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.