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.
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.
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.
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.
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.