We are going through a period in the history of football where millionaire clubs are dominating the top leagues and they end up fighting for the title of best club in the world in the Champions League. This year, it isn’t any different, but Atalanta is a great example of football played with less resources, a lot of work and excellent performances.
A true fairy tale in the Champions League
This club exists for 112 years and the club from the north of Italy had never been able to reach the biggest club competition in Europe. It is a club that always lived under the shadow of the Italian giants, and the main title in their history was the Coppa Italia they’ve won 47 years ago.
They were never able to win the Italian Serie A title and, naturally, they were never considered one of the main clubs of the country and, consequently, they never made millionaire investments throughout their history.
One of the main names of this Atalanta’s ascension is, without a doubt, Gian Piero Gasperini, the experienced manager of the club. After arriving during the 2016/2017 season, the manager was able to reach the 4th place during that same season.
At the time, the 4th place wasn’t enough for them to qualify to the Champions League in the Serie A and the team went to the Europa League, where they’ve made a good campaign and were eliminated by Borussia Dortmund. The 2017/2018 season was a point outside the curb on this magical period in the club’s history, with the team finishing in 7th place of the Serie A.
— Giorgio Gori (@giorgio_gori) March 10, 2020
As for the 2018/19 season, they were once again amongst the best clubs on the competition, finishing in 3rd place, ahead of great clubs with a lot of tradition in Italy, such as Internazionale, AC Milan, Roma and Lazio. On the past season, they’ve achieved something incredible, finishing the Italian Serie A as the best attack of the competition with 77 goals scored, surpassing the champions Juventus.
That achievement is being repeated this season, with the team occupying the 4th place and standing out as the best attack once again, with an incredible number of 70 goals scored in only 25 matches. They have 20 more goals scored than Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus, 10 more than Lazio, 21 more than Inter and even 42 more than the giant AC Milan.
On their debut in the Champions League, they are the sensation of the competition
Generally, the clubs that make their debut on the biggest club competition in the world end up being easily beaten, due to the superior level of the continental competition when compared to their leagues.
Atalanta is a team that is making a great tournament so far. Being drawn into the group that also included the almighty Manchester City, as well as Shakhtar and Dinamo Zagreb, they had the objective of putting up a strong fight for 2nd place.
On their biggest challenge, against Man City, they lost in England by 5-1 and were able to snatch a draw in Italy. They’ve fought for qualification on the last round, away from home against Shakhtar, where they’ve won by 3-0.
Their offensive style was also visible on the continental competition, being a very vertical team, that tends to play with a heavy supported style and with quick transitions.
''Bérgamo é para você''
— Flavio Kavalo (@FlavinhoKavalo) March 10, 2020
Fate decided that their opponents in the 8th finals would be Valencia, not that it is a weak team, but it definitely made the encounter more balanced and allowed the Italians to maintain their playstyle of taking the initiative and not have to change their characteristics to a more reactive approach.
Atalanta ended up being the team with the most goals scored on the 2 matches of this stage of the competition, 8, winning the first match at home by 4-1 and then winning again, this time in Spain, by 4-3.
Gasperini’s team has a bold style, playing with a style that really utilizes the verticality of the men on the wings.
They have a very-well planned passing style, being able to progress on the pitch easily and they have men on the midfield that are available to join the attack at any given time.
It is not mindlessly that they have the most powerful attack of Italian football for the 2nd consecutive year. They still aren’t able to be at the point where they are able to gag their opponents with their offensive style, struggling with transitions and sometimes conceding too many goals.
I admit that I really enjoy watching Atalanta playing, with the team playing with a courageous style, that takes the initiative and accepts the condition of conceding due to the onslaughts of the opponents. In almost every match we see them fighting to see which team is able to attack better.
Football needed more of this, teams that like to have the ball, play, score goals, and not this set of scary teams that are afraid of attacking and conceding goals. The question is: will Atalanta maintain this playstyle when they face a European powerhouse in the quarterfinals? I certainly hope so!