Giant Killing 10 – Individual Matchups

Despite having 75% of the possession against 10-man Inter, Barcelona were unable to score the 2 goals they needed against the eventual winners

One of the most interesting stories I’ve read about football tactics involved Arrigo Sacchi convincing the expensively assembled squad at Milan of the merits of his ideas. The star players on that team were Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, and Sacchi told them in a training exercise that five defenders could stop ten players of their choice from scoring. After fifteen minutes, they never came close to scoring and the Dutch imports were firmly on board. What followed was a league title and 2 European Cups in 3 seasons.

The 10th episode of Giant Killing isn’t nearly as interesting as that, but since this episode is devoted entirely to part of ETU’s match against Nagoya, I’ve decided to focus on the individual matchups the series seems to create within the games.

Carlos shows off his flair in front of Tsubaki

A lot of the attention in the buildup to this episode was on Nagoya’s Brazilian trio. Since ETU hardly have possession in this episode, the defensive midfielder is a non-factor, but for forcing Tsubaki off the ball once and sending in a corner that was caught by Midorikawa. Instead, the majority of the episode breaks the match down into three major 1-on-1 matchups. The playmaker Zelberto is pressed relentlessly by Murakoshi and more often than not wins those battles. Sugie, seen as better at handling strikers 1-on-1 is chosen to man-mark Pepe. Finally, Kuroda is handed the task of dealing with Nagoya’s other striker Itagaki, a man with a history of scoring goals against ETU.

And Pepe sees his next target to hurl abuse in Portugese at.

Early on, Zelberto puts Pepe through on goal, but the move is flagged for offside. After this, it seemed like ETU began to defend deeper, while relying on strength and their tactical adjustments for this match. Tatsumi had switched the sides his center backs were playing with the object of matching Kuroda up with Itagaki. Having watched previous matches, he noticed that Kuroda was never beaten on the dribble by Itagaki, whose goals against ETU had come mostly from rebounds or chances created by other players.

Itagaki will not be allowed to go past Kuroda today

As the match continued, Nagoya still dominated possession. However, with Pepe isolated and Itagaki in Kuroda’s back pocket, Nagoya had to rely on set pieces and shots from distance for their chances. With the first half coming to an end, Sera is injured going up for a header, but it feels like Nagoya would never score even in 180 minutes.

This is a textbook foul by Sera

Thoughts: Again, I think the series puts too much emphasis on 1-on-1 matchups. I know it is mainly for dramatic effect, but it still bothers me a lot…The problem of stopping Nagoya’s attack seems to have been solved by Tatsumi rather easily. If I were making adjustments for Nagoya I would probably play Pepe up front on his own and rely more on attacking from midfield. Perhaps that would reveal a problem with the squad, the notable players all play in central positions. For ETU, Sera’s injury takes out their one aerial threat in attack, which should be crippling for a small club. The next episode should see ETU attack from wide areas to utilize Tsubaki’s pace and spread the game out, that is if they are really going to win. Which I think will actually happen this time.

3 thoughts on “Giant Killing 10 – Individual Matchups”

  1. Tell me that wasn’t an offside trap I just saw.

    The focus on matchups are there because they’re easy to do, and takes advantage of the investments on setting up the characterization of the ETU players so far.

    1. I’m not sure the offside trap was deliberate. The portrayal of Pepe seems to make him an idiotic hothead who believes he could never just run into an offside position.

      I’d agree that matchups are easy to do, but I don’t think they work as well from a realism standpoint in football as well as something like basketball.

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