Giant Killing 13 – Goals Breed Confidence

Before their fourth round FA Cup replay against Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers back in February, Crystal Palace were a side in crisis, and would continue to be a club in crisis to the present time. Administration had meant the sale of one of their young starts, and the 10 point penalty put them in danger of relegation. It also meant some reshuffling of players to cover for massive holes in the team sheet. Most importantly on this occasion it meant moving right-back Danny Butterfield up to striker.

Butterfield had shown no signs of what was to come on the night. A 30-year-old who had spent most of his career in the Football League with Grimsby and Palace, prolific scorer would definitely not be a label attached to him, with 10 professional goals in over 350 appearances. Then something interesting happened in the 61st minute of the match. A rebound sat up for him and he was able to head in a goal from one yard out. Four minutes later, he was put through on goal and his scuffed right-footed shot slipped under the goalkeeper to make it 2-0. Then a couple of minutes after that, he found some space in the penalty area and hit a smooth left-footed shot beyond the keeper to complete the most unlikely “perfect” hat-trick in the space of 6 minutes, 48 seconds.

Most of today’s post is going to be devoted mainly to Tsubaki’s emergence as a star player in the space of this episode and how it exactly came to pass in the aftermath of his goal. Also, there will be a little on Itagaki’s decision to do things on his own and what will happen to ETU in the wake of their first victory of the campaign.

Midorikawa reaches across to make a nice save from Itagaki, poor technique though.

Two episodes ago, Tsubaki began to see things a whole lot clearer, though it could have been mistaken for symptoms of a concussion at the time. As a box-to-box midfielder, he was playing his role well in mostly defending against Nagoya’s strikers whenever they threatened. In the last episode, he progressed in that role by continuing to stop attacks and contributing to ETU’s opener by arriving late in the penalty area to finish off their counterattacking move.

In this episode, Tsubaki’s role changed from that of simple box-to-box midfielder to more of a midfield general. In the attack that sealed ETU’s victory, Tsubaki drove relentlessly at the Nagoya defense, fighting off defenders and nutmegging Carlos. Where before Gino was the only one directing ETU’s attacks, now Tsubaki was directing the attack himself. While he did not exactly create the Gino’s goal, the fact that he was posing a threat allowed Gino to find the space he needed to score his first goal of the season.

Carlos is destroyed by the smiling midfielder Tsubaki.

So, in the space of 90 minutes, Tsubaki evolved from a player who struggled to keep up with the pace of matches to one of the most important players in the team. Confidence has a funny way of making players better. Tatsumi recognized that Tsubaki had potential early on as did the various youth and feeder clubs Tsubaki played for earlier in his career. With his first professional goal, and increased confidence, surely things are on the way up for him.

Gino is such a clinical finisher from 20 yards

Itagaki responded to ETU’s goal by demanding the ball and focusing entirely on scoring himself and forgetting all tactical responsibility. While his new approach did make it harder for Kuroda to deal with him, and created additional worries for the rest of the ETU defense. Fuwa also took this as a positive sign in Itagaki better interacting with the Brazilians. Unfortunately, his single-mindedness led to his losing the ball to Ishihama and beginning the move that clinched defeat. If Fuwa knew what he was doing, Itagaki would be dropped, though I doubt that would happen.

Pepe's offer of Curry Pan is surprisingly not enough to get Tsubaki to exchange shirts.

Finally, where does ETU go from here. With 3 points in the bank and 30 league games to go, they are still some way from survival. Fuwa was right in his belief that ETU would never succeed if they treated every league match like a cup game, but with Tatsumi finally finding his feet in this division, they should be more than safe in the end. Will they end up winning silverware though?

The sideline reporter probably had no idea how bad an interview Tsubaki is.

For now, Tsubaki will have to deal with the increased attention of the media and fans, while Tatsumi will have to make sure his team does not get their heads stuck in the clouds on the basis of one league victory.

6 thoughts on “Giant Killing 13 – Goals Breed Confidence”

  1. Great breakdown of the episode, great anecdote to contextualize the events in the game. This is real good work you’re doing.

    I wouldn’t call Tsubaki a midfield general on the basis of this game, but his vision opening up the whole thing may lead to that. After all, there are proper forwards in ETU.

    1. You’re right in that it is probably wrong to call Tsubaki a midfield general on the basis of 20 minutes of a match. I was just thinking that he was showing those types of attributes. As far as proper forwards, Sera would probably be the only one since Gino plays off a striker and Akasaki is more of a winger. It’s still pretty hard to really describe their formation (I’d say either a 4-1-2-3 or 4-1-3-2)

      1. I considered that a possibility, but I think Gino plays far too forward for it to really work the same way. Though, I would find it hilarious that Tatsumi would realize the value of 4-2-3-1 over 4-4-2 before any English manager despite having managed there before.

      2. And yet Gino does not play as far forward to make it a 4-2-2-2. He’s more an orchestrating attacking midfielder. He mainly operates in the opponents half of the field up to just within the box. Thus, 4-2-3-1 is the nominal system they play.

      3. It is probably closer to a 4-2-3-1 than anything. I was planning on doing another post just on the tactics used in this match, since I’m fairly sure Nagoya play a 4-1-3-2 or a diamond 4-4-2.

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