In February 2008, Arsenal’s Croatian international striker Eduardo was beginning to adapt to life in the Premier League after his summer move. After a slow start, the holiday period had seen him scoring for Arsenal for the first time in the league, while in the following weeks his goals and chances he created had put Arsenal at the top of the league. A trip to Birmingham seemed to provide a chance for him to add to his tally and extend Arsenal’s 5-point lead at the top.
Unfortunately 3 minutes in, Eduardo was on the receiving and of a horrific tackle by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor which broke his leg. After an extended period out, Eduardo returned to full action 18 months later. He clearly was not the same player he was before as injury-prone Robin van Persie and the inconsistent Nicklas Bendtner were preferred to him whenever they were fit. With another striker arriving this summer, Arsenal took a loss on his transfer fee and sold him to Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
The 17th episode of Giant Killing features Natsuki’s return to action after 8 months out due to injury. Obviously he marks it in spectacular fashion by scoring with his first touch, but there were other points of interest. In this post I will be looking at the potential for stagnation for ETU, Tatsumi’s first experiences managing against European managers and the gigantic squad management situation that Tatsumi now finds himself in.
ETU’s Vanishing Form
It would be hard to say that a side picked for relegation and on a 5-match unbeaten run would be in potential trouble, but doubts still linger about this team. Only once in those 5-matches have they been comfortably on top of another team, and other managers are beginning to pick up on their tactics.
Tatsumi initially brought Natsuki on to try to confuse Urawa, but it actually exposed a couple of weaknesses in ETU. I can guess that Natsuki prefers the ball to be played into him to his feet, which was where the initial ball was passed to him. With Sera as the forward, ETU could play the ball into space where Sera could run onto it and the risk of counterattack was minimized. That led to Urawa taking advantage of another weakness in ETU’s team, Midorikawa’s struggles with shots from distance.
In the end they did get a draw from a team they had lost to the previous 3 years, but Murakoshi and Tatsumi could not help but feel like it was an opportunity lost. Tatsumi will have to change his tactics at some point, or worse, the current squad has reached peak performance and the talent level will soon begin to push ETU back down the table.
Tatsumi vs. Europe
ETU have finally hit a stretch of the schedule where they are going up against sides managed by Europeans. Tatsumi had managed against Europeans before while managing way down the pyramid in England. Though most of time he was matching wits against guys who had full-time jobs elsewhere, the one time he really did get to test his abilities against a top-flight European manager he lost to Portsmouth.
Tatsumi makes an observation in the middle of the match against Urawa that they seem to be communicating better. This would indicate that their foreign manager is getting better at getting his players to understand his tactics, or even simply that they are improving as a unit.
More to the point, the fact that Urawa and Gamba at least have foreign managers are because they have more money, basically. It is also the case that a foreign manager may be able to command more respect from Japanese players, which is why the clubs stump for them continuously. Tatsumi, whose managerial education came in Europe, should theoretically have commanded the same level of respect. However, with Murakoshi’s and Kuroda’s early resistance to his methods that was clearly not the case. In effect, in dealing with European managers, Tatsumi could be described as going up against true vision of how his opponent wants his team to play rather than the player-centric tactical mess that was Fuwa’s Nagoya.
Tatsumi gets another chance in the next episode as ETU faces Osaka, who are managed by the Dutchman who was impressed by Tatsumi’s handshake at the preseason press event.
3 Strikers, One Place in the Team
With Sera’s injury being relatively minor, Tatsumi has no injury concerns going into the match against Osaka. However, he has a decision to make that could very well change the club’s fortunes going forward, how he chooses to utilize his strikers.
If Tatsumi remains dedicated to playing a lone striker, he has a number of options. The obvious choice that most fans would make would be to name Natsuki as the starter immediately. There could be fitness issues with him as well as certain tactical changes that would have to be made to accommodate him. However, his clinical finishing always makes him a threat to the opposition.
Tatsumi could put Sera back in after his injury, which I believe he will do as it is more comfortable to him tactically. As stated earlier, I think his pace makes ETU play in a way that makes them less vulnerable to counterattacks from the opposition, but creates few chances for himself. Perhaps being restored to the lineup could give his confidence a boost and he could start scoring goals.
For Sakai, I really don’t see him in a starting role. At 31, even he admits that he is past his prime. Against Urawa, he posed little threat and his substitution came as little surprise to anyone. His future role might be as an option off the bench for his height, or to close out matches when they are ahead.
Thoughts: I thought this was a good episode for setting up potential problems that still exist for ETU. Osaka are the next opponent and they will have to work hard to get anything off of them. It also looks as though the Skulls’ leader is upset about only getting a draw, will anything other than winning please him? Also, the series is rapidly running out of episodes and I think they will have to do another multi-episode match again. Is there going to be a second season of this?