, and Inter Milan have flattered to deceive on multiple occasions, Atalanta has raised their game.
Despite securing a historical first-time Champions League qualification after finishing third in the Serie A, football experts tipped Atalanta to struggle this season, looking at their involvement in European competition. However, that has not been the case this season. This season has seen them earn the reputation of being one of the ruthless and formidable teams in Europe. Their ruthlessness has made them one of the highest-scoring teams in football this season. This was evident in both legs of their last 16 tie against the Spanish side, Valencia in the Champions League. The 4-1 thrashing of Valencia in Milan all but sealed their progression to the next stage of Europe’s elite club competition. They are also “dark horses” in the race for the UEFA Champions League title this year.
For a team that was battling relegation a few years ago, it has been a meteoric rise from mid-table to Serie A and Champions League giants. Currently, Atalanta is the most exciting European team to watch. They now lie in the fourth position on the Serie A table with 48 points from 25 matches. They have also booked a place in the Quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. We take a look at some of the factors behind the incredible season they are having.
The Collective Contribution of Lesser-Known Players
Atalanta’s status as a “small club” means they do not have the financial muscle to compete with the likes of Juventus, Inter Milan, Napoli and Roma in the transfer market for world-class players in the world. However, in football, success does not solely hinge on the acquisition of just world-class talents. It is a team sport. In turn, the team has relied on lesser-known players who are gradually becoming rising stars in World Football today. As a team, Atalanta B.C embodies the spirit of teamwork. The likes of Josip Iličić, Alejandro Darío Gómez, Duván Zapata, and Robin Gosens are all either emerging talents or players who have risen from being fringe players in their former clubs to bona fide stars in their prime.
Josip Iličić has contributed 20 goals and five assists from 25 appearances in all competitions this season at the age of 32. These are incredible numbers from a player nearing the twilight of his career. This season has also been his highest goal-scoring season in Serie A. The Slovenian has been transformed since moving to Bergamo after struggling at Fiorentina. His partner up front, Duván Zapata, has also chipped 12 goals and five assists from 15 games in all competitions.
Robin Gosens, who predominantly plays at left-back, has also registered eight goals and five assists in all competitions. The club’s most influential player, Captain Alejandro Gómez, has also bagged seven goals and 12 assists in 31 appearances in all competitions. Even at the old age of 32, the Argentine continues to produce impressive performances on numerous occasions.
Other players, including Luis Muriel, Rafael Tolói, Mario Pasalic, Marten de Roon, and Remo Freuler, have also been influential for the team behind the main men in the group.
Coach Gian Piero Gasperini and his Attacking Football Philosophy
As a coach, Gian Piero Gasperini has had his fair share of disappointments in the past. His sackings from the likes of Genoa, Inter Milan, and Palermo did little to help managerial career. As a result, his appointment at Atalanta was a surprise to the supporters. However, he has finally enhanced his reputation for his tactical brilliance at Atalanta. In his four years at the club, he has drastically transformed their fortunes and carved a reputation as one of Europe’s most exceptional managers. His attacking philosophy has been the key feature of the Atalanta team since his appointment. Despite the difficult start he had with the club, he has been able to implement a system that gets the best out of his players. His system revolves a solid back three and the utilization of creative wing-backs to provide the width for both the midfield and attack. As a result, the wing-backs also have the freedom to join the attack in transition. The midfielders have the license to make darting runs into the opposition box. The front two also consist of a striker and an inside forward. This system has worked to perfection as Atalanta have scored an incredible 87 goals from 34 games in all competitions this season, averaging 2.8 goals per game and 18.5 shots per game from an average 55.7% possession. The team’s tally of 70 goals in the Serie A so far is the highest in the league, ten goals ahead of Lazio.
It is evident that the team is on an upward trajectory and is the result of the manager’s attacking football philosophy.