Giant Killing 10 – Strategy: Why Tatsumi wanted a high defensive line

My eyes are on you…

Giant Killing has been one of my favorite anime, but I never found the motivation to blog it. I think part of it is that I do not want to do any summary since it is boring to summarize a football game. Football is always the best when watched live in my opinion, or that you just want to know who scored the goals. More importantly, I feel that I would prefer to discuss actual football tactics, rather than the story itself. As such, let me jump straight to the episode discussion.


I am always puzzled why Tatsumi decides to push the defensive line so high up. It is first pointed out that there is a distinct gap between the midfield and the defensive line during a previous episode, but I thought how it is somewhat highlighted in this episode why Tatsumi uses this strategy. First, let us look into the squad. Other than Gino (Prince), none of the players exhibited exceptional technical and passing skills. If they had those skills in the first place, they would not be so poor for such a long time. Another thing is that the defenders are not exceptionally fast, but are physically strong. That is actually not a good idea for a high defensive line, but more on that later. In addition, there is no accomplished striker in the squad. I consider Gino more of a play maker than a striker to be honest.

Now, let’s look at the strengths of the squad before episode 10. The team is very young and has good speed all around. Murakoshi is a very good defensive midfielder who can dribble and spread the play. Gino is also an excellent play maker who can allow Akasuki (the winger) to exploit spaces on the wing. This means that the play can be spread and pull the opposition defense wide. That means a high defensive line can be used to force the opposition backwards, and put pressure to create mistakes as the play is spread. More importantly, this might heighten offside situations but also make the team more susceptible to counter attacks. The team they play this week is clearly a team with great technical skills and good pace.


However, the possible reason why Tatsumi decided for this style of play, and have trust in his high-line defense is probably due to Kuro. I always thought of Kuro as simply a strong hard player with no particular strengths mentally (other than screaming his guts out and be a total idiot). Hence, it is a huge surprise for me to see that he actually has the ability to read the game more effectively than anything that I expected. A high line will always have a huge danger in the offside trap, and someone who can read the game can reduce the chances of the offside trap being broken.

As noted in the episode, the opposition former Japanese key player has never gone past Kuro in the previous matches they played last season. In addition, the player he marked has switched from right wing to left wing this season, meaning that this player is likely to be a right-legged player. If that player tries to cut in too often, he will be crowded out by both the defender and the defensive midfielder (Murokushi). As such, it is little wonder how Kuro, not physically fast, is able to compensate by reading the game very well. With that, it makes the high defensive line very stable, simply because they can effectively conjure up an offside trap for the speedy strikers. Kuro reminds me of Materazzi (famous through the infamous spitting of Zidane), a slightly unpredictable fiery character who is not exceptionally fast, but has a very good reading of the game.

One last thing about the squad: Tsubaki. Some might be puzzled why he is still in. I personally think it might be like the case of Lucas in Liverpool. He is often made a scapegoat by many, but I felt that his continual presence in the squad built up his confidence, and he started to play better as the season went on. Of course, in my opinion, Lucas has limited upside to his ability. However, Tsubaki has raw speed. He is like an unpolished form of Walcott, a headless chicken running around. However, with good tutelage, I believe Tsubaki can be a huge star. Perhaps, this is why Tatsumi wants to release that hidden potential in Tsubaki. Speed, after all, is a very dangerous weapon that cannot be trained; you are born with it.

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  1. Posted June 6, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    No mention of the old school fans versus the new school fan mentality? I think that’s one of the more interesting story points that’s going on.

    Concerning Tsubaki, it has to be keeping him in the game to toughen him up. I think it’s usually dangerous to use real games to develop players, but sometimes it’s the only way for players like him.

    • Impz
      Posted June 6, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      You know, I personally think that Tatsumi made a very good calculated risk in Tsubaki. Put it this way. You are a coach and you know that you have a very rough diamond waiting to be polished. Your team sucks and no one expects much from them anyway since they have suck til the cows come home for the last few seasons. Their play is uninspiring and defensive.

