Welcome (back) to Relegationistan

You think relegation is easy? You think it is just as simple as being bad? Wrong. There are rules & regulations to follow (and to be broken….cheers Cerezo) in this crazy kingdom. So, don your study cap and get ready to read what Professor Barme – known to us friends as @AgentOrange2009 – has to say about the Republic of Relegationistan. The lecture begins now.

In all walks of life, there are rules that must be followed. Relegationistan is no different.

RULE 1- KASHIMA NEVER GETS RELEGATED RULE – This is the rule I’d probably count on the most. Kashima hasn’t even really dipped their toe in the waters of relegation in their entire existence as a J league club. Not going to happen this year either

Chances of the rule holding-100%


RULE 2- THE MAEDA DEATH GOAL RULE – I’m not going to get into details on the Maeda Death goal because I think everyone knows the whole theory behind it. This year, Maeda reared his ugly head….errrrr and unleashed his vengeance upon Vegalta Sendai. Sendai in turn were so devastated by the fact that they were this seasons victim that they came out this weekend and….beat Kashima.
You might be saying to yourself, “HEY! Maeda scored his first goal against Urawa and they are still in J1!”. You would be technically correct. I have two things to say about this. First, There is an exception to every rule. This rule has the “Urawa Exception”. Maeda has twice opened his account against the talent bloated Saitama side. Both times Urawa survived. Second, Life is unfair….that’s all I got.

What’s unclear is how Maeda’s transfer to FC Tokyo affects the curse. Was the curse only in effect while Maeda donned the baby blue shirt of Jubilo.

Chances of the rule holding-50%  While I think it’s a possibility that Sendai could go down, I think there are much worse teams in J1 that probably will fill the 3 spots. However, it’s never a good idea to break the rules.


RULE 3- THE MILIVOJE NOVAKOVIC DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE RULE – In 2014, Slovenian super striker and Liam Neeson clone Milivoje Novakovic fled Omiya for the comfy confines of Shizuoka. Omiya filled his spot with Shimizu’s former striker Radoncic and stumbled to a uninspiring 16th place finish. Shimizu barely managed to hold on to their spot in J1, thanks in large part to a victory by Nagoya over Omiya in the former team’s 2014 home finale. Novakovic decided that Shimizu was headed in the wrong direction and jumped ship for……you guessed it, Nagoya Grampus!

Novakovic in his Grampus red

Novakovic managed a J league career low 7 goals and the team stumbled to a 9th place finish. This year has seen a massive clear out of high priced veterans and a realignment of their back line. The early results have been promising for the lifelong J1 squad, snagging 4 points out of their first three matches. They’re on the exact same pace as Shimizu S Pulse was last year.


Chances of the rule holding-65% Even with the purge in the offseason, Nagoya should have enough talent on paper to survive. However, that offseason was reminiscent of the tumultuous campaigns of Omiya and Shimizu. Don’t like what’s going on in Chubu. (Although considering that they stuck the knife in Omiya in 2014, I wouldn’t lose sleep over them going to J2.)


RULE 4- THE PROMOTION PLAYOFF WINNER ALWAYS FINISHES LAST RULE – The good news for Avispa Fukuoka is that teams who have been promoted through the playoff have been putting up gradually better results. Yamagata was competitive last year. I’d put out the argument that Avispa is closer to Yamagata than they are to either Tokushima or Oita. The bad news is that Yamagata weren’t very good. Early results haven’t been promising for the Kyuushu side and only managing 1 point out of their first three matches has to be considered a minor disappointment. Avispa need to get results soon. The thing that makes the difference between low budget clubs surviving or dropping usually lie in how they do in early contests. Get some wins and the confidence grows. Lose a bunch and guys who haven’t really tasted success in J1 tend to doubt themselves.


The default Ihara look – stern

Chance of the rule holding-75% At the end of last season, I would have given this a much lower rating but the combination of a lackluster preseason combined with the early struggles of Lee Bum Young meshing with a retooled back line has tamped down my confidence in the squad. The upcoming 4 game stretch (Jubilo,Albirex,Vissel,Nagoya) presents Masami Ihara with a golden opportunity to get the team back on track. All 4 teams are relatively beatable so if Avispa can get 6 points, they will be in good shape. However, if they come away with only one or two, they are in real danger of losing control of the season.


RULE 5- The 3/1 5/5 PROMOTION RULE – Historically, teams who have been victorious in their first match after gaining promotion have been successful in surviving their first year in J1. Don’t believe me? Nikkan Sports backs me up!   http://www.nikkansports.com/soccer/news/1610836.html. Another lesser known rule is the 5 in 5 rule. Promoted teams who manage to get 5 points in their first 5 matches have all survived their inaugural J1 campaigns. Last year’s J2 Champions of J2….and the world, Omiya have managed to clear both benchmarks with two matches remaining. I probably shouldn’t write about them here again because they are guaranteed safety! It’s the law!

Jubilo Iwata are one point away from reaching five in five with two games left. Ironically enough, a draw against either of their two promoted brethren would give them that coveted fifth point.


