Gian Piero Gasperini explains how the current Atalanta is different to the side that hit Champions League heights after the 3-3 thriller with Juventus. ‘There was physicality and technique, whereas now we prefer pace.’
La Dea have well and truly rediscovered their scoring touch, but also their chaotic concept of defending, as after an 8-2 win over Salernitana and 5-2 Coppa Italia victory with Spezia, they were held 3-3 in Turin.
Ademola Lookman had bent back Wojciech Szczesny’s gloves in the opening five minutes, but an Angel Di Maria penalty and Arkadiusz Milik volley turned it around by half-time.
The Bergamo Boys went 3-2 up through Joakim Maehle and a Lookman free header on Jeremie Boga’s cross, only for Danilo to break the Atalanta wall on a free kick routine.
“Lookman had an extraordinary performance. We conceded two goals in the first half by losing the ball pretty cheaply, and those are situations where we should’ve been more careful,” Gasperini told DAZN.
“We always had character and quality, even in games where the results were a bit like tonight. I saw a definite growth from the start of the season, partly because of the freshness and personality of these lads who arrived. If you come to Turin just to defend, you will probably lose on a penalty or free kick. I always believe you need to score goals in these games or you don’t get a result.”
Giorgio Scalvini is another remarkable product of the Atalanta youth academy who has grown into the team.
“He is a leader, despite being 19 years old, both on and off the field. He is destined for greatness, you can play him anywhere and he’ll do the job. I like him in defence, because he is confident playing out from the back, has class and quality.”
The coach was asked if this trident of Boga, Lookman and Rasmus Hojlund can be compared to the legendary Atalanta trio of Duvan Zapata, Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic.
“The characteristics are completely different, especially as Duvan Zapata is very physical, whereas Hojlund is just 19, he will grow. Papu and Ilicic had extraordinary technique, whereas Boga and Lookman prefer pace. If we score as many goals, I don’t mind!”
Considering Juventus were docked 15 points and Atalanta do not have the commitments of European football to worry about, are La Dea genuine contenders for a top four finish?
“In the years we qualified for the Champions League, we didn’t know at the start what our target was, we just earned it along the way by seeing how competitive we were. That is the same this year. Of course, our position is good now, but there’s a long way to go yet. Nobody is holding back if we do, but this is a very strange campaign where we don’t know what will happen.
“Frankly, I am not happy when tables are changed during a season, I prefer it to be done at the start or the end, otherwise there is little credibility.”
The mood in the stadium was inevitably affected by this being the first game since Juventus were docked 15 points for artificially inflating transfer fees to boost capital gains.
Gasperini and Atalanta are famous for their capital gains, increasing the value of players and selling them on at a profit.
“I am a man who is happy on the pitch, who is happy to see a lad arrive at Atalanta, grow and move on to bigger things. It makes Atalanta happy, as it allows us to regenerate and refresh the squad. This is my role.
“Atalanta have often been unfairly and incorrectly pulled into these matters, but our capital gains are real.”