Atalanta B.C. currently sit in fourth place in the Serie A with two games still to be played this season. We care about this for several reasons. First, the Premier League is over and we’re sad and must find something else to pay attention to in the meantime to fill that deep dark void. Second, there are legitimately four teams (Inter, Atalanta, AC Milan, and Roma) with a chance to claim the two remaining Champions League places in Serie A. Third, Serie A has been very boring and predictable in recent seasons, but this season Atalanta are a ridiculously exciting team that has temporarily broken the historic structure of the league.
Somehow Atalanta have broken through the long-established hierarchy of Italian soccer and currently sit ahead of AC Milan and Roma in the table. How have they done this and what makes them so fun? Let’s explore together.
Atalanta score a lot. They are averaging 2.03 goals scored per game this season. That is incredible. They are one of only eight teams in the big 5 leagues averaging more than 2 goals per game this season; the others being Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Liverpool, and TSG Hoffenheim. That is some pretty good company to be in for offensive prowess. But what makes Atalanta so interesting isn’t just that they score a lot, but how they are getting this absurdly good goal return from a group of players most people probably haven’t heard of.
First and foremost, our new favorite soccer player is Duvan Zapata. Zapata leads Atalanta in goals this season with 22 goals in 30 Serie A games. That’s right; a 28-year-old with only 7 international appearances for the Columbian National Team leads a champions league contender in goals. I’ll say it again, Zapata has somehow scored 22 goals this season for Atalanta. This is despite the fact that he was previously unable to score 22 total goals for any team he’s ever previously played for over any period of time.
Duvan Zapata has the same number of league goals this season as Robert Lewandowski, and MORE goals than Luis Suarez or Christiano Ronaldo (who’s currently being investigated after being credibly accused of sexual assault).
Zapata is shooting the ball nearly 4 times per 90 minutes, which puts him on pace with most of the top goalscorers in the world. It’s not just him that is shooting a lot, but the entire Atalanta team. According to WhoScored data, only five teams in the big 5 leagues are taking more shots per game than Atalanta. Last month Atalanta actually took 47 shots in game, FORTY-SEVEN SHOTS in 90 minutes. Granted, they didn’t score despite 47 shots attempted, 18 shots on target, and 10 big chances created, but still FORTY-SEVEN SHOTS in a single game.
Just for a simple comparison, Manchester United attempted just 30 shots during the last three Premier League games of Louis Van Gaal’s tenure. Think about how crazy that is; a team valued at $491.2M could only muster 30 shots during a three-game span while this team valued at $225.4M managed to hang 47 shots on some poor goalkeeper that’s probably still catching his breath.
Yea I know I know, they didn’t score so they should probably take better shots next time. Well it turns out that throughout the course of the season, Atalanta take some of the highest quality shots in the Serie A. To quantify this, we’ll look at expected goals per shot (xG/Shot). Expected goals is essentially a metric that measures shot quality. In this instance we see that Atalanta is second in the Serie A in xG/Shot, however the only team ahead of them (Sampdoria) takes significantly less shots than them. We’ve seen other teams and players (see Mohammed Salah or Raheem Sterling) improve their xG/Shot to start getting better offensive results, and we are currently seeing the same thing with Atalanta.
This is a very offensive team that doesn’t just produce offense in high quantity but produces offense of very high quality. This team is God Damn Fun.
Now the next two weeks are very important for us bandwagon Atalanta fans. We play the mighty (evil) Juventus on May 19 at 2:30 EST. That will no doubt be our toughest test of the season and we simply can’t afford to drop points considering the chasing pack and their matches. Milan play Frosinone, who are currently the second-worst team in Serie A (but despite this they still hung double digits on my hometown Detroit FC last summer lmao). Roma play Sassuolo, which isn’t necessarily a cakewalk, but also isn’t exactly playing Juventus. Thankfully our lovely Atalanta have been in good form, winning our last four league matches, and the forecasting models are giving us a decent chance against the champions. Sports data website FiveThirtyEight gives Atalanta a 38% chance to beat Juve and a 26% chance to tie.
So now that you’re all Atalanta fans, make sure you tune into your ESPN+ (or illegal stream) on Saturday and wear you Duvan Zapata jersey proudly. We will not back down, and we will play high tempo, high shot volume, high chance creation, high octane soccer as we chase the Champions League!
Data comes from FiveThirtyEight, WhoScored, and Statsbomb.
Author: Nicholas Marsh – Detroit native. Lifelong Liverpool fan (next year has to be our year, right?). You can find me tweeting about soccer @marshy1313