The tactical genius setting the coaching standard

The Atalanta coach, fresh from steering the provincial Bergamo upstarts to their first-ever Champions League quarter-final and a second consecutive Serie A bronze medal, would never be a prime candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize. Prickly, headstrong and inclined to hold grudges, he says exactly what he thinks and too bad if others do not appreciate his frankness. But why should he care when his high-flying side are so pleasing on the eye, generous and spectacular?

Now in his fifth season at the Atalanta helm, the 62-year-old has succeeded in delivering an astonishing two-for-the-price-of-one deal, combining excellent results over the long term with ratings-busting entertainment value. He’s earned the right to be more than a little superior.

Gasperini’s approach to the game is not solely about X’s and O’s, chessboard moves and the fluidity of his beloved 3-4-3 formation. What he brings to the table is a philosophy for achievement against the odds, a modus operandi based on maximum application and spirit.

Boldness, energy and tempo are his side’s watchwords. These qualities are evident in every aspect of their play: the absurdly high press, intensity of movement, positional interchanges, slick passing, flooding forward in numbers, and wide midfielders transformed into lethal weapons. In an Italian environment that still tends to prioritise caution, Gasperini’s Atalanta represent an oasis in the desert. The men in the black-and-blue stripes just live to take risks. Hence the 116 goals they piled up in all competitions last season, including a massive 98 in Serie A. Continue reading

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