Atalanta have endured plenty of ups and downs over the years, and with just a single Coppa Italia triumph to their name, their trophy cabinet has been left largely untouched for the last four decades. However, since his arrival in 2016, Gian Piero Gasperini has significantly improved their fortunes, and although he is yet to clinch any silverware, he has managed to guide the Bergamo-based side back into Europe whilst simultaneously transforming a perennially mid-table outfit into one of the most watchable sides in Serie A.
They finished the 2019-20 campaign in third place, just five points shy of Scudetto winners Juventus. Their blistering mid-season form put them into title contention, and although some fans dared to dream, it all sadly unravelled at the Juventus Stadium in mid-July. Nevertheless, La Dea can hold their heads up high, and are likely to come back even stronger next season.
Italian football has struggled to shake off its reputation for being ultra-defensive over the last couple of decades, and Atalanta are certainly doing their bit to help quash this rather outdated view. Gasperini’s men notched 98 goals during the course of the campaign, with both teams finding the back of the net in 26 of their 38 fixtures. Their 3-4-2-1 formation allows them to play with plenty of width with the wing-backs getting forward at every opportunity. They have pace all over the pitch, and although they shipped more goals than every other top six side, their ability to outscore their opponents has rendered their defensive lapses largely irrelevant.
As a result, La Dea have been tremendously entertaining to watch, and they have become the perfect antidote to the more defensively-minded Juventus and Inter Milan. This season, they stuck six past near-neighbours Brescia and have hit their opponents for seven on three separate occasions. On December 22nd, they beat AC Milan 5-0 at the Gewiss Stadium, and were involved in high-scoring draws with both Lazio and Napoli.
The Nerazzuri have also enjoyed success in the Champions League despite making a slow start. After losing their first three matches in the competition, the Lombardy-based side picked up seven points from their remaining group games, before demolishing Valencia in the last 16. However, they conceded twice late on to surrender a 1-0 lead to PSG, who are now second-favourites at 5/2 in the UEFA Champions League latest odds to win the whole thing.
Despite their modest wage bill, the former Genoa coach has managed to get the best out of his squad with Josip Ilicic, Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel all netting at least 15 times this season. The impressive Alejandro Gomez has registered 16 assists, whilst Ukrainian Ruslan Malinovskiy has scored eight times despite making just twelve starts.
Although many of their star players are likely to be linked with a move away this summer, it may not necessarily be in their best interests to leave northern Italy. Under Gasperini, every player has an understanding of their role, despite an impressive amount of positional interplay. The 62-year old has got the best out of players who haven’t necessarily shone under previous regimes, and has managed to mould them into a cohesive unit.
Atalanta have still enjoyed a superb twelve months, and have now firmly established themselves as one of the most watchable and exciting sides in Europe.