Tuesday, 18 June 2019

A Sensational Season Story: Atalanta

The 2018/19 season will be fondly remembered by fans of Atalanta. The fans watched their side secure a 3rd place finish in Serie A and secure a place in the Champions League for the first time in their history. Gianpiero Gasperini's team charged towards the Champions League beating the likes of Roma, AC Milan and Lazio to steal a place at the top table of European football.

12 months ago, Atalanta had lost to Danish side FC Copenhagen in the Europa League qualifiers and things had hit rock bottom at that point. However, Gasperini picked them up and got them going again but their start to Serie A was disappointing collecting just one win in their opening 8 games leaving them stuck in the bottom half of the table. Overall, it was a mixed first half of the season for Atalanta collecting 28 points prior to the winter break. But Gasperini's team have had a tremendous 2019 losing just twice and finished the season unbeaten in 13 games which included 9 wins. Gasperini's men turned up the heat in the new year scoring goals for fun while building from the back. Atalanta's flair, firepower and togetherness were there for all to see as they stormed into the Champions League places.

Credit goes to Gasperini for the job he has done at Atalanta but the players he has got are performing for him and the fans. Argentine Alejandro Gomez has been a fans favourite for a number of seasons and once again he played an important role in their record-breaking campaign. The winger notched 7 goals and 11 assists this season but his versatility allowed Gasperini to almost give him a free role in the team. Another attacker who enjoyed an impressive season is Slovenian forward Josip Ilicic. The forward has been a terrific acquisition since arriving from Fiorentina and he enjoyed an excellent season notching 12 goals and setting up 7 goals. The physical forward possess excellent quality and Gasperini has certainly got a tune out of him this season. While the forwards have delivered up front, Atalanta would certainly struggle without their flying wing backs Timothy Castagne and Robin Gosens. Castagne and Gosens have been outstanding this season with their dynamic runs up and down the flanks and their tenacious play to get Atalanta going forward. While their assists count is 4 between them, Gasperini frequently praises them and no doubt they are vital to Atalanta's style of play. Gasperini has formed strong partnerships across the team and no doubt the partnership between Marten De Roon and Remo Freuler is strong. De Roon and Freuler have been brilliant in the heart of the Atalanta midfield breaking up play and leading attacks. While their goal returns are small, their role in the team is crucial because Gasperini relies on them to break down the play and their steel-like partnership has won plenty of plaudits across Europe. 

Atalanta's transfer business has also been crucial to their success, in particular, their use of the loaning players. Mario Pasalic and Duvan Zapata have been fantastic pieces of business for Atalanta with Zapata, in particular, enjoying a terrific season notching 23 goals in Serie A with only veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella scoring more. The Colombian striker has been in red hot form this season and his incisive running and instinctive finishing have firmly been unlocked by Gasperini having flattered to deceive at Napoli and Sampdoria. The striker is finally realising how good he is and Gasperini deserves huge credit for unlocking him and no doubt with Atalanta in the Champions League next season, Gasperini will want him on a permanent deal. Mario Pasalic has also impressed during his loan spell from Chelsea. The Croatian midfielder has struggled to break in at Chelsea but may have finally found a home in Italy. He made 33 appearances scoring 5 goals in the process and has certainly won the affection of the Atalanta fans. Gasperini will no doubt want to keep Pasalic and Zapata at the club ahead of their debut Champions League campaign.

It was a fantastic 2018/19 for Atalanta and no doubt Gasperini will certainly want to build on it heading into the busy transfer window and pre-season period. Could Atalanta dare to challenge for the Serie A title? Well, based on how they finished the season they have every chance of fighting Italy's big boys. Atalanta will certainly want to make an impression in the Champions League having finally earned the opportunity to pit their wits against Europe's best. There is no doubt Atalanta have a fantastic team and will fancy they can ruffle some feathers in the new season but it has been a sensational season for the Nerazzurri.

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