Gian Piero Gasperini: An anonymous mastermind
A significant part of the populace may have encountered the name Gian Piero Gasperini for the first time. For a brief introduction, he is presently the manager at Atalanta FC, and was single-handedly responsible for blasting Atalanta into the round of 16 of the 2019–20 Champions’ League, having played in the European top-flight tournament for the first time, after they finished 3rd in the 2018–19 Serie A season. His exploits as a manager, though lesser-known, are really appealing from a tactical point of view.
Gasperini commenced his managerial career at a Serie C1 team, Crotone, which was promoted to Serie B, before he departed to coach Genoa. He gained appreciation from Jose Mourinho, who was the manager of Inter Milan during the 2009–10 season, where Gasperini’s Genoa famously stalemated Inter Milan for a 0–0 draw. Gasperini was successful in thwarting the efforts of Sneijder, Milito, Balotelli and Eto’o, and create troubles for Inter’s defence by deploying a skewed 3–4–3 formation.
Gasperini’s attempt has been to revive the traditional man-marking system, which seems to be endangered with the onset of the zonal marking system prevalent nowadays. He aims to chalk out a 3–4–2–1 formation, with three Centre Backs in front of the Goalkeeper, and two hard-core midfielders, flanked by two energetic wing-backs. Up the front, he prefers more variety, with a striker and an inside forward, along with someone dynamic to oscillate incessantly between the central midfield and attack. The central front three enables to highly pressurise the defence of the opposition. And the impenetrable defence, along with employing flexible man-marking to halt any stray attacker from the opposition, is what makes Gasperini’s formation a tactical masterpiece. Gasperini also is a proponent of horizontal passing and effectively using the entire width, so as to create cracks in the defence, which may then be exploited by diagonal passes.
Gasperini’s methods gained fame during his stint at Genoa, when the team finished fifth in Serie A, ahead of the Italian powerhouses of Juventus, Roma and Milan. His career hit rock bottom during his tenure at Inter Milan and Palermo, as the seasoned players couldn’t absorb his unconventional technique, but Gasperini is rising through the ranks after being roped in as the Manager of Atalanta in 2016. Atalanta, then a bunch of youngsters, was utilised as a toolkit by Gasperini to try out the methods and techniques he has amassed in his 22-year managerial span. Atalanta finished fourth in his first season and qualified for the Europa League, where they knocked out Lyon and Everton, before giving a hard time to Borussia Dortmund, but ultimately defeated.
The 2018–19 season was historical for Atalanta, as they finished third in the Serie A, and got a shot to play in the UEFA Champions’ League for the first time. They had also halted Juventus' run in the Coppa Italia, defeating them 3–0 in the quarterfinals, and were crowned the runners up of Coppa Italia after losing out 2–0 to Lazio. In the ongoing Champions’ League Season, they have qualified for the Round of 16, after three losses, a draw against Manchester City, and two wins. Gasperini’s tactical acumen has already created a buzz in the managerial circles. The draw against Manchester City was also abreast of all the typical “Gasperinismo” Elements, and it seems it isn’t long before Football embraces Gasperini’s unorthodox methods.Published 24 Dec 2019, 23:14 IST