Football

Gasperini: 'Atalanta have grown so much'

Gasperini: 'Atalanta have grown so much'

Gian Piero Gasperini gives an important update on Josip Ilicic, defines the greatness of Papu Gomez and postpones Scudetto talk after Atalanta beat Lazio.

La Dea have started the season in spectacular form, beating Torino 4-2 and Lazio 4-1, both away from home.

“We created plenty of chances today and perhaps could’ve scored more after the break,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.

“This is a team that believes in itself and has reached a balance allowing it to face difficult games like this with a strong personality. I didn’t need to remind them that last season we were 3-0 up here and drew 3-3, because this was a different game and the lads remained concentrated.”

Papu Gomez bagged a brace, including a scorching left-foot strike into the far top corner.

“It was an extraordinary goal. He is someone who can play absolutely anywhere and has reached his peak now. Papu works hard, but in the decisive moments of a match, he is able to give that extra spark of creativity that helps us bring results home.

“We’re scoring a lot of well-worked team goals, and while you expect it of Papu, having Hans Hateboer score two games in a row is a sign of how much the team has grown.

“Our ambition is for everyone in the squad to have great feet and we’ll never stop working on our technique. I think that is where we’ve improved the most over the last few years, because it’s not true that all we do is run hard.”

The best feet of them all belong to Josip Ilicic, who is back training with Atalanta after several months out to deal with mental health concerns.

“I was sceptical that he could get back to the level he was at before, but I can say that I am today far more confident, because he’s made big steps forward over the last two weeks. He started training with the rest of his teammates on Sunday and if we get him back, we’re a much stronger team.

“We’ll be playing three games a week until at least January, so I have to rotate the squad more than I did in the past. It’s also a balance, getting the new players settled in and accustomed to our methods.”

Considering their growth and strength in depth, could Atalanta be Scudetto contenders?

“No! We can improve, but the teams that can talk about the Scudetto right now are Juventus, Inter and Napoli. You can ask me again after 20 rounds…”

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