Japan Nadeshiko League 2014

It is not the mid-point of the entire 2014 season which consists of two stages. In the first stage 10 teams play among them, twice for each match-up, then they are split into the 2 groups of upper 6 and lower 4 for the second stage.

But this is the mid-point of the first stage and each team has played each other team once. So I decided to do some statistics in hope it gives some glimpse how my beloved nadeshikos are doing.

This is how the standing table looks as of now.

#1 Urawa: Pts=22, W=7, D=1, L=1, GF=20, GA=6, GD=14
#2 Yunogo: Pts=20, W=6, D=2, L=1, GF=18, GA=11, GD=7
#3 Niigata: Pts=17, W=5, D=2, L=2, GF=19, GA=7, GD=12
#4 Chiba: Pts=16, W=5, D=1, L=3, GF=16, GA=12, GD=4
#5 Kobe: Pts=14, W=4, D=2, L=3, GF=17, GA=10, GD=7
#6 NTV: Pts=14, W=4, D=2, L=3, GF=16, GA=9, GD=7
#7 Sendai: Pts=14, W=4, D=2, L=3, GF=10, GA=8, GD=2
#8 Iga: Pts=6, W=1, D=3, L=5, GF=12, GA=17, GD=–5
#9 Saitama: Pts=3, W=1, D=0, L=8, GF=9, GA=30, GD=–21
#10 Kibi: Pts=1, W=0, D=1, L=8, GF=6, GA=33, GD=–27

I did another study after the 2013 season which began with analyzing how “equal” the teams were. (http://www.womenssoccerunited.com/lets-do-mathematics/#more-189) As I did then I compute the standard deviation of points to quantify this property. The larger this quantity is, the more “unequal” the teams are. Using the STDEV function of Microsoft Excel, it is:

STDEV(22, 20, 17, 16, 14, 14, 14, 6, 3, 1) = 7.07

This number was 12.80 after the entire 2013 season which ended as shown below.

#1 Kobe: Pts=48, W=16, D=0, L=2, GF=62, GA=13, GD=49
#2 NTV: Pts=38, W=12, D=2, L=4, GF=36, GA=15, GD=21
#3 Yunogo: Pts=34, W=10, D=4, L=4, GF=31, GA=19, GD=12
#4 Iga: Pts=28, W=8, D=4, L=6, GF=20, GA=17, GD=3
#5 Sendai: Pts=28, W=8, D=4, L=6, GF=23, GA=24, GD=–1
#6 Urawa: Pts=21, W=6, D=3, L=9, GF=23, GA=26, GD=–3
#7 Chiba: Pts=21, W=5, D=6, L=7, GF=15, GA=20, GD=–5
#8 Niigata: Pts=19, W=5, D=4, L=9, GF=27, GA=32, GD=–5
#9 Kibi: Pts=12, W=3, D=3, L=12, GF=17, GA=49, GD=–32
#10 Takatsuki: Pts=4, W=0, D=4, L=14, GF=5, GA=44, GD=–39

However, as I mentioned last year, these kind of numbers have to be compensated for different numbers of games, or “normalized,” to be compared under equal criteria. The easiest way to do so is to divide the standard deviation by the number of games played. Therefore,

2013 (entire season): 12.80 / 18 = 0.71
2014 (mid-point): 7.07 / 9 = 0.79

Some people may be a bit surprised to see the 2013 season in which the winner INAC Kobe topped the runner-up NTV Beleza by 10 points is more “equal” than the current standing in which Urawa leads Yunogo by 2 points, which is statistically equivalent to having 4-point lead after the full 18 games. Perhaps this is due to the situation at the bottom of the table? In 2013, only Speranza Takatsuki was truly “out of the league.” This year, so far, 3 teams—Iga Kunoichi, Elfen Saitama and Kibi University—represent a minor league and the rest may be in a closer race? OK, then, let us focus on the top 7 teams and calculate the standard deviation of points among them, then and now, with the same normalization.