Chance of the rule holding- N/A I am not jinxing Omiya. I will say that I am glad that this little rule is tucked away in Hiroki Shibuya’s pocket.  

大宮100%残留 昇格組唯一の開幕戦に勝利 – J1 : 日刊スポーツ



RULE 6- GET 8 IN 5 AND YOU ARE SAFE RULE – This was a rule until Cerezo ruined it in 2014 by getting 10 points in their first 5 matches. That leads me to the Cerezo exception, which states that Cerezo has to ruin everything.

Chance of the rule holding-0% THANKS CEREZO!!!! YOU RUIN EVERYTHING!!!!!

RULE 7- THE CHAMPION NEVER GETS RELEGATED IN A DEFENDING YEAR RULE – In the entire history of the J League (23 years now if my math is correct), no team has ever been relegated in a year after they have won a J1 championship. In fact, you can stretch this out to 2nd place as well. Cerezo nearly pulled off the feat of going from champion to chum in 2005-2006, but lost the championship at the final whistle in 2005, plummeting from first to fifth (because Cerezo ruins everything). The biggest relegation took place in 2012, when Gamba Osaka dropped from 3rd to 17th. They would go on to win the J2 championship in 2013 and do an unprecedented promotion sweep of all three major J league titles (J1 championship, Nabisco Cup, and Emperors Cup).

Chance of the rule holding-99% Never say never, but I’d argue that Sanfrecce is too stable to be drawn into a relegation dogfight…….early results non-withstanding. Who knows, maybe we will have to start a “Peter Utaka is a curse on all your houses” rule next.


1. RAKUTEN,REYSOL,AND RICE….OH MY! – We here in Relegationistan say adieu to Kashiwa manager Milton Mendes after he resigned from his post because of “family reasons”. While I’d argue it was a bit premature to judge Mendes on his poor early results, I would say the team didn’t look like it was going to go anywhere. Reysol had enough in terms of possession, but a leaky defense combined with a suspect offense really didn’ leave much optimism for Reysol supporters. Early on you could say similar things about teams being led under the two gentlemen who were previously at the helm of Chiba’s lone J1 representative.

Tatsuma Yoshida has seen his squad let in a league worst 9 goals after three matches. Niigata started out brightly enough with a 2-1 win over last year’s surprise squad Shonan Bellmare but consecutive losses to Vissel Kobe (6-3) and Yokohama F Marinos (2-1) have caused some concern in Big Swan stadium. Yoshida has been forced to play a patchwork backline with Michael James Fitzgerald out and the departure of Kentaro Oi to Jubilo in the offseason. Adding fuel to a dicey situation has been the erratic goalkeeping of Tatsuya Morita. Signs were there last year when Morita saw his goals against number jump from 36 in 2014 to a horrible 58 in 2015.

Highly respected and highly paid manager Nelsinho has been disappointing in his brief tenure at Vissel. Results this season have seen the team sandwich a 6 goal onslaught versus Niigata between two inept shutouts at the hands of Ventforet Kofu and FC Tokyo. The shocking thing about Vissel’s recent form hasn’t been the erratic results. That’s been a hallmark of Kobe’s entire existence. No the problem has been odd and negative game planning. During the FC Tokyo match, Kobe showed no signs of even being concerned about winning the match. From the lack of offense (3 shots…none on goal) to the time wasting of new keeper Kim Seung Gyu, it looked like the plan from the start was to steal a point by playing for a 0-0 draw. It seems counterintuitive considering their strength lies in their offensive personnel. I’m also not convinced that you can get many clean sheets with a backline being anchored by the returning corpse of Masahiko Inoha. Could we possibly see an unemployment hat trick of former Reysol managers?

2. SHONANIGANS – With the losses of Captain Ryota Nagaki and iconic defender Wataru Endo, it was easy to see that Shonan were going to have a more difficult time in 2016. The biggest problem for the squad though might have actually been the loss of goalkeeper Yota Akimoto to FC Tokyo. Former Yamaga man Tomohiko Murayama has struggled keeping balls out of the back of Shonan’s net, allowing 8 in the three games the team has played. Saturday’s draw against title holder Sanfrecce can kind of be pinned on hard luck, a pk combined with an own goal at the death really shouldn’t be pinned on Murayama but leaky keeping in the first two matches of the season haven’t helped the squad. Compounding matters have been the lack of an acceptable replacement in Endo’s old spot. Veteran Tsuyoshi Shimamura and newcomer Takuya Okamoto have both failed to impress in their appearances along the back line. Fortunately for Cho Kwi Jae’s side, JEF loanee Paulinho has been better than expected, pitching in with two beautiful goals.

While there aren’t many good options for the backline, a possible change in keeper could help steady the defense. Former Melbourne city keeper Tando Velaphi might be the answer. If not, Shonan could be seeing a return to J2 sooner rather than later.

3. I DON’T HAVE A THIRD – Cerezo ruins everything!

Cerezo Osaka…..thanks a bunch.

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