Bergamo Kings: Why underdogs Atalanta are achieving big things
Gasperini’s men sit fifth in Serie A
They get one of Serie A’s smaller attendances. They’ve never spent £15m or more on a player. And their manager was dismissed in a matter of weeks by both Inter Milan and Palermo.
But they’re currently sat fifth in Italy’s top flight. So how are Atalanta this good?
The Bergamo club finished fourth in Serie A in 2016-17, and seventh last term. Right now, they’re fifth – and just four points below third-placed Inter. We investigate the secret behind the success at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
Their transfer model is perfect
Atalanta’s youth system is surely the envy of Serie A’s big guns. While Gambian prodigy Musa Barrow is probably the biggest academy success currently on the books of La Dea, he’s the latest in a long line of them.
Centre-back Mattia Caldara came through the youth set-up in Bergamo before being sold to Juventus for around £16m in January 2017. So too did Roberto Gagliardini (shipped to Inter for £17m) and Alessandro Bastoni (£25m to the same club). And chances are they’ll get another windfall when Franck Kessie – on loan to AC Milan – exits permanently.
The money reaped by those departures has been spent fairly modestly, but smartly.
Colombian hitman Duvan Zapata is already on 20 goals in all competitions this term. Meanwhile, Timothy Castagne has become one of the league’s most creative full-backs since his £6m move from Genk in 2017.
It’s hard to sum up a club’s ethos in stats, but Atalanta have scored 13 Serie A goals after the 70-minute mark this season. They’ve also come from behind to win or draw five times.
La Dea are currently on a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions, winning five of those. But that streak looked to be dead in the water in the recent clash with AS Roma.
3-0 down after 40 minutes, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side stuck to their game-plan and rallied back to take a precious point from I Giallorossi.
Atalanta’s second goal – headed home by Rafael Toloi – came from a fine team move, which underlined their squad-over-stars focus. As for Roma, this was the first time they’d surrendered a three-goal lead since February 2011.
Three at the back is good for Gasperini
After his San Siro shellacking and two miserable stints at Palermo (with a total of three wins in 23 games), Gasperini has gradually rebuilt his reputation.
As Genoa boss, he led the side to a sixth-placed finish in 2014-15 – still their best Serie A finish of this decade. And the secret to his success that term was largely down to his adoption of three at the back, switching between 3-4-3 and 3-4-2-1.
It’s something he’s carried over as Atalanta boss. They’ve got a well-balanced defensive trio, with the powerful pair of Gianluca Mancini and Berat Djimsiti joined by the classy, ball-playing Toloi (who’s also a real set-piece threat).
Further forward, the width Atalanta play with in attacking areas is ideal for Zapata, who has a strong claim to being the league’s most effective target man.
Next up is the visit of a SPAL side who’ve lost eight of their last 11 away games, and currently sit 14th in Serie A.
Gasperini’s side beat Juventus 3-0 in the Coppa Italia last week, and a repeat of that scoreline against SPAL is up for grabs at 7/1.
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