      Even if it is risky, you will want Tsubaki to grow, because players tend to gain confidence by playing on the field, not drop him when confidence is low. The fear of any inexperienced players is to lose the faith of the manager, and Tatsumi knows Tsubaki way too well to drop him; he wants Tsubaki to be the spark of inspiration for the team. Given the chance, I will blood Tsubaki. There’s really no huge demerits to it anyway. Put him in, and you have a good chance of losing. Leave him out, and your team is none the worse. So, I take the chance to blood him, develop him for further matches. A league is not a 100m dash, it’s a marathon. I take my chances.

    • Impz
      Posted June 6, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      And oh, I try not to cover too many points in one episode because it’s TL;DR. I will save it for a later episode if it comes up again.

  2. Posted June 6, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Good analysis, though Tatsumi seems coy about his ability to actually break down a game into theoretical parts.

    What I find interesting in this show is the lack of the customary shonen characters whose primary job is to spell out what’s happening in a match. This makes analysis and interpretation more fun, IMO.

    • Posted June 6, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      I think that just might be because that Tatsumi seems to rely on psychology for some of his schemes; He uses what some of the players, coaches and fans to be the case to his advantage. If they knew that he was planning these, they wouldn’t be as cooperative and wouldn’t fit into his plans as well.

      Kuroda’s a good example; Tatsumi is using the fact that Kuroda has never allowed the ace player that I don’t remember the name of to pass him, ever. This is partially because Kuroda just doesn’t like the guy. That motivates him to go after his passes more. If Tatsumi said to him “I’m going to use your hatred for this guy to make you into the ultimate blocking force against him” Kuroda would be a lot less willing to go along with the plan, making their ultimate defense useless, and the opposing team scoring.

      • Impz
        Posted June 6, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        Actually, rather than hating the guy, I believe it is just clear that Tatsumi knew exactly that Kuroda has a good positional sense and can read the play well. To me, a defender with good marking skills is very important. Kuroda doesn’t really have the ability to stick to a player well because he is pretty average in marking skills (which requires very good physical strength and attributes). However, he can really read the play well, and Tatsumi being an excellent coach, should be able to point that out easily.

        I do agree that Tatsumi is using psychology to make Kuroda do the task, but I will say that Kuroda already have the attributes to be a good reader of the game. It is just that there was a lack of tactical nous by the previous coaches to effectively use Kuroda and utilize his strengths to the formation and style they aim to play with. That, to me, impresses me more about Tatsumi’s patience to get things right. I prefer them not to win that many first, but I do agree with some posters across the anime blogosphere that they ought to win this one. It’s just an important step to developing.

        That said, I do not think Tsubaki is going to change in this match yet. I hope he proves me wrong. :P

  3. Gunslinger
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    Nice post man, that part on kuroda was spot on. I also think that they play high so as to compensate for prince losing the ball. he never fights for it, so it would be risky if he lost it closer to the net.

    P.S : walcott still is a headless chicken (poor guy cant cross at all)

    • Impz
      Posted June 7, 2010 at 5:36 am | Permalink

      Well, that is also why Tsubaki becomes even more critical right? Murokoshi is not the fastest player out there, while Tsubaki has abundances of energy (and speed). I can see him covering Gino, and to be honest, I don’t see Gino losing the ball much. He’s like a Berbatov (much maligned). He’s not fast but he has good physical strength (if you notice, Gino has very good strength during the practice training of 3 vs 3) and his natural tendency is to pass once he gets the ball. Actually, if you see many teams who play the high defensive line, it is due to having a playmaker that NEVER NEVER loses the ball (think Xavi). I think the chances of Prince losing the ball is low, plus he is too advanced in his position to worry anyway.

      Isn’t Tsubaki just like Walcott now though? Will be exciting to see how Tsubaki improves, and that said, Walcott too. Walcott seems to lack the football brains for it though. More accurately, he can cross decent, he just don’t know when to do it…

  4. Gunslinger
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    ya that makes sense i guess

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