From having gained promotion to the Seria A in 2010-2011 to outscoring the likes of Juventus in the 2019-20 season, this Bergamo based football club has come a long way. A football match is won when a team outscores the other and Atalanta doesn’t seem to be having any problems in that aspect.
Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, popularly known as Atalanta is a professional football club based in Bergamo, Italy. The club plays in the Seria A having gained promotion from Seria B in 2010-2011.
In recent times the club was relegated three times after 2002-03, 2004-04 and 2009-10 seasons, but were able to gain promotion to the Seria A after only one season in Seria B
From 2010 to 2016, the Italian club struggled with relegation each time, narrowly escaping it each time.
In 2016 the club hired Gian Piero Gasperini and what followed is nothing less than a fairytale.
2016- Present: The Gasperini era
Gian Piero Gasperini was appointed as the Head coach of Atalanta B.C. in 2016, with the goal of competing in European competition. At the beginning of Gasperini’s first season, the 2016-17 season, Atalanta struggled and the new manager was on the verge of dismissal.
Gasperini managed to secure a impressive fourth place finish for his club that season following a series of positive results. This secured a Europa League spot for the club for the first time in 26 years.
Atalanta qualified for the Europa League in the 2017-18 season finishing 7th in the league. However, 2018-19 was the season when the fairytale really began.
In the beginning of the 2018-19 season, the Bergamo side struggled, managing only one victory in their first 8 matches. However, Gasperini managed to pull off a 13 match unbeaten run that secured a UEFA Champions League spot for them for the first time in their history
Atalanta also made the finals of 2018-19 Copa Italia knocking out a star-studded Juventus team and barely falling short to Lazio in the finals.
Atalanta’s Champions League campaign also began poorly, losing their first three matches. However, they still managed to get through to the round of 16 and managed to upset Valencia 8-4 over the two legs.
After a 2-0 win against Sampdoria, Gasperini’s side had won 9 games in a row. Atalanta had three players ( Muriel, Illicic and Zapata) with 15 goals or more in a season, this was the first time since Juventus in 1952 that a Seria A club has three players with more than 15 or more goals in a season.
Scoring goals for fun
Atalanta had scored 98 goals in Seria A in the 2019-20 season which was second only to Bayern Munich who had scored 100 goals in the Bundesliga.
Having such an attacking setup also leaves holes in the defense but Gasperini’s Atalanta have constantly outscored their opponents.
Gasperini prefers a back three with each of the central defenders being comfortable with the ball in their feet. Hence Gasperini attacks with seven outfield players.
Gasperini prefers a 3-5-2 formation with the front two strikers being the main two creators of the team. Alejandro Gomez and Josip Illicic fall back into the half spaces and pull back the defenders along with them.
If the defenders donot track the strikers of Atalanta, they are allowed with lots of space but if the defenders do decide to track back, they are caught way out of position. While the two strikers became the creators, there lacked a main focal point in the attack. This however didn’t matter as the whole team appeared to flow around these two players. These causes overloads of players in the opposition half and more often than not Atalanta ends up scoring
The crowding of certain parts of the pitch forces the opponents to bring players from elsewhere to tackle the crowd, leaving the opponents disorganized.
By having no fixed striker and encouraging players to move around the pitch, Atalanta creates a sense of chaos, a highly organized chaos which Gasperini and his coaching staff hasdeeply imbedded in the players.
When Atalanta are on form it seems that the ball flows seamlessly from one side of the pitch to the other. Every movement of the ball triggers runs from supporting players. These kinds of coordination and understanding don’t come overnight, instead, they require hours and hours of practice.
The drawback of attacking football
There is one serious drawback of playing such an attacking style of football and that is being left vulnerable at the back. It seems that Gasperini has accepted the price of attacking football that he holds so dearly. Even when the opposition starts attacking, the two strikers cum creators don't fall back but instead stay in the half-spaces and wait for the ball to be retrieved to begin the counter attack.
The two wing backs fall back forming a back five and the three midfieldesr press aggressively to deny the opponents space and time on the ball.
Atalanta were the most impressive side in Seria A last season and possibly the most impressive side all over Europe considering that they have only a fraction of the budget that the big teams have. With Gasperini still in charge of the club, there is no saying on how high Atalanta can fly this season