Last season, Atalanta qualified for the Champions League group stage for the first time in their history, and although that adventure has been a fruitless one so far, we could potentially put that down to the naivety of never having featured in the tournament before.
On their way to qualifying, they were effervescent in their attacking play under Gian Piero Gasperini, and this campaign has been no different, domestically at least, as they sit third in the table behind Juventus and Inter.
LAST FIVE RESULTS
PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON (SO FAR)
Gasperini favours a 3-4-3 formation which suits the numerous options he has in the centre-back position, including the likes of Jose Luis Palomino, Berat Gjimshiti, and summer signing Simon Kjaer. It is key the players in these positions are comfortable on the ball as Atalanta have very much embraced playing out from the back.
La Dea have a workhorse midfield who are required to contribute in both a defensive and attacking capacity. Wing-backs such as Timothy Castagne, Robin Gosens, and Hans Hateboer cover significant distances on their respective wings, and the width is required to supplement the trio up top, who operate in more central areas. In the middle, the sheer energy of Marten de Roon assists in transition.
But it's in attack where they truly shine. Over their last 20 games they have averaged 1.9 goals per match, thanks mainly to the triumvirate of attackers consisting of Duvan Zapata, Alejandro Gomez, and Josip Ilicic - a superb, complementary unit which brings together the strengths of three extremely different players. Zapata has been a revelation since his move from Sampdoria, and provides the focal point for the other two to play around, while his goal return is impressive; he is currently one behind Ciro Immobile in the Capocannoniere race with six goals and a goal per min ratio of 86. Zapata's current injury, picked up on international duty with Colombia, will see him miss at least a month and it will be interesting to see how Atalanta's performances develop without him as the focal point.
Ilicic was previously a midfielder in a more deeper role, but in his advancing years has been moved further forward. He and Gomez are both north of 30, but it doesn't stop them buying into Gasperini's exhausting high-pressing game, which has been vital to their success so far. Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic can play up top too, but can also be utilised in the central midfield duo.
Alejandro Gomez is the jewel in the crown. The Argentine has improved with age but it is only in the last few years he has come into his own as one of the best creative influences of any team in Italy. His short stature allows him to incisively dribble in between the lines (Lionel Messi-esque), while he is also known for a devastatingly powerful strike. His display as Atalanta dismantled Sassuolo 4-1 last month says much about his dribbling ability, timing of the pass and accurate finishing.