Those who predicted that Atalanta’s success last season was a flash in the pan have been made to look rather foolish as Gian Piero Gasperini’s side have not only maintained their level, but built on top of it.
Indeed, they are currently sitting fourth in Serie A and look destined for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals after a 4-1 demolition of Valencia in their last-16 first-leg against the La Liga side.
Despite this, Gasperini still doesn’t get the credit he so clearly deserves.
What he has achieved in Bergamo over the past two seasons is remarkable, but Atalanta still manage to operate under the radar for the most part, so we’ve taken a look at the 62-year-old’s astonishing reign at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia....
Philosophy over personnel
Atalanta put seven goals past Lecce in a 7-2 win at the weekend.
This in itself was a remarkable result, but even more remarkable is that this was the third time Gasperini’s side have scored seven times in a single match this season. Atalanta are Serie A’s top scorers, and by some distance, scoring 70 times compared to the 60 goals scored by table-toppers Lazio - defending champions Juventus have scored 48.
Bigger clubs have looked to Atalanta for inspiration. They have attempted to replicate what has been achieved at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, luring a number of key players away from the club.
Roberto Gagliardini, Franck Kessie, Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante have all been sold and yet Atalanta have managed to maintain their momentum. They continue to get better and better.
Gian Piero Gasperini is enjoying another exceptional season at Atalanta
Gasperini builds his players up. He gives them the belief they need to take on the Italian and European established order and turn it upside down. The lower standards at Atalanta allow Gasperini to work without the crushing weight of history and expectation on his shoulders. At Inter, for instance, he looked uncomfortable with the demands made of him at such an illustrious club that expects to win every game no matter the circumstances.
The 4-3-3 shape employed by Gasperini has allowed Atalanta to take a cavalier approach, unleashing their attacking talents.
The secret to their success is in the environment created for the players, not the players themselves. Gasperini has built something to last. Atalanta’s success is no flash in the pan.
Could Gasperini be lured away?
A deep run into the Champions League knockout rounds would surely make Gasperini one of the most sought after coaches in the European game.
However, having lasted just a few months at Inter earlier in his career there is no sense that the 62-year-old is desperate for another shot at leading an elite club.
Indeed, Gasperini has been at Atalanta for four years now and has spoken many times about how much he values the sense of home in Bergamo. It’s something he has searched for his entire career, coaching four different clubs between 2010 and 2013 before a three-year spell at Genoa prior to taking over at Atalanta.
If there is one big job that might still appeal to Gasperini it’s the Italy post. Right now, though, Roberto Mancini is doing a respectable job as Azzurri manager. As always a poor tournament showing, with the Euros on the horizon, could create a vacancy and in that eventuality the Atalanta boss would almost certainly be at the top of the shortlist for many.
In Atalanta, Gasperini has been given the freedom to mould a club around him. They are now a reflection of their coach’s identity. Ripping him from Atalanta would rip away the club’s core. Even if Gasperini could be lured by another club, would they be willing to give him what Atalanta have given him?