If the mindset of a league can be judged by the performances of its European qualifiers, Serie A has gone gung-ho. Where once upon a time such clashes would dish out their goals with parsimony, they are now sprinkling them around like the chocolate dust on your cappuccino.
Watching Roma and Atalanta go head to head was much better value than seeing two top YouTubers trading punches on pay-per-view, even if the outcome - a draw - was the same.
The purists will probably tell you that such high-scoring encounters say more about a team’s deficiencies than its strengths. Certainly, nobody would be tipping either of these two sides to finish with the tightest back-line in the division. However, they both served up huge dollops of play to suggest they can still be major protagonists this season. Not perfect, perhaps, but all the more gripping for their foibles and failings.
Roma’s fall and rise in their second league outing was as dramatic as that of the city’s empire. An audacious piece of skill from Javier Pastore gave them a lead, but they were then blown away by their visitors. It took a change of personnel and the slow and almost inevitable deflation of Atalanta’s energy to turn things around. By the end, they might well have snatched victory.
The first half looked for all the world like a mournful ode to the loss of Kevin Strootman. Many Giallorossi fans got out of their beds on Monday morning irked by the news of his imminent departure to rejoin Rudi Garcia at Olympique de Marseille.
The opening 45 minutes will have done little to improve their mood, with Bryan Cristante and Lorenzo Pellegrini so ineffectual that few would have noticed when they were hooked at half-time. With midfield enforcer Radja Nainggolan and stellar goalkeeper Alisson Becker already long gone, they looked like a team which had lost its way. It appeared there would be tears in many a post-match plate of cacio e pepe.
But the boys from Bergamo - fielding a largely second string with Europe on their minds - eventually started to wilt while substitutes Steven Nzonzi and Justin Kluivert appeared to make a difference. It wasn’t tactically perfect, but at least Eusebio Di Francesco’s side showed heart.
They drove on for a draw that suggested that if they started matches with the two men they brought on at the interval, then they might have more to offer. It will take time to adjust to some big changes in the squad, but there were flickers of hope in the courage of this recovery.
As for Atalanta, their supporters must be grinning from ear to ear these days. Everything Gian Piero Gasperini does at the moment seems to work to perfection. He came within a whisker of pulling off a victory in Rome while resting most of the men he hopes will see his side progress in the Europa League.
Despite the major change of personnel, they remained the same snarling, stylish and in-your-face outfit we have come to expect. It bodes well for another good year on two fronts.
The fact that both teams conceded three goals, of course, raises question marks about their defensive qualities, but those kinds of corrections can wait. For now, pour yourself a prosecco and enjoy the sparkle that Italian football is splashing about at the moment.
Time will tell how it fares against its continental rivals but, for the time being, it is delivering a bubbly start to the Serie A season with 33 goals in 10 games this weekend. Long may this new devil-may-care approach continue.
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