2013 (entire season): 0.54
2014 (mid-point): 0.36

Now the result is easier to accept. 2014 league is certainly more equal than 2013 league. On the other hand, we are not certain we can say Iga who tied with NTV and Sendai is really a minor league team. If we count them in, which means computing for the upper 8 teams, the results are:

2013 (entire season): 0.55
2014 (mid-point): 0.53

2014 is more equal than 2013, indeed, but by mere 3.6%. I suppose different people would interpret this result differently. For myself it tells one undisputable fact. 2014 is equally “unequal” as 2013, but the order of names is totally different. Focusing on the upper 8 teams they are,

2013 (entire season): Kobe, NTV, Yunogo, Iga, Sendai, Urawa, Chiba, Niigata
2014 (mid-point): Urawa, Yunogo, Niigata, Chiba, Kobe, NTV, Sendai, Iga

It means some teams (Urawa most prominently, Niigata to some lesser extent) have improved a lot while some others (INAC Kobe, most notably) have degraded off the scale. At the same time, though, we must keep in mind it is premature to conclude the “divide” within the league is cemented in 2014 as it was in 2013. Another analysis I did last year was to compute the standard deviation of goal difference. See the numbers then and now, again applied with the same normalization.

2013 (entire season): 1.39
2014 (mid-point): 1.53

If we focus on the upper 8 teams (the true competitors), however,

2013 (entire season): 1.03
2014 (mid-point): 0.66

It means, even if the top teams have equally large lead in 2014 as in 2013 as long as the points are concerned, their lead in goal surplus has diminished significantly. The matches have generally become closer competitions and margin to separate winner and loser is thin. Except for the 2 bottom teams (Saitama and Kibi), relatively small change of performance could result in a major shift of positions in standing table. INAC Kobe, for example, may still improve greatly once they are rejoined by Naho and Bev in September.

From here, I like to delve into the performance of one particular team. Except for Kibi Univ. which is a college football club, Urawa Reds Ladies is perhaps the “least” experienced of the league. Other teams such as Kobe and NTV play their teenagers for sure. But these youngsters are supported by the seasoned veterans with rich experience not only in the league but international competitions. This is not the case of Urawa. Ami Otaki who turns 25 in July is the “firstborn” in the entire squad. Whatever their plan was, they lost all their veterans before the 2013 season began, and struggled even facing the danger of relegation for the year. Then in September came a sudden revival largely thanks to the new head coach. They eventually finished the 2013 season as the 6th in the standing. In 2014, Urawa stunned INAC Kobe at the season’s opener, and managed to ride on the wave of winning.

Urawa’s most critical merit is defense. Not only they conceded the least goals so far,

Goals conceded in 2014
Urawa=6, Niigata=7, Sendai=8, NTV=9, Kobe=10, Yunogo=11, Chiba=12, Iga=17

they achieved a shutout victory for 6 games out of 9, whereas Sendai did it 4 times, Kobe, NTV and Niigata 3, and Yunogo Belle 1. But they are not “defenders” in the sense they sit back and guard goal. On the contrary, no other team moves players forward as Urawa does. This is clearly indicated by the fact Urawa’s goals are distributed among players much more evenly than others’.

Goals by players in 2014

[Urawa] 20 goals in total
4: Kato, Kira
3: Naomoto
2: Otaki, Seike
1: Dozono, Kohata, Shibata, Goto, Saito

[Yunogo] 18 goals in total
7: Matsuoka
6: Miyama
3: Nakano
2: Arimachi

[Niigata] 19 goals in total
8: Yamazaki
3: Saito
2: Kamionobe, Saeki, Hirai
1: Sakaguchi

[Chiba] 16 goals in total
7: Sugasawa
2: Ikadai, Fukasawa
1: Chino, Setoguchi, Kawamura, Sakuramoto, Hosoka

As you see, Yunogo Belle’s goal-scoring is a 4-women show, and both Niigata and Chiba owe their scores largely to a single striker. In case of Urawa, though, even their top scorer scored half as many as the league’s top. The fact Urawa’s offense is a joint work of many players is even easier to see if you count the number of shots by each player.

Shots by players in 2014

[Urawa] 103 shots in total
19: Kira
17: Naomoto
10: Goto
8: Dozono, Shibata, Kato, Otaki
4: Kohata, Usui, Fujita, Kishikawa, Seike
2: Saito, Kurishima
1: Sakamoto

[Yunogo] 116 shots in total
34: Miyama
25: Nakano
20: Matsuoka
16: Arimachi
5: Hosokawa, Kuzuma
4: Kado
3: Mizushima, Asano
1: Kitaura

[Niigata] 74 shots in total
24: Yamazaki
10: Kamionobe, Saito
8: Sakaguchi
7: Hirai
4: Saeki
3: Kitahara, Oishi
1: Takamura, Shimokawa, Kojima

[Chiba] 100 shots in total
21: Sugasawa
19: Ikadai, Fukasawa
11: Anzai
9: Setoguchi
8: Kawamura
4: Sakuramoto, Hosoka
2: Kamogawa
1: Chino, Koike, Ueno

None of the Reds Ladies made more than 20 shots. On the other hand, 12 Urawa players made 4 or more shots against 7 for Yunogo, 6 for Niigata and 8 for Chiba.

