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How Gian Piero Gasperini performed a miracle with Atalanta

Sunday 25th June 2017
When they started the season, the objective for Atalanta was to avoid the drop. Then they hired Gian Piero Gasperini from Genoa and ended up at the sunny side of the Serie A table. For the first time in over two decades, Atalanta will play European football. How did Gasperini perform this sort of miracle with Atalanta? We take a look.

Gian Piero Gasperini has had his ups and downs as a manager. At Inter Milan, his methods were constantly being criticised by the Nerazzurri faithful and within a year was booted out of the job after a poor run.

He returned to Genoa after a short stint at Palermo. Three years on, both manager and club had still not left a spot and a move elsewhere was imminent.

Then came Atalanta. The Bergamo club had seen Gasperini as the ideal candidate to help them maintain their Serie A status, at least for another season.

That vision looked misguided when after the first five games of the season, a Gasperini-led Atalanta had lost four of those. Things looked grim. Albeit, there was still room for improvement and Gasperini would do his bit to make Atalanta fill it.

Avoiding relegation was the target, a mid-table finish would've been remarkable, but the former Crotone gaffer would do even better; he would deliver a continental ticket to the Bergamaschi club – a fourth place finish and a place in next season's Europa League.

This would be Atalanta's first appearance in a European competition since 1991 (26 years ago). They had never finished in the top half of the table since emerging from Serie B in 2011.

To put it in lighter terms, Gian Piero Gasperini performed wonders with Atalanta last season. Here, we take a look at how he accomplished that feat.

The 3-4-3 formation

It's the formation of the year, isn't it? Everyone seems to achieve success with the 3-4-3. Antonio Conte revamped Chelsea with it, Mauricio Pochettino nearly won the Premier League with it; Arsene Wenger kept his job by switching to three at the back; Barcelona did the unthinkable against Paris Saint-Germain by playing with a back three; the list is endless…

Gian Piero Gasperini also rejuvenated Atalanta by installing his own brand of the 3-4-3 system. The 59-year-old Italian manager carefully chose his back three; the likes of Mattia Caldara, Andrea Masiello and Rafael Tolói worked together at the back to ensure that Atalanta had the fourth-best defence in the league.
Andrea Conti, who played predominantly as a right wing-back, was as good a threat going forward as he was in defence – the Italian scored eight times to make him the most prolific defender in Europe's top five leagues.

With strong and untiring midfielders like Franck Kessié and Switzerland's Remo Freuler, players like Alejandro Gomez always found the space to squeeze in goals and assists that helped Atalanta turn draws into wins.

Faith in youth

Young players are beginning to step up and managers who give them the chance end up reaping the benefits. Gasperini was one of such managers. The Italian decided to give the young ones a fighting chance and they repaid his faith by making Atalanta one of the fastest and most athletic club in Serie A;  this can be seen in their wins against Napoli and draw to Juventus.

Mattia Caldara, 23, was super efficient in defence. His unique blend of pace and composure at the back was invaluable. Caldara was also a big threat going forward – contributing seven Serie A goals. Showing so much promise, Juventus swooped and made him their property in January, although, the Old Lady immediately loaned him back to Atalanta for one more season.

Franck Kessié was another of Gasperini's prodigies who shone like a million stars for Atalanta last season. The 20-year-old Ivorian became one of the most coveted youngsters in Europe.

Young defenders, Leonardo Spinazzola (24) and Andrea Conti (23) were vital to Atalanta's success; their pace, strength and dexterous skill down the left and right wing respectively were a constant terror to opponents. Gasperini got it spot on in that regard.

The big issue for Gasperini and Atalanta

Gian Piero Gasperini has been offered a three-year contract extension by Atalanta for his impressive first season. However, the major problem for La Dea would be keeping hold of their standout players.

Mattia Caldara has already been signed by Juventus for €15 million, luckily for Atalanta, he'll remain with them for one more year on loan. The same cannot be said for Franck Kessié, who has since moved to Milan, albeit on loan.
Andrea Conti is also close to signing for Milan, with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid also interested.

If Atalanta fails to keep the crux of their key players, then they risk suffering the same faith as Sassuolo last season; who did well to qualify for Europe only to crash out and suffer a horrendous campaign.
Kingsley Ukpai

Kingsley is a football aficionado who craves to read, watch, play and write about the greatest team sport ever known to man. If you're talking football he'll be keen to listen to what you have to say. Loves to play Fantasy Football too.

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