The energy in the stands at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in Bergamo on Sunday was only beaten by the energy shown by the home players as Atalanta defeated Napoli in a restless encounter. Andrea Petagna scored the winner in the ninth minute, and while Napoli tried their best to equalise, the home side stopped Maurizio Sarri’s team from scoring and became only the second team this season to do so.
Atalanta have chosen to focus on nurturing young players over the last few years and chose Gian Piero Gasperini as their new coach in the summer. Gasperini has been famous for his consequent use of a 3-4-3-formation with a large emphasis on fast, aggressive football with high energy and lots of running. This has normally worked to great effect at Genoa, while the older squad at Inter meant the experiment failed miserably and Gasperini was fired. At Atalanta, his tactics coupled with the young and hungry squad could be a perfect match given time.
Atalanta’s start had been mixed, as expected, with the new coach and the new style. From the first six game, they had won two and lost four, so the team needed points to get away from the bottom of the table. Napoli, on the other hand, had been rampant, undefeated thus far and only held by Pescara and Genoa.
Atalanta started well, and got the perfect gift when the captain Alejandro Gomez delivered a cross which deflected off two Napoli defenders before it fell at the feet of former AC Milan youngster Andrea Petagna who only had to put the ball into an open net.
For the remaining 80 minutes, the game was a restless end-to-end encounter where Atalanta finished with 11 shots to Napoli’s 13. Atalanta were aggressive, compact and energetic and when breached, Etrit Berisha saved well three times to ensure the net remained untouched.
Here we see the basic setup from the back. Three centre-backs, two centre-midfielders and two wing-backs.
Gomez (yellow) was stationed wide on the left, with Jasmin Kurtic (red) playing more in between the defensive and midfield line. Petagna was centrally as the striker.
In defence, Gomez pressed Napoli’s right centre-back (Maksimovic) and Petagna pressed the left (Koulibaly). Kurtic would pick up Napoli’s regista, Jorginho. Both Napoli full-backs were left alone so Reina could easily just chip the ball out to them, but when they would come close to the halfway line, the wing-back on the respective side, Andrea Conti on the right and Boukary Dramé on the left, would leave his winger to go and press, with the three centre-backs and the far side wing-back shuffling across to build a back-four behind. This enabled Atalanta to deny Napoli central access most of the time, with Gasperini happy to allow Napoli crosses towards their small attackers.
In the end, Gasperini’s Atalanta earned a really good win with a clean sheet against the free-scoring Napoli. The youngsters such as Mattia Caldara, Conti, Petagna and Roberto Gagliardini were all very good, and given the fact the impressive Franck Yannick Kessie was missing shows this talented Atalanta team can accomplish big things under their new coach. Gasperini’s style craves energy and running; he seems to have a team capable of producing it.
On Saturday, Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio continued their quietly impressive start to the season with a 3-0 win away at Udinese. Two goals from Ciro Immobile either side of a Balde Keita strike saw Lazio cruise to victory. They’re up to fourth, level on points with Roma. For Udinese, the loss was one to many as coach Giuseppe Iachini lost his job on Sunday with the club just a point above the relegation zone.
Roma, kept their third place with a hard-fought 2-1 win at the Olimpico against Inter. There was no birthday appearance for the now turned 40-year-old Francesco Totti, but Edin Dzeko’s opener and Kostas Manolas deflected header ensured Roma took the spoils despite Ever Banega’s beautiful equaliser.
Massimo Oddo’s Pescara played okay against Chievo, dominating the ball and creating some good chances, but Chievo struck twice in the last fifteen minutes, both on the counter-attack to get back to winning ways. They’ve made a brilliant start to the season, and Rolando Maran’s side is fifth, level on 13 points with Roma and Lazio.
Also on 13 is Milan, who came from 3-1 down with 20 minutes to go to win 4-3 at San Siro against Sassuolo. Milan has struggled against Eusebio di Francesco’s team ever since they were promoted, but a questionable penalty converted by Carlos Bacca, a terrific strike from teenager Manuel Locatelli and a header from Gabriel Paletta saw Vincenzo Montella celebrate his biggest win as Milan coach. Despite Sassuolo’s capitulation in the last 20 minutes, they were excellent until then, with young Lorenzo Pellegrini the pick of the bunch. He set up Francesco Acerbi for his strike before jinking through the defence to score a goal of his own. Sassuolo keep developing Italian talent, and Pellegrini is the latest talent shining bright.
Another player shining bright is Iago Falqué. The Spaniard scored twice last week as Torino defeated Roma and now scored one and assisted Marco Benassi to the winner against Fiorentina. Torino have now registered two really strong wins and are up to seventh, just three points behind Napoli. Impressive turnaround by Sinisa Mihajlovic’ side after a poor start.
Fiorentina on the other hand, are down in 14th with pressure mounting on Paulo Sousa. They look weaker than last year and need a good run of results to ease the pressure. Sousa’s biggest job is to get Nikola Kalinic scoring and Josip Ilicic playing well. Khouma Babacar came off the bench to score again and might be in line to start after the international break.
Another manager under pressure is Marco Giampaolo at Sampdoria. They only have one win and only seven points from the first seven games. The squad looks really good on paper and Giampaolo needs to get the players playing at their best quickly if he’s not going to be the next one to lose his job. At least they got a point against Palermo, saved by Bruno Fernandes 94th minute thunderbolt.
Davide Di Gennaro started the season as Cagliari’s regista, but was moved to the trequartista role in their 4-3-1-2 against Crotone and was comfortably the best player on the pitch. He scored the opener and was the architect behind the second from Simone Padoin. That’s two wins in two for Cagliari who are doing well at the minute. Crotone, not so much. They’re rock-bottom with one point and even though Adrian Stoian scored one of the goals of the weekend there’s little to be happy about.
Genoa finally won again after a tough run of fixtures, Giovanni Simeone scored the winner at Bologna to ensure Ivan Juric’s ultra-attacking 3-4-3-system earned three points. Simeone junior now has two goals in two games, while his father has taken Atletico Madrid top of La Liga. The Simeone’s are comfortably the most in-form father-son relationship in football right now.
In-form is also Gonzalo Higuain after his two goals at Empoli, and Juventus keep winning. Paulo Dybala scored so he’s off the mark in the league, and if he hits top form together with Higuain then Juve probably won’t stop winning. Empoli impressed last year, but they are in for a struggle at the bottom this term.
Player of the week
Iago Falqué was instrumental in Torino’s win against Fiorentina and is in really good form after his performances in the last couple of weeks.
Goal of the week
Bruno Fernandes has had a tough time so far this season at Sampdoria. He’s not in the starting line-up and Sampdoria are not doing well. They were on the brink of losing this week too until Fernandes hit a thunderous half-volley from outside the box in literally the last second of the game. Just look at this one!
Coach of the week
Gian Piero Gasperini masterminded Atalanta’s brilliant win against Napoli as the Bergamo club earned three very valuable points.
AC Milan-Sassuolo 4-3