I said in my previous Pythagorean post that it would be my last post before the automated service goes up, but I was so gobsmacked about the final table for the J-League that I had to create a Pythagorean for that competition.
So here it is for J-League Division One, which finished its 34-round season on Saturday. The universal Pythagorean league exponent of 1.70 is used.
|Urawa Red Diamonds||34||15||10||9||47||42||+5||55||14||9||11||51||+4|
|Yokohama F. Marinos||34||13||14||7||44||33||+11||53||15||10||9||55||-2|
At the top of the table, Sanfrecce Hiroshima fully deserved their maiden J1 title, and Vegalta Sendai remain one of the best stories in Japanese football over the last 21 months. Perhaps Yokohama F-Marinos would have finished in the top three (Asian Champions League positions) had Urawa not overperformed slightly, but it could go down to marginal differences making the difference between continental football and nothing. Nagoya Grampus played seven points better than their expectations — more so than any other side in the competition.
But the biggest story of the season was Gamba Osaka’s relegation. Not only because Gamba were former champions of the J-League (2005) but also because they had a goal difference of +2 this season.
The Pythagorean residual at the end was -11, which is a shockingly low number. Hertha Berlin had a Pythagorean residual of -8 in the 2009-10 German Bundesliga, but I don’t recall a team that had a more negative residual. It’s not everyday that you see a team with the best scoring offense and the 2nd-worst scoring defense simultaneously. It’s clear that a team with those characteristics isn’t going to win the league, but shouldn’t Gamba have at least finished mid-table? Were they “unlucky” as the Pythagorean would indicate?
A look at the league table throughout the season offers an alternative view of Gamba’s season. (You can take a look at the J-League’s English-language site, the Japanese side has more data, not surprisingly.) Gamba spent almost the entire season in the lower ranges of the J1 table, and at the halfway point of the season they had a goal difference of -12 (26 scored, 38 conceded). By round 27 they had picked up the pace and were in positive territory on the goal difference (54 goals scored, 53 conceded), but they remained in the bottom three.
Further insight can be gained when you look at who Gamba scored against. First, there’s the matter of everyone’s favorite punching bag in Consadole Sapporo. Gamba beat Consadole 7-2 at home and 4-0 away, and if you remove those two scores from their total, their goal difference shrinks from +2 (67-65) to -7 (56-63). If you choose to view the league as 17 home-and-away aggregate series against the other teams, Gamba won six of them, lost ten, and drew just one. It would be interesting to know how their performance stacked up to the rest of the competition, but a 6-10-1 record isn’t good.
So even though Gamba scored more than enough goals to be competitive and even contend for an Asian Champions League place, their defense appeared to have undone them more than a few times. They have the talent and the infrastructure to make their stay in J2 a short one, but they got themselves in this position not by poor luck, but poor performance that persisted throughout the season.