The past decade has seen the reputation of leading strikers diminish significantly. Where awards used to be handed to strikers who scored tons of goals for the leading clubs, now they are handed out to attacking midfielders and wingers who increasingly score more goals. The leading egotistical strikers of the present, the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Didier Drogba, have become pantomime villains to a certain extent to neutrals. With that in mind, who would want to fulfill that role in the future?
The 23rd episode of Giant Killing sees Natsuki deal with his own internal struggles as ETU chase a goal to try to haul themselves back into that match. With that in mind, this was generally a positive episode for the home side. The focus of this particular post will be on the downside to playing Kubota every match, Gino’s sacrifice and Natsuki’s ever changing definition of how he wants to play the forward role.
A Game of 90 Minutes, not 55
In episode 21, Kubota’s sterling performance in the first half was the major focus. Among the details told to the national team manager Blanc was that Kubota had concerns over his fitness, so was never able to make an impact as a defensive midfielder. With Sugie now focused on exclusively stopping him in the second half, Kubota lets his emotions get the better of him. He now wants the praise for putting the match away, so much so that he forgets that he is sapping his own energy. His leap over Sugie’s tackle may have put him through on goal temporarily, but it expended a lot of energy he would have had left to stop Tsubaki had he just passed the ball to a teammate.
Osaka’s strategy with Kubota involved him being the deepest of the four forwards and distributing the ball to one of the other three. His conversion to striker worked fairly well to this end. However, as his mentality has evolved into one of a striker, his enthusiasm has taken over his body. He internally wants to be just like one of the other 3 strikers, but he simply doesn’t have the endurance to play like that. In that case, his usefulness would be limited to being an impact sub more than a regular starter.
Gino’s Bad Game (Part 2)
So ultimately, Gino’s errant passing in the first half was a cover to tire out Osaka’s captain, Hiraga. Unfortunately, it raises a few issues about the flow of the story that have popped up from time to time.
If Gino can intentionally play badly, why is he still playing for ETU? If he can adapt that well he may as well be a playmaker for a top club. As I’m certain we’ll find out soon enough, Tatsumi probably told Gino to play a few bad passes in the first half because he noticed “something” on DVDs of Osaka’s matches. There will probably be more to come on this point.
On the other hand, there is a consistency to events here that relate to the first practice match Tatsumi had as ETU manager. There, Tatsumi forced the older players to do most of the work before the younger players were able to take advantage and rout the tired first team. Though it is worrying to see stamina play such an important role in the series, I can’t help but admit that it is true in real life as well.
Natsuki’s Mixed Messages
In this episode, we are presented with different interpretations for the role of a forward. Natsuki defines it as someone who solely shoots and scores goals. Tatsumi immediately tells him that he just sees it as a role held by the players furthest up the pitch, and as a result of his own interpretation Natsuki doesn’t have the determination needed to be a forward.
As a result, Natsuki himself is caught between the two different roles that he sees as mutually exclusive. The case of the ball at near the goal line is a perfect example. He is caught between shooting from an acute angle and passing it to Sera because he sees the forward role as either a team role or an individual role. Tatsumi really wants him to embrace both roles in being an outlet for relieving pressure for the rest of the team, and wanting to score goals for himself. Natsuki finally seems to get it at the end of the episode as he makes himself available for Tsubaki’s cross and tries to volley it in, but his effort could still ultimately lead to a goal.
Thoughts: I wouldn’t exactly quantify this as a good episode exactly, but I can see the purpose of it. The previous 3 episodes serve as a set up here as the rest of Osaka begin to tire. I’m not exactly sure Akasaki will score his first goal of the season from the cliffhanger, but I’m sure ETU will now be able to tear Osaka apart going forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if ETU are leading at the end of the next episode now.