Hmm, who would’ve thunk that Tatsumi recognized a much more fundamental problem in ETU’s recent string of draw games. It turns out it wasn’t simply the discord over the sole forward position, but the one amongst all the players who weren’t on the same page in terms of team expectations. This was already hinted at last time with a few of the guys happy about their tie against Urawa Red Stars and Murakoshi quick to remind them that they didn’t win. The thought of that being the problem didn’t really occur to me at the time though, as Sera’s injury was the main focus. Interestingly enough, after all the attention his character got in terms of development, the contention for the starting forward position was merely glossed over this episode. Sera’s minor sprain had healed already and he subbed in for the second half of the match against Albireos Niigata (modeled after Albirex Niigata).
At first, this seemed to downplay the importance of Sera’s struggles as a player for the past three episodes, but that wasn’t the case when it was revealed he was getting more chances than Natsuki. Of course, it was more to reiterate that ETU finally started showing some good team chemistry after Akasaki called a bunch of them out for their half-assed play as of late. With tensions boiling over, Tatsumi was intent on letting a bunch of them argue to their heart’s content during half time, since it gave him indication that the players were finally thinking alike. I on the other hand, was simply wondering when the first punch was going to be thrown with how heated the guys got. Subsequently, the end result didn’t change despite a strong push in the second half, resulting in ETU’s first loss after going on a fairly long undefeated streak, but actually proved to be a step in the right direction for the team.
It’s a bit hard to believe that getting pissed off at one another would bring that about, but this episode went on to reiterate an underlying theme of what it takes to become a successful team. Skill would be an obvious one, as having Gino going absent without leave surely didn’t help ETU. However, here it was more about how ETU didn’t exude the makings of a championship team with the way some players were only content with ties while others were extremely frustrated about not winning against teams they feel they should have. While I still question if correcting this disparity in the players’ mentality is enough to turn ETU into a team capable of upsetting the still undefeated Osaka Gunners (modeled after Gamba Osaka), that’s evidently the direction the story’s headed. One thing that did catch my attention towards a huge giant killing in the Japan Football League though is Murakoshi reporting his view on the team to Tatsumi in private.
There hasn’t been much in the way of the relationship between those after Tatsumi reinstated Mr. ETU as the captain way back in episode five, nor the Japanese national team manager Blanc since episode six, so the addition of both looks like the stage has been set for the big showdown between Tatsumi and Osaka Gunners’ coach Dulfer. Tatsumi sure looks confident, but it appear the only change he’s making to counter the highly offensive opposition and their four forwards is changing up ETU’s formation to one with two forwards. That’s a change I’ve been wanting to see following the return of Natsuki, so it’ll be interesting to see what else Tatsumi has in mind.