Can we quantify a team’s propensity to involve large number of players in offense? Yes. The standard deviation is the right measure again because it tells how equal (or unequal) the players’ involvement in attack is. Let us see the standard deviation of shots among players normalized, this time, by the overall number of shots. The larger this measure, the players are involved in attack more “unevenly.”

Urawa=0.053, Yunogo=0.091, Niigata=0.083, Chiba=0.073, Sendai=0.065, Kobe=0.074, NTV=0.056, Iga=0.057, Saitama=0.058, Kibi=0.078

The result is telltale. The league-leading Urawa Reds and the running-behind Yunogo Belle are on the both ends of spectrum. Even if Urawa conceded only 6 goals which is half of Yunogo’s 11, they roll out many more players forward to attack, and it indicates their strength lies in the transition, a quick switchover from defense to offense to defense while Yunogo keeps the defenders back and relies on the “quartet” for attack. In fact, I find this distinct style of Urawa very interesting because it is same with what the “Little Nadeshikos” displayed in the U17 Women’s World Cup they won. In that tournament, 12 Japanese players scored goal while that quantity was 5 for the runner-up Spain, 7 for Venezuela whose 2 players shared the Golden Boot, and 5 for Italy. Asako Takakura, the coach of the U17 team, said in a recent interview that she tried to make her team’s every play a coordinated joint-effort of all players, ones who touch ball as well as ones who don’t. Urawa Reds Ladies and the U17 team have this trait in common while Norio Sasaki’s A-team relies more on a few big stars (most recently, Miyama, Kawasumi, Ogimi.)

One more reason to praise Urawa. See how many fouls each team committed in the 9 games. (Nadeshiko League does not report foul counts in the web, so I counted the free kicks given to the opponents.)

Urawa=73, Yunogo=102, Niigata=108, Chiba=126, Kobe=102, NTV=99, Sendai=109, Iga=100, Saitama=163, Kibi=98

A large number of fouls does not necessarily mean the team is “dirty” but it means the team is less technical therefore cannot help but having physically hard contact. Anyway, Urawa’s record stands out here. A mirror image of the national team who practically monopolizes the fair play award tournament after tournament.

Are they rewarded for their good work? Let us see the average attendance each team’s games at home collected.

Urawa=2,656, Yunogo=2,291, Niigata=1,038, Chiba=775, Kobe=3,540, NTV=1,986, Sendai=1,774, Iga=967, Saitama=953, Kibi=820

I will keep my eyes on the statistics.

Original discussion.

What are your views? Leave your comments

  1. Gina West 5 years ago

    Another fantastic, informative and mind-bending (for me) statistical analysis, thank you Ken.

    You are an extremely clever man and the results of your formulas are fascinating to read.

    It is extremely interesting to see the comparison of the full 2013 Nadeshiko season compared to the stage we are at now in 2014. I am curious to see what happens in September when INAC’s players return, of course they need to ensure they are in the top half of the table without them.

    Thank you for the detailed insight into Urawa. What an accomplishment to be able to bounce back from losing so many players and to do so in such a positive way. It is very eye opening to compare the shots by players between the teams and you can certainly see they are playing with very effective tactics and have a squad that can technically perform together to achieve results.

    I can see why you compare Urawa to the “Little Nadeshikos” whose style of play was a pleasure to watch at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and equally as effective! I wonder if these tactics will move into the senior set-up as these younger players develop and move into the A-team?

    I am pleased to read that Urawa’s hard efforts are also being rewarded with the second largest average attendance. I look forward to following the progression of the league and the team’s competing.

    • Author
      Ken Suzuki 5 years ago

      Today (June 18), INAC Kobe announced they signed Clare Polkinghorne, a defender and Australian international. She will play for Kobe until the end of August, which means she leaves as Naho and Bev return. It looks INAC decided they need an emergency import of talent to make it to the upper group.

      • WSU 5 years ago

        Thank you for the news Ken.
        I think it is a good idea they are attempting to strengthen the squad to improve their chances of making the upper group.

  2. Asa 5 years ago

    Thank you Ken great review

    • Author
      Ken Suzuki 5 years ago

      It is always pleasure. I am lucky to have a place where I can publish my study.

      Yes. If the 2014 competition is Urawa Reds vs. Yunogo Belle, then it’s also a competition of different styles. For this reason alone, I want the Reds to win.

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