While the first episode featured Portsmouth as the giants facing Tatsumi’s fictional East Ham, yesterday relegated Portsmouth pulled off a giant killing of their own in beating Tottenham Hotspur on a terrible Wembley pitch and advancing to the FA Cup final where they will face Chelsea.
More relevant to the rest of this post, the second episode of Giant Killing picks up where the last episode left off. The reserves, managed by Tatsumi, taking on the regulars in a practice match. The episode is less about coaching and tactics on the field than it is about team building and personality clashes.
Tatsumi’s assistant begins the episode by calming down the old first team by telling them that Tatsumi is probably trying to get a reaction out of them. Murakoshi adds that it doesn’t matter what Tatsumi is thinking, they simply have to win.
Tatsumi, on the other hand, tries to get his players to imagine how their lives could change if they win this match. When they still appear demoralized, he tells them every match starts 0-0, but they will win the because they have the ability to win this match.
The match kicks off, with the watching ultras unhappy that Murakoshi is wearing a subs bib. As he dribbles, Murakoshi realizes he is being man-marked by Tsubaki in defense. Murakoshi uses his technique to beat Tsubaki initially, but is fouled by his marker seconds later. Murakoshi helps Tsubaki up and mentally takes on Tatsumi’s challenge.
The match begins to turn with Tatsumi’s team in possession. While seemingly refusing to take chances, they force the older players to chase them and wear themselves out. On the touchline, Nagata questions whether Tatsumi’s choice of banning one-touch passing will work, but Tatsumi says the team has to discover something for the sake of the team.
With a half-hour gone, the older players wonder how their opponents could seem so cowardly in their tactics. At about this time, Murakoshi realizes the attritional battle they are fighting and tells his side not to press and to keep to their places defensively. Tatsumi then tells his team that they can play one-touch football, and they begin creating chances.
Nagata is surprised that the former reserves are able to play good passes, but Tatsumi says they are coming together as a team. She asks how with a team seemingly selected based on pace alone, but Tatsumi says he was looking for players who were fast when tired. He only looked at the first and last times for the dash, and therefore ended up picking his team based on best stamina. The other team was built to chase after balls, which Nagata guesses correctly was the reason for forbidding one-touch passes. Tatsumi says that with the other team tired, even terrible passes can get through.
When Tatsumi’s team has a shot hit the crossbar, Murakoshi tries to motivate his side by telling them they are ETU’s main weapons. Tatsumi questions the use of the word “weapon” because they seem to only able to defend deep and counter-attack since they can no longer run. He recalls his conversation with the youth team, who said the current team lacked excitement and rarely had shots on goal.
Eventually, Tatsumi’s team gets the goal they deserve. Tsubaki beat Murakoshi on the dribble and ran away quickly, crossed into the middle where it was hit on the half-volley and past the keeper. Tatsumi is assured that the rest of the match will be one-sided.
A group of casual fans looks on to see their former hero doing his new job. They seem genuinely excited and prepared to return to their ways as hardcore supporters. The match has also ended, and Tatsumi’s team seem almost embarrassed to celebrate their easy victory over the senior players.
Murakoshi quietly heads back toward the dressing room. He remembers his younger days, in choosing to play for ETU because of the guarantee of first team football. Then, how he was adored by the fans early in his career playing alongside Tatsumi. Then when a couple of kids ask for autographs, he finds himself so angry with Tatsumi he is unable to sign.
At his first press conference, Tatsumi gives the press nothing when asked about changing the team based on the practice match. He’s then asked about the possibility of relegating Murakoshi to the reserves, Tatsumi says he doesn’t know, but then he says something else about Murakoshi. Murakoshi is told that something happened at the press conference, and heads to confront his manager. Tatsumi heads back to his room, while being scolded by Nagata for not considering Murakoshi’s feelings in his decision before walking into Murakoshi.
Murakoshi confronts Tatsumi about the fact he is making changes to the team, and stripping him of the captaincy. He says Tatsumi has no idea about ETU since he hasn’t been there, but Tatsumi says he can see the team’s weaknesses precisely because he is an outsider. Murakoshi says he doesn’t want to hear that he is unwanted by the man who abandoned the club that was quickly relegated. Murakoshi says they spent four years in the second tier before he helped them back up. Murakoshi remembers a match which confirmed yet another season in J2 and the lack of spirit shown by the rest of the team and the then manager, and a Brazilian player who had already returned home. He remembers inspiring the team after that since no one else could help them. He goes on to tell Tatsumi that he has searched for the methods to help the team win. Tatsumi says that is precisely why he is taking the captaincy off of him since it just means Murakoshi has been cursed by a succession of bad coaches. Tatsumi tells Murakoshi to find what weapons he needs, while Tatsumi can take care of the job of managing the team.
ETU’s preseason training camp begins in the cold north. The players complain of the cold, as does Tatsumi. ETU is a poor club, though, so they cannot afford to go south like the other sides. Two older players, Kuroda and Sugie, walk past and criticize Tatsumi for taking pleasure on the suffering of those below him. Tatsumi’s assistant says they are close followers of Murakoshi. Tatsumi gathers the squad together and tells them that they will be training on their own. He says they should be able to train like pros without his involvement before he begins to walk away. He turns around and tells Murakoshi that he will not be allowed to give out orders since he’s no longer captain.
Thoughts: Stripping a player of the captaincy publicly isn’t a very common occurance, usually the captain gets older and loses the captaincy to someone who is playing more regularly (Bryan Robson at Manchester United in the early 90s), the captain leaves the club or it is handed to a star player in order to keep them at the club (Cesc Fabregas or Thierry Henry at Arsenal). On paper, the role of the captain is merely to be present for a coin toss before a match, and depending on culture it can also be pretty meaningless in a match as well. Tatsumi is correct in saying that Murakoshi was taking on extra roles as captain because of deficiencies in coaching though.