The last time Torino and Atalanta faced each other, it ended in a humiliation for the former. The Bergamo-based club ran a riot past their opponents in January and scored seven. Since then, Torino have gone through a couple of managerial changes and have selected the former Milan and Sampdoria coach, Marco Giampaolo to lead them this season. They finished 16th in the league, their worst finish since their promotion back in 2012. On the other hand, Atalanta continued with their form. They finished third in Serie A and almost defeated PSG in the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League. Torino lost in the opening game-week, but they look like a team undergoing a transition. Atalanta will be hoping to continue playing their mesmerising football and with new signings, this might be the season they go all the way.
In this tactical analysis, we will discuss how both the teams will set up for their match on 26th September 2020. This analysis will look into Giampaola’s tactics to counter the geniuses of Gasperini.
Expected formations and line-ups
Throughout his managerial career, Giampaolo tends to prefer the 4-3-1-2 formation. He wants his team to keep possession, play quick-slick passes, press well and rotate their positions throughout the match. He plays with a diamond midfield to keep the play focused centrally and relies on the number ten to create attacks.
Expected Lineup: Silvestre Sirugu, Armando Izzo, Gleison Bremer, Nicolas N’Koulou, Cristian Ansaldi, Soualiho Meïté, Tomás Rincón, Karol Linetty, Alejandro Berenguer, Simone Verdi, Andrea Belloti.
Gasperini will instil a three back formation with two wing-backs. Atalanta is known for playing a high pressing system with quick short passes. Along with these, their positional rotation throughout the match makes them so good.
Expected Lineup: Pierluigi Gollini, Rafael Tolói, Mattia Caldara, Berat Djimsiti, Hans Hateboer, Marten de Roon, Remo Freuler, Robin Gosens, Alejandro Gómez, Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata.
Attacking from the back
As it was mentioned earlier, Giampaola likes his team to keep possession and play quality passes. He will want his new team, Torino to do the same. But with a short pre-season and lesser time to prepare for every match, the team has to be patient to achieve this. The two centre-backs, N”Koulou and Bremer will play a crucial role in starting the attack from the back. In the build-up, Torino will have seven players involved, the defenders and the three central midfielders. He knows it will take time for his players to adjust to the new style of play.
Atalanta also likes to do the same but in a slightly different way. Their attack starts from the back, where one of the two wide central defenders move forward with the ball and form a diamond. The tip of the diamond is either Papu Gomez (or the player playing in the number 10 role) or the striker on the side of attack. Wing-back and the central midfielder of the side of attack complete this diamond. Most of the times, five players are overloading on the side of the ball. So even when the ball moves forward, they don’t lose their diamond formation, all that changes are the players in the diamond.
It is no secret that Atalanta are one of the best pressing teams across Europe, and it was one of the main ingredients for their success last season. The players are trained and grilled to press for their lives by Gasperini. While defending, they tend to push their opponents onto the flanks and then overload it to win the ball back. They will have five or even six players at the same time on the side of the ball, making it very difficult for the opponents to break down. With Torino still settling down under their new manager and his style of play, Atalanta’s pressing would be explosive for the Turin-based club.
Torino’s narrow approach
Torino plays a 4-3-2-1 formation with a midfield diamond during the attacking phase. They like to keep their play focused centrally. Giampaolo’s play-style includes a regista and a trequartista. Berenguer plays as the latter and is tasked with linking the midfield and attack. The full-backs tend to stay back and don’t attack like modern-day full-backs. Giampaolo likes to overload his midfield to dominate the centre of the park. In their last match versus Fiorentina, their lack of width caused them problems and Fiorentina exploited the flanks using their wing-backs.
Here we can see the narrow block formed by Torino and how easy it is for the two wing-backs to push forward and find themselves in free spaces. Torino conceded 22 crosses in their last match and the only goal of the match came through a ball from wide spaces. Chiesa and Biragi on the flanks caused Torino big problems and it was Chiesa’s low cross to Biragi which brought the only goal of the match.
Atalanta will exploit the width
Atalanta is a team which utilises the width extremely well. In a three at the back formation, wing-backs play a huge role on the flanks. Gasperini has made his full-backs play like machines. They don’t only participate in attacks by pushing forward, but they’re always willing to track back. As we discussed earlier, Torino leave empty spaces out on the wing and Atalanta will be looking to exploit that. The wing-backs Gosens and Hateboer have performed exceptionally well offensively. They racked up 20 goal contributions between themselves last season. Even though Atalanta overload the ball side, they don’t compromise their threat on the wing. This is one of the specialities of a three at the back formation: the team doesn’t lose their width at any point of time. The wing-back on the opposite side always maintains the width. This tactic can cause a problem or two to Torino’s narrow approach.
After overloading on the left, Atalanta keeps their width. As Muriel finds no good passing option near him due to Juventus‘ press, he passes it to Malinovskiy near the centre circle. He then switches it first time to Hateboer, who has ample green grass in front of him.
Torino’s front three
If the Turin-based club wants to have any chance to defeat Gasperini’s men, they will need their strikers and the trequartista to fire. Berenguer, who will play in the number ten role, will have to link the midfield to their strikers Belloti and Verdi or Zaza. The front three failed to be a threat and create chances in the attacking third against Fiorentina. They looked to be still settling to Giampaola’s playstyle but showed glimpses of their link-up.
Facing Atalanta will not be easy for a team which is coming off a poor season and still settling under their new manager. But with a shortened holiday season and lack of pre-season matches for Atalanta due to their Champions League commitments, this might be Torino’s best chance to defeat a quality opponent like them. Having boosted their squad with new signings like Lammers, Miranchuck and Mojico, Atalanta will be hoping to start their campaign right where they left the last one.
Both Giampaola and Gasperini share similar footballing approaches, i.e, possession is key, passing needs to be slick, pressing from the front, and rotating positions. One has been managing his club for four years and has taken them to champions league twice while the other is just managing his second match with his new team. The battle is going to be an interesting one and one not to miss out for.