15 games. Just one win. Only ten goals scored, but 36 conceded. Four points. This is the current record of Consadole Sapporo, currently languishing at the bottom of J.League Division 1, a team which shows no sign of making any kind of recovery. Their average of 0.27 points per game, should it continue along the same trajectory, would seem them finish the 2012 campaign with an historic low of nine points. Even the most cursory of glances at the league table will confirm that the J.League’s sole representatives from Hokkaido are having a terrible season, but the question posed here is whether are they on course to become the worst side to have ever appeared in the top flight of Japanese professional football.
Unfortunately, complicating any like-for-like assessment of performances over the nineteen completed J.League seasons is how the format of the competition has changed since its inception. The evolution of the league into a standard single-season format, whereby points are allocated solely on the basis of wins and draws inside a regulation 90-minute match, was not completed until 2005. Between 1993 and 2004 the championship took on a number of relatively unfamiliar guises, which were in summary:
|Season||Format||Champions||Match Format||Ranking Basis||Points System|
|1993 – 1995||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal); Pens||Win/Loss||N/A|
|1996||Single Season||First place||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal); Pens||Points||Win: 3 Pts; Pen Loss: 1 Pt|
|1997-1998||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal); Pens||Points||Win: 3 Pts (Reg Time), 2 Pts (ET), 1 Pt (Pens)|
|1999-2002||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal)||Points||Win: 3 Pts (Reg Time), 2 Pts (ET); Draw: 1 Pt|
|2003-2004||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins||Points||Win: 3 Pts; Draw: 1 Pt|
|2005-||Single Season||First place||90 mins||Points||Win: 3 Pts; Draw: 1 Pt|
As such, to provide any sort of fair comparison as to how we may come to judge Consadole Sapporo and their place in history, it was first necessary to conduct a review of the approximately 4,000 matches played since the J.League’s birth twenty years ago, and both re-evaluate and re-calculate the results and league table accordingly, excluding any goals scored in extra-time, and allocating points on a standard basis of three points for a win, one point for a draw and no points for a loss against all matches contested between 1993 and 2002.
Please note that what follows can never be a definitive proof of which club should be deemed the J.League’s “worst” in competition, but it does provide a reasonable, evidence-based assessment of how clubs might have performed had they competed in a standard single-season league. Among a number of variables, matches played between 1993 and 1998 were in essence individual cup ties, necessitating a rather different strategy for the weaker teams in the J.League, who were unable to attempt to play out a draw and secure a vital single point, particular in matches played away from their home stadia. Furthermore, within the Apertura/Clausura system the manager of a team winning the first stage, having already qualified for the Championship final, might choose to focus his energies on domestic and/or continental cup competitions, swaying the outcome of one or more ties in the second stage through resting key players, which would be less likely in a straightforward league competition in which the title continues to be contested up to and including the final day of the season.
|Year||Team||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||Pts||PPG||GF PG||GA PG|
|1993 *||Urawa Reds||36||4||6||26||24||77||-53||18||0.50||0.67||2.14|
|1994 *||Urawa Reds||44||11||8||25||57||89||-32||41||0.93||1.30||2.02|
|1995 *||G. Osaka **||52||14||7||31||0||0||0||49||0.94||0.00||0.00|
|1996 *||K. P. Sanga||30||7||3||20||21||52||-31||24||0.80||0.70||1.73|
|1997 *||V. Kobe||32||6||5||21||40||76||-36||23||0.72||1.25||2.38|
|1998 *||A. Fukuoka||34||6||6||22||32||83||-51||24||0.71||0.94||2.44|
|1999 *||B. Hiratsuka||30||4||4||22||30||69||-39||16||0.53||1.00||2.30|
|2000 *||K. Frontale||30||3||8||19||22||56||-34||17||0.57||0.73||1.87|
|2001 *||C. Osaka||30||5||7||18||38||68||-30||22||0.73||1.27||2.27|
|2002 *||C. Sapporo||30||4||10||16||29||56||-27||22||0.73||0.97||1.87|
|2003||K. P. Sanga||30||6||5||19||28||60||-32||23||0.77||0.93||2.00|
|2006||K. P. Sanga||34||4||10||20||38||74||-36||22||0.65||1.12||2.18|
|2009||JEF U. Chiba||34||5||12||17||32||56||-24||27||0.79||0.94||1.65|
|2012 *||C. Sapporo||34||2||3||29||22||81||-59||9||0.27||0.67||2.40|
|* The points allocation/league position is calculated/rationalised|
|** No full league record could be found for the 1995 J.League season|
|PPG: Points per Game|
|GF PG: Goals For per Game|
|GA PG: Goals Against per Game|
As can be seen from the table, Consadole Sapporo’s points per game tally is significantly lower than that of the two clubs sharing the next most inferior average, 0.47 for both Yokohama FC in 2007 and Shonan Bellmare in 2010, while only one team scored goals at a slower rate (Yokohama FC, 2007) and only one other team conceded goals more frequently (Avispa Fukuoka, 1998). It is evident that Consadole’s record is unparalleled in J.League Division 1 history at this stage.
As there are still nineteen games to play in the 2012 season, one could assume that the unfinished nature of the campaign and the quantity of remaining matches is in Consadole’s favour, in so much as they are still “in charge of their own destiny”. However, history does not favour Nobuhiro Ishizaki’s men. Since the introduction of the standard single season in 2005, only one team which finished at the bottom of the table has taken more points in the second half of the season as a proportion of their overall total, Montedio Yamagata bucking the trend in 2011 by picking up 12 of their 21 points in their final seventeen games. The inability of teams suffering at the lower reaches of the division to gain traction is presumably explained in part by injuries to key players during the course of a league season, but one theory which may bear further investigation at a later date is whether teams and their players are simply resigned to or accepting of the likelihood of relegation, and performances dwindle accordingly. In any event, even if Consa were to collect points at the same rate as Montedio last year, they would still end the year on just eleven points, still an historic low by some quite considerable distance. Consadole’s own relegation season in 2008 may provide more of a clue as to how they will perform for the rest of the year, with 83% of their points coming within their first seventeen matches. They are also currently on track to set a new record for the fewest wins recorded in a season, beating the three jointly held by Kawasaki Frontale in 2000 (in regulation time) and Shonan Bellmare in 2010. It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that Consadole Sapporo will make history for all the wrong reasons in 2012.