Saturday October 10 2020
Gasperini: 'Now they all play like Atalanta'

Gian Piero Gasperini notes the three-man defence was considered ‘heresy’ at Inter during his brief tenure, but ‘now Inter, Roma, Juventus and Lazio all play’ like Atalanta.

It’s remarkable to think after reaching the Champions League quarter-finals that Gasperini’s tenure almost ended within a couple of months of his appointment in June 2016, as his team lost four of their first five games.

“We were at a training camp and I made some different choices, introducing a few young players. It was a very tough morning,” Gasp told reports at the Festival dello Sport event.

“I had already been close to Atalanta in 2011, but that year I went to Inter instead. Using a three-man defence there was considered heresy, but now Inter, Roma, Juventus and Lazio all play with three at the back. I believe it’s the best way to build out from the back and the results are proving me right.

“I have to thank the players for embracing my style of football. For a long time, people said that we just ran more than anyone else, but we’re in the average if you look at the figures. We’ve got great technique, otherwise we wouldn’t score 98 goals.

“My idea of football is to get everyone involved and we train a great deal with the ball, that is the main issue. For example, Pierluigi Gollini is a modern goalkeeper who has evolved in extraordinary fashion and plays with the team.”

Atalanta have caught the eye outside Italy too and will go into their second consecutive Champions League campaign, this time facing Liverpool and Ajax.

“Dutch football certainly influenced my vision. We’ll be up against two giants of the sport who won the Champions League, but our ambition is not just to impress, we intend to get through to the next round.”

The UEFA squad list includes Josip Ilicic, who has not played since July due to personal issues.

“I was among the most sceptical that he could return, but he’s giving an incredible response in training and I think he’ll be back very soon,” confirmed Gasperini.

Bergamo was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy back in February and March, with reports the Champions League game against Valencia at San Siro was a superspreader event.

“The toughest moment was when we returned from Valencia, as Bergamo was a completely different city. It was like a time of war. We only heard sirens in the streets, we read of awful situations.

“I had COVID-19 without knowing, as I felt a little unwell for a couple of days, but I never had any respiratory problems. The whole thing was terrifying.”

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