Leading up to what, for many reasons, should be an enthralling 2013 season, I’ll be creating some visual representations of data containing a number of interesting insights into the J.League and the wider of issues surrounding the growth of football in Japan. This post, which relates to the prefectures of birth of J.League Division 1 and 2 squad members at the end of the 2012 season, uses two methods to look at the same data. Initially each prefecture was accorded a simple total of squad members born inside their respective boundaries, and later, in an attempt to assess which prefectures could be regarded as the “football hotbeds” of Japan, I calculated that same number of players in the context of the relevant prefectural population.
The 2012 J.League awards ceremony was held on 3 December, Hisato Sato, a number of his teammates and manager Hajime Moriyasu rightly honoured as one of the most impressive, inventive and attractive sides of recent years claimed the league title. The inclusion of a number of players in the 2012 J.League Best XI caused some surprise, however, not the least of which was Vegalta Sendai’s Wilson being named ahead of either Leandro or teammate Shingo Akamine. Nonetheless, with 2012 also being the 20th anniversary of the instigation of Japan’s professional football league, it is time to reflect upon the selection of those players who were considered the best in their positions for each of those twenty years, and devise an “All-Time Best XI” comprising exclusively Japanese players and a further wholly foreign team. Owing to the likelihood of a number of positions featuring players to have been included an equal number of times, certain tie-breaking criteria were determined as follows:
Number of Times in Best XI; If equal
Number of Times named MVP; If still equal
Number of Title Wins; If still equal
Player’s Regular Position
(Leandro nets a brace in Gamba Osaka’s 5-0 mauling of Urawa Red Diamonds at the Saitama Stadium on Matchday 26, his second an exquisite, improvised flick coming in the 60th minute)
On 3 December 2012, Hisato Sato of Sanfrecce Hiroshima was very fittingly awarded the J.League MVP, Top Scorer and Individual Fair Play awards, the culmination of an excellent season and evening for both player and squad, as Hajime Moriyasu collected the Manager of the Year award, Toshihiro Aoyama accepted the Team Fair Play award, and three squad members in addition to Sato and Aoyama were named to the 2012 J.League Best XI.
However, one name in particular was noticeable by its inclusion in the team selection for the wrong reasons, Vegalta Sendai forward Wilson bafflingly chosen when several candidates appeared more worthy of selection. This analysis looks at the players to have scored a minimum of ten goals in the 2012 season, and ranks them on the basis of a number of key criteria, most notably goals scored per minute of playing time, first goal scored as a percentage of team goals and shots to conversion ratio. The conclusion confirms the names of two players who would be worthier candidates to join Sato and Sagan Tosu’s Yohei Toyoda in completing the forward line.
It will come as little surprise to find Urawa Red Diamonds once again topping the attendance figures in J.League Division 1. An average crowd of 36,634 attended matches at the Saitama Stadium, and a 2012 season record 51,879 made their way to Midori-ku, the only time the 50,000 mark had been breached, buoyed in no small part by the final league match being played out against the backdrop of an AFC Champions League place being at stake against Nagoya Grampus. This was in essence a repeat of the 2011 season, when the J.League’s traditional final day ‘bounce’ combined with a title-deciding fixture against Kashiwa Reysol to bring in a crowd of 54,441. Despite a truly miserable year, Consadole Sapporo eked out a greater number of visitors to their home matches than both Omiya Ardija and Sagan Tosu, though it is notable that the latter’s first season in the top-flight of Japanese professional football drew a club record average to both the Best Amenity and Saga Stadiums.
(Kashima Antlers set a 2012 J.League season record with a 7-0 victory over Consadole Sapporo on Matchday Twelve. Consadole would concede seven times for a second time on 25 August, thrashed 7-2 by fellow relegated club Gamba Osaka)
34 games. Just four wins. Only 25 goals scored, and 88 conceded. Fourteen points. This is the record of Consadole Sapporo, relegated to J.League Division Two on Matchday 27. Their average of 0.41 points per game, saw them finish the 2012 campaign with an historic low points total. Tthe question posed here is whether are they are now officially the worst side to have ever appeared in the top flight of Japanese professional football.
- Leandro’s goalscoring and his importance to Gamba Osaka is self-evident, but less noticed is that the Suita side are yet to lose a J.League match in which he has been part of the starting eleven. His 92nd minute equaliser against Kashima Antlers extends that remarkable sequence of results to eight games.
- Only Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Urawa Red Diamonds (17) have taken more points from their fixtures than Gamba (16) since Leandro made his first start on Matchday 19. Cerezo Osaka and Shimizu S-Pulse have also taken sixteen points in the same period of time.
The Young Nadeshiko meet Germany in the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup semi-final on 4 September, and the current holders of the Under-20 title and 2011 European Under-19 championship will pose the sternest challenge yet of Japan’s title credentials. Ahead of would should be an enthralling contest, here are five areas which could prove crucial in deciding which side advances to the final:
|All attempts||Goals||On target||Off target|
|Blocked||Inside Pen. Area||Outside Pen. Area||Woodwork|
|All||Completed %||Received||Attacking third|
|Assists||Chances created||Free Kick||Long|
(Data from Opta)
In an impressive Premier League debut, Shinji Kagawa was a candidate for Manchester United’s best performer in their opening game of the 2012/13 Premier League season. While the 2011/12 Runners-up were defeated 1-0 by Everton at Goodison Park, Kagawa provided a composed, assured display in a central attacking midfield role. Drifting between and across Everton’s defensive lines, the 23-year old’s movement ensured he was one of the most heavily involved of Alex Ferguson’s outfield players, only Paul Scholes and Tom Cleverley proving to be a more regularly used conduit in receipt of possession. Here are the relevant statistics in full:
|Passes (All)||Passes Completed||Passes Received||Attacking third|
|Assists||Chances created||Free Kicks||Backpasses|
|Passes Long||Passes Short||Passes Forward||Passes Backward|
|Passes Square||Crosses||Dribbles||Tackles Won|
(Data from Opta)
(As featured at the excellent Kick Off Asia)
Football has been described as many things. A multi-layered strategic contest in which smaller tactical games play themselves out across the pitch; warfare on a standardised battlefield, kit a replacement for military uniform, teams and supporters loyal to flag, insignia and anthem, managers assigning duties as would a general with his troops, military language synonymous with sporting vernacular; tribalism, cult, myth and religion, indoctrination into rites sacred or profane, fan(atics) singing songs in veneration of idols and gods past and present, superstitious rituals practised and performed to exacting standards day after day, week after week. It can be said also that it is a game of moments. An unforced, misplaced pass, an ill-timed tackle, a failed attempt to punch clear, a substitution and a tactical switch, a swing in momentum, these moments collectively may come to define the match, but singularly – and sometimes, admittedly, unfairly – equally they may come to define a player.