The 4th episode of Giant Killing takes place largely within the confines of the first half of a friendly between East Tokyo United and Tokyo Victory. In Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics, the role of the playmaker in the modern game comes into question. This becomes an important point in how Tatsumi and Victory’s Hiraizumi utilize their playmakers. Though it only plays a small role in the episode as a whole, each player seems to fit their system well.
The action begins with Gino trying to get into the head of his marker Mikuno. A nervy ETU lose possession early and Mochida is able to thread a ball through to their Brazilian striker Leonardo, but ETU are able to fend off the attack. Tatsumi is worried about his team being overwhelmed by someone of Mochida’s quality.
As Murakoshi takes possession later, we see that Tatsumi’s instruction to the team was to work their attacks through Gino. Murakoshi gets the ball forward to Gino, who plays a 1-2 with Akasaki. On the Victory bench, Hiraizumi isn’t that impressed with the fact that someone nicknamed Prince is the captain, and that they are playing the same way as last season.
ETU then create the first real chance of the match. Gino continues to direct the attacks at Victory’s Croatian left-back Saric, and with Mikuno dragged out of the center, he is able to play Tsubaki in. Tsubaki skips past the challenge of Japan defender Akimori and pass it to Akasaki, whose shot then goes well off-target. The ETU fans are shocked by their team’s sudden ability to play together, while the Victory players become more interested in Tsubaki’s pace.
Tatsumi then recounts a conversation he had with Tsubaki on the last day of training camp. After intruding on Tsubaki silently showcasing his talent, Tatsumi invites him to take shots at goal from outside the box as he stood in goal. After a succession of horrible misses and weak shots rolling toward goal, Tatsumi tells him to stop. He cuts straight to the point and calls Tsubaki a coward with an inexplicably high level of potential, who crumbles under the smallest amount of pressure. Against Murakoshi in the training match, he was able to perform well because Murakoshi encouraged him, and because he was inspired by Tatsumi speaking of giant killing.
The match resumes, with Tsubaki getting fouled by a Victory player only for the referee to wave play on. The flashback resumes with a crying Tsubaki saying how much he hates being afraid and he wants to change. Tatsumi tells him to stay the same, because he has already worked so hard on it through image training, which he found out after calling Tsubaki’s former coaches. Tatsumi tells Tsubaki he has a strong resolve, but he tells him that it is okay to fail because when Tsubaki succeeds something amazing usually happens.
The match resumes with Tatsumi saying it is now time to score goals. Mochida has a conversation with with Tsubaki trying to throw him off by saying that the world can be cruel to someone so young. Gino then resumes attacking down the right, and Mikuno is now worried about Tsubaki’s threat through the middle. Tsubaki starts his run through the middle and Mochida tries to stop him by kicking him a little. Tsubaki pushes through and runs by Mochida. Gino plays him in, and Mikuno is finally dragged out of position. Tsubaki plays the ball back across to Gino, who sidefoots his shot into the top corner to put ETU in front.
As Gino, Tsubaki and the ETU fans celebrate the goal, Hiraizuma calls over Saric and Mikuno and tells them they will take turns marking Gino. Hiraizuma says that Tatsumi has successfully seen through their plans by using Mikuno’s pride and giving Gino the captaincy. He still sees the goal as a fluke.
Mochida decides to make his own tactical change. He runs with the ball in front of Tsubaki and waits for him to make a challenge. Sensing Tsubaki close by, he collapses in a heap and wins a free kick, while Tsubaki sees yellow. Two Victory players stand over the free kick and Mochida is the one who takes it. With Midorikawa stretching to try to get a hand on it, the episode ends with Tatsumi lamenting that ETU have conceded.
Thoughts: I brought up Jonathan Wilson’s book because the contrast between Mochida and Gino was well worth noting. While this particular match seems to be more like a series of individual matchups, which suits Gino as a playmaker more in the role of a Juan Roman Riquelme1, Mochida is a more modern playmaker capable of fulfilling defensive responsibilities while creating like a Luka Modric.
The next episode looks like a typical halftime team talk and more Murakoshi wondering where exactly he fits into the team. I think the match probably ends in a draw. Does anyone agree with that assessment?
1. Riquelme was described as “an artist, almost by definition a difficult, misunderstood soul.” Basically he is wonderful to watch, but a horrible teammate who has Ewing theory going for him. And Ray Hudson loves him too.