Atalanta have gone from provincial side to Champions League sensation with perhaps the most entertaining football in Italy and Elio Salerno credits Gian Piero Gasperini.
Outgoing Juventus boss Max Allegri made history after securing his fifth consecutive Scudetto with the club, while Simone Inzaghi triumphed in the Coppa Italia Final, bringing silverware to Lazio. Leonardo Semplici and Aurelio Andreazzoli are others who deserve credit for their progressive SPAL and Empoli sides. However, the tactician who has been highly commended from all quarters is Gian Piero Gasperini. The man in charge of Atalanta has deservedly earned rave reviews for their cup exploits and Champions League coup.
Gasperini has continually performed above expectations during his tenure at the Bergamo club. The 61-year-old former Genoa boss was appointed in June 2016 and has been the key factor in La Dea’s rise up the Serie A table. What Gasp has accomplished since his appointment has been inspirational.
Prior to his arrival, Atalanta had finished the 2015-2016 below mid-table, closer to the bottom three than the top six, and have now not only secured a place in Europe for the third consecutive year, but gone straight to the Champions League for the first time in their history. Impressively finishing above the likes of Milan, Inter, Roma and Lazio in recent years, it is their fearless and audacious brand of football that has caught the eye.
The Nerazzurri’s wage bill is the seventh lowest in the Italian top flight and over four times less than the giants they have been competing with for a place in the top four. Perhaps most impressive of all is the competitive level Gasperini has been able to maintain, considering the turnover in playing staff they have endured. These are players that formed a fundamental part of their early success, the likes of Bryan Cristante, Roberto Gagliardini, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Leonardo Spinazzola and Mattia Caldara have all been sold to their competitors for large fees.
An astute business model combined with the intelligence of Gasperini has meant Atalanta have not suffered as a result of losing players, in fact they have surprisingly been able to improve. The environment that has been created within the club is unique and as a result it is flourishing in every department.
Gli Orobici have been a pleasure to watch this term. Mister Gasperini’s imaginative, intelligent and industrious 3-4-1-2 has multiple layers. From their man-to-man high press to their expansive attacking set-up, Atalanta are a menacing opponent. The Coach has a special way of revitalizing, developing and moulding players into his system, helping them perform beyond their anticipated level.
From Marten de Roon to Remo Freuler and Hans Hateboer, they are just a small sample of professionals that have improved significantly under Gasp, while Duvan Zapata is a striker that is now wanted across Europe after netting 22 Serie A goals, double his previous best. Purchasing Zapata last summer to play alongside super talented captain Papu Gomez and the spellbinding Josip Ilicic has allowed Gasperini to forge the best and most aesthetically pleasing attacking trio in Serie A.
Gasperini has certainly been calcio’s outstanding Coach this year, as taking what was previously deemed a provincial club to the Champions League is an exceptional achievement. Atalanta and Gasperini have set an example for the rest. In an era where the elite are becoming unreachable, La Dea are breaking the rules, scripting a legendary era and behind it all is a football mastermind.