Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
Atalanta have come back strong from a slow start to this years Serie A campaign and find themselves on 19 points in sixth place. Gian Piero Gasperini, whose job was in danger after a poor start to the season, has exceeded all expectations by bringing La Dea to the top six of the table. Atalanta travel to visit Sassuolo this Sunday and a win will probably take Gasperini's men up to fifth place as Lazio are playing Napoli. The big question however is will Atalanta sustain this fantastic run of form and continue to surprise the rest of Serie A.
La Dea's poor start to the season in which they lost four of their opening five matches led to much speculation that Gasperini would be sacked. However, Atalanta was right not to act hastily on their poor start. Gasperini has turned La Dea's fortunes around dramatically with Atalanta picking up 16 points from their last six games. Since Atalanta beat Napoli 1-0 at home they have gone from strength to strength. Although it’s unlikely that La Dea will qualify for Europe, they are giving their fans every reason to dream of European qualification with their current form. However, a top half finish would still be a successful season for Gasperini’s men. Atalanta’s turnaround has been quite dramatic after the first five games of the season they had leaked a staggering thirteen goals. The backline has since shored up and in the last six games Atalanta have only conceded three goals, keeping three clean sheets along the way. La Dea have also claimed impressive victories over Napoli, Inter and thrashed Genoa 3-0 in their last match.
Key to Atalanta's change in fortunes have been the faith put in youth by Gasperini. Players such as Kessie, Conti, Caldera and Petagna have kept growing under Gasperini and are rewarding his faith in them with some fine performances. Combative midfielder Franck Kessie has arguably been the breakthrough star of the season with four goals already to his name. The only downside of his sudden breakthrough is that he has attracted a lot of interest from many top clubs in Europe and it's hard to see him staying in Bergamo next season. Gasperini's blend of experience and youth in his side provides the perfect balance and players such as Gomez, Maisello and Kurtic provide reliability and experience. Gasperini has turned the Bergamo side into a defensively solid team, which is a change as usually Gasperini's teams have always struggled with keeping clean sheets. A regular goal scorer is something that Atalanta desperately need however Pinilla, Petagna and Gomez don't seem likely to score more than ten goals a season. Gasperini however will be hoping that Paloschi can find the form he had with Chievo and give Atalanta a real goal scorer upfront.
A win this Sunday against Sassuolo would put Atalanta in a phenomenal position going into the international break. Whether La Dea can sustain this excellent form over the course of the season remains to be seen. For now however, Atalanta fans can dream of the Europa League and Gasperini will be hoping that his side can continue to be the surprise package of Serie A.