Sometimes it takes time to find a proper position for some younger players. Former Mexico goalkeeper Jorge Campos wanted to play in the first team at Pumas early in his career, and that meant he had to play as a striker though his haul of 35 goals at the position meant he definitely had some talent up front. Alan Shearer, the top goalscorer in the Premier League era, was supposedly rejected by Newcastle as a goalkeeper early in his career before signing at Southampton. Less memorable was Paul Warhurst, a defender who scored 12 times in 12 matches as an emergency striker earning him a call-up to the England squad as a striker.
The 21st episode of Giant Killing sees ETU bury themselves further in the hole as Kubota scores Osaka’s 2nd goal. The episode functions largely as character development for the forward, which forms one part of this post. In addition, there are also some promising signs for ETU and also what happens when defenders try to do too much.
Kubota: A Winner by Circumstance
A large portion of this episode was devoted to backstory for the Osaka forward. We learn that he used to be a defensive midfielder and was good enough to be a youth international at that role, but he never did much in that role. Dulfer, though, noticed his outstanding instinct and intuition which combined with the vision he learned as a defensive midfielder actually made him an outstanding forward.
One has to wonder what would have happened to him had Dulfer not been manager. In all likelihood, he would have been a reserve or occasional first-teamer who would have been content with making tackles like the one he made on Tsubaki. Since he is capable of that on top of creating and taking chances, those tackles build his confidence because he’s not expected to make those as a striker.
The real concern about Kubota is that it illustrates one of the problems with the structure of the narrative. Typically, it has been the case for ETU that Tatsumi slowly discloses his strategy throughout the match making him seem like a genius. In this case, as we learn more about Kubota, he become a sort of superman figure on the pitch for Osaka. Though there is still a half to play, he’s essentially become the Leo Messi figure that ETU have to deal with.
Things Looking Up for ETU?
After Hauer’s opener, ETU tried to get out of the defensive bunker they were forced into. Gino’s errant passing prevented Tsubaki from creating another chance, while Natsuki found himself surrounded by defenders when he had the ball in an advanced position. After Kubota scored the second, Tsubaki was able to get forward, with Sera able to at least attempt a shot.
While not necessarily creating chances at the moment, ETU do at least seem able to get forward when they have possession. Gino’s poor performance in the first half is not helpful as he is key man in all of their attacks. As it stands, ETU aren’t going to be able to play on the counter as Osaka will not let them have the ball that way. At 2-0 down, they may as well try to push men forward anyway.
Making a Difficult Situation Harder
In the aftermath of Hauer’s goal, Akasaki tells Ishihama and Kiyokawa that they should focus on just stopping their markers and allowing Tsubaki and himself to come back and help. Kiyokawa had been beaten trying to prevent his marker beating him for pace, Kuroda was distracted as a result and that led to the opening goal. For Osaka’s second, despite being told to man-mark Kubota, Sugie could not overcome his defender’s instinct to monitor his surrounding, which allowed Kubota to run past him and score.
Tatsumi’s tactics were undoubtedly simple for his back four. Each was given a man to mark much like a game of basketball, but the costly errors have come from doing too much. As I was personally screaming for Sugie to put a reducer on Kubota, I was thinking that Kiyokawa could have at least fouled his man rather than let him through. Instead, as Kuroda and Sugie have tons of experience playing in bad teams, they are worried about the mistakes of others leading them into mistakes of their own. It provides a further illustration of the cultural challenges Tatsumi faces at the club.
Thoughts: So it ends up 2-0 going into halftime. I’m sure the next episode is going to be the inevitable mauling by Tatsumi as he reminds them about what they were working on in training. If the next episode actually gets into match action, I can see ETU nabbing a quick goal or something happening to Kubota that shatters his confidence. Maybe Gino will find the passing touch he had sitting in the dressing room as well.