The Serie A season started for Atalanta as the previous ended, with a win. Gian Piero Gasperini’s team, which will play in the Champions League group stage for the first time in their history, prevailed at the Paolo Mazza Stadium against SPAL by a score of 3-2 in an extraordinary match.
SPAL managed to find the quick goal scoring in the first minutes and after that, the hosts played defensively and tried to hit on the counter-attack. That’s what happened in the first thirty minutes as Petagna assisted the first goal and scored the second. Atalanta’s coach didn’t change his tactics. His team continued to play the same way and managed a great comeback for their first win in the Serie A.
Both coaches employed similar tactics. SPAL’s coach, Leonardo Semplici, used the 3-5-2 and his instructions were to press high in the first minutes. When Petagna and Di Francesco pressed high, there were four players behind them: the two wing-backs and the central midfielders Kurtic and Valoti, while Missiroli was the defensive midfielder.
From the other side, Gian Piero Gasperini also went with the 3-5-2 with offensive emphasis. Zapata was one of the two strikers and Gomez was the second. But Gomez had the freedom to move wherever he wanted in the pitch and at times, dropped back. At the same time, Pasalic who started as an attacking midfielder had the role to be the second striker when Gomez was missing. Also, the two wing-backs, Hateboer and Gosens, were often in the final third of the pitch and Atalanta defended only with the three centre-backs.
SPAL takes advantage of Atalanta’s defensive spacing
Atalanta tried to press high in the first minutes but left big gaps between the lines. That happened because the three midfielders were pressing high. De Roon who was the defensive midfielder had to keep his position but that didn’t happen. As a result, SPAL managed to score in the 7th minute off a counter-attack through Di Francesco after the assist from Petagna.
The high press from Spal
SPAL’s coach had anticipated Atlanta’s game and asked his players to press high. The host team had at least five players to press in the second third of the pitch and their opponents didn’t manage to move the ball fast and create spaces or dangerous situations in the opposite box. Atalanta’s players committed many mistakes in the first 30 minutes of the match and that’s why SPAL found the spaces and hit them on counter-attacks.
Atalanta builds the game from the wings
SPAL scored the second goal off another counter-attack with Petagna and after that, the hosts dropped deeper. Semplici thought that his players couldn’t press throughout the first 45 minutes, therefore he gave the instruction to stop pressing high and Atalanta found the space to attack.
The lines of SPAL were very close to one another. The average length of the lines was 30.60 meters and we can notice that the distance between every one of the five players in the defence (three centre-backs and two wing-backs) was about six meters. Also, the SPAL forwards were behind the centre of the pitch, at 45,69 meters.
That gave the chance to Atalanta to attack from the wings and score a goal before half-time. Atalanta’s players had the ball in the final third 51 times in the first half. 13 of them were from the right-wing and 30 of them from the left-wing and only eight times from the centre of the pitch. Also, the away team tried five crosses from the right and seven from the left in the first half.
Gasperini’s effect in the match
Gian Piero Gasperini saw that the team had some offensive problems. The team couldn’t attack from the midfield and the only good chances were created from the wings. Muriel and Malinovskyi entered the game meanwhile Gasperini also changed their formation to an offensive 3-4-3. Zapata was the centre-forward while Gomez and Muriel were the two wingers. The two wingers were instructed to play close to Zapata to create triangles.
Also, Malinovskyi’s introduction helped his team to move the ball faster. The Ukrainian midfielder proved in his first appearance that he will be one of the key players this season. He tried to move the ball forward to the three strikers who were playing so close to one another and SPAL couldn’t handle them. Muriel scored two goals in the final 25 minutes and Atalanta managed the comeback, winning the first match of the season.
SPAL managed to get the two-goal advantage in the first 30 minutes of the match. The host team pressed their opponents high, didn’t leave them time or space to move the ball forward and as a result, Atalanta didn’t create dangerous situations. But after that, Semplici instructed his players to stop pressing high and come back in their side of the pitch, waiting for their opponents. SPAL maintained little to no room between the lines but Atalanta’s players tried to play from the wings and that way, managed to score a goal through Gosens before the half time.
In the second half, Gian Piero Gasperini made two changes as Muriel and Malinovskyi entered the pitch. He also changed his formation to 3-4-3 from 3-5-2. The front three of Zapata, Muriel and Gomez were playing very close, causing problems to the opponent’s defence. Malinovskyi helped his team to move the ball and Muriel scored two goals in the final 25 minutes to give Atalanta the win in the first match of the season.
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