This Serie A season hasn’t been full of remarkable stories. The manner in which the top four contenders have folded up with time is not something many would want to see.
From Roma, AC Milan to Lazio, they have fallen off the track for qualification with time. While the giallorossi did get their things back on track after Claudio Ranieri came back to his former club, they have sort of staggered once again.
AC Milan now seem miles apart from how they were about two months ago. Rino Gattuso is taking deserved stick and the players have shown signs of not playing for the manager. They have dropped too many points against teams that they should beat.
Lazio have only been around the top four. They have never been in it. But they have only threatened to get the spot too many times, only to falter when they have just been about to get there.
And amidst all of this, Atalanta have emerged as a candidate who don’t just deserve to get Champions League football, but also because they have been the feel-good story of the Serie A season so far.
The most consistent side in the division in the last few games, Atalanta came back from a goal down to beat fellow fourth-placed chasers Lazio 3-1 away from home. That is never an easy thing to do, especially when they conceded in the third minute.
The last time they lost a game was back in late February- losing 2-0 to Torino. But since then, they have dealt with everything that has come their way. They have beaten Fiorentina in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, drew against Inter, beat Napoli and now beat Lazio too.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s work at the Bergamo based side is finally making many across Europe sit up and take notice. His approach to the game is very much different to the traditional Italian approach to the game. It isn’t about catenaccio. It is about pressing high and playing in an attacking 3-4-1-2 shape.
It allows Papu Gomez to make the best use of his footballing intelligence and his ability to float along the attacking lines. The diminutive Argentine does just about everything in attack and has become a modern-day legend for La Dea today.
But the bigger picture shows where Atalanta come from. They had started the season off badly, winning just one of their first seven games of the campaign. Questions were raised about Gasperini and his future at the club, but the 5-1 win over relegated Chievo turned it around.
How far Atalanta have come from there doesn’t just show how good a job Gasperini has done, but also how bad the other contenders have done despite having had better starts to the campaign.
The players like Gianluca Mancini, Timothy Castagne and Duvan Zapata have grown at the club is a reflection of how the man knows how to nurture players, no matter what age they are at.
Mancini is in line to follow the likes of Andrea Conti, Franck Kessie and Bryan Cristante out to bigger clubs. But Atalanta will move on, like always. And they will keep improving.