#The purpose of these Power Rankings is not to rehash the League Table (which you can find in the right-hand column), but to rank the teams in my opinion from best to worst, taking several (unscientific) factors into account.#
My pre-season rankings piece was basically my prediction about how things will finish after the full season of 38 games, but in these semi-regular updates teams will move up or down depending on current form and results, as well as each team's prospects going forward. Seeing as though we're only six games into the season, the relative difficulty of each team's schedule is a factor, too, meaning that the league table can be somewhat skewed so early into the campaign.
Results between teams head-to-head carry some weight as well, but, for example, FC Tokyo and Tochigi are ranked higher than Kusatsu and Oita, despite losing to the latter pair, respectively, last Saturday. Different reasons apply though: expectations are that The Gasmen will improve after a sluggish start; while Tochigi are rewarded for their unbeaten (until the Oita game) start to the season.
Here we go then, feel free to comment if you disagree with any of my rankings or reasons for moving clubs up or down (The number in brackets is my pre-season ranking).
1. (2) Chiba
(last two: beat Tottori 1-0 A, beat Okayama 2-1 H; next two: Kumamoto A, Oita H)
They ripped us a new one at their place, took their chances while we didn't. Two 3-0 wins to start the season, but things have been tighter since, and they've scored last-minute winners in their last three games. Kumamoto away will be a good test for them in Matchday 7, but after that its cruise control until Tochigi SC at Fuku-Ari Matchday 12. No goals for big Aarøy since Matchday 2.
2. (5) Shonan
(last two: drew with Ehime FC 1-1 H, beat Tosu 1-0 H; next two: FC Tokyo A, Kusatsu H)
A fast start, then a dip, then a good win at home. Just three goals in five games since their 5-0 win in Matchday 1. Will be interesting to see how they set up at Aji Sta... will they try and follow the blueprint, or go toe-to-toe with us?
3. (8) Tochigi SC
(last two: beat Yokohama FC 2-1 H, lost to Oita 1-0 A; next two: Ehime FC H, Tokushima A)
Their excellent start to the season finally came to an end in Oita, though they have had a fairly easy set of fixtures up to now. They should get back on track against Ehime, but then Tokushima away will be a good test before they play "big boys" Shonan (A) and Chiba (A) in Matchdays 10 & 12.
4. (7) Tokushima
(last two: beat Kyoto 2-1 H, beat Ehime FC 1-0 A; next two: FC Gifu A, Tochigi SC H)
The only team to beat Chiba thus far, and winners of the first Shikoku Derby of the season last Saturday. Their only loss was to...Mito, but for the win over Chiba they get a decent bump. A big clash with Tochigi in a fortnight, a win in that one would see them move up further.
5. (1) FC Tokyo
(last two: beat Toyama 1-0 H, lost to Kusatsu 2-1 A; next two: Shonan H, Kyoto A)
This is clearly not a ranking based on performance thus far! Injuries to Hirayama and Yonemoto have been devastating, losing Takamatsu is also brutal, meaning a lot now hinges on The Salad finding his shooting boots. Uesato seems to be settling into centre mid, and with Ishikawa and Pedro Junior to come back, things are not all doom and gloom. The next two games, against the teams we were relegated with, could determine Mr. Okuma's future.
6. (9) Kumamoto
(last two: beat Sapporo 1-0 H, drew with Mito 0-0 A; next two: Chiba H, Yokohama FC A)
They've played four of six at home, and are undefeated there, but are yet to play any of the big boys in the division. Big chance for them to impress when Chiba visit this Saturday lunchtime.
7. (4) The Spews
(last two: beat FC Gifu 3-1 A, beat Kitakyushu 4-0 H; next two: Oita A, Tottori H)
Where have all these goals come from?! After the derby draw, they've gone mental. Just as well, because their start was horrible.
8. (12) Tosu
(last two: beat Oita 2-1 H, lost to Shonan 1-0 A; next two: Sapporo H, Mito A)
They've been great since the resumption, highlighted by 3-1 wins over The Spews and Yokohama FC. Sunday's loss at Shonan was their first since we beat them in the opening game.
9. (15) Oita
(last two: lost to Tosu 2-1 A, beat Tochigi SC 1-0 H; next two: The Spews H, Chiba A)
They bounced back well from their derby defeat to Tosu by becoming the first team to beat Tochigi this season.
10. (10) Kusatsu
(last two: lost to Okayama 2-1 H, beat FC Tokyo 2-1 H; next two: Toyama A, Shonan A)
They beat Oita, but are below them because beating Tochigi carries more weight than beating us (at this stage). They should be very grateful to us, too, for playing Rafinha into form.
11. (11) Sapporo
(last two: lost to Kumamoto 1-0 A, beat Tottori 2-0 H; next two: Tosu A, Okayama H)
Looks like they've got quite a player on their hands in young striker Yosuke Mikami, who scored both goals in their win over Tottori, but they've gotten next-to-nothing from their three Brazilians.
12. (6) Kyoto
(last two: lost to Tokushima 2-1 A, drew with Toyama 0-0 H; next two: Kitakyushu A, FC Tokyo H)
Wow...and we thought we had problems! These have been terrible, getting nothing at all from Diego (now pushing 120kgs) and Dutra.
13. (18) Toyama
(last two: lost to FC Tokyo 1-0 A, drew with Kyoto 0-0 A; next two: Kusatsu H, Kitakyushu A)
They have the same W2 D2 L2 record as us, and whatever their formation actually is, they're doing better than last season.
14. (14) Ehime FC
(last two: drew with Shonan 1-1 A, lost to Tokushima 1-0 H; next two: Tochigi SC A, FC Gifu H)
After a blistering start, these have only one point from their last four games.
15. (3) Yokohama FC
(last two: lost to Tochigi SC 2-1 A, drew with FC Gifu 1-1 H; next two: Okayama A, Kumamoto H)
Clearly, this was a gut call I should have ignored. They're joint-bottom, but I don't believe they're that bad. Just one point from their four games at home, which makes their one win, away at Shonan, all the more surprising. Are they, or will they end up being, the worst team in J2? I certainly don't think so, as they have their three Brazilians to return to fitness, but this ranking is an admission that I erred badly (I had them 3rd, oops!) with their pre-season ranking.
16. (16) Mito
(last two: lost to Kitakyushu 1-0 A, drew with Kumamoto 0-0 H; next two: Tottori A, Tosu H)
These are impossible to rank! The Kings of Inconsistency! They beat Kyoto and Tokushima to start the season, but have since lost to Gifu and Kitakyushu! You guys are killing me! Stay at 16, then.
17. (20) Tottori
(last two: lost to Chiba 1-0 H, lost to Sapporo 2-0 A; next two: Mito A, The Spews A)
One of the Chiba stoppage time victims, they've acquitted themselves very respectably so far, in fact they've already won more games than Kitakyushu did in their first season last year.
18. (17) Okayama
(last two: beat Kusatsu 2-1 A, lost to Chiba 2-1 A; next two: Yokohama FC H, Sapporo A)
They appear to be improving, but have only beaten Kusatsu, and couldn't quite hold out for a point against Chiba after going down to 10 men late in the first half.
19. (19) Kitakyushu
(last two: beat Mito 1-0 H, lost to The Spews 4-0 A; next two: Kyoto H, Toyama H)
Any progress they'd made in their 3-game unbeaten run was blown away last Saturday by The Spews, who scored all four after going down to 10 men.
(last two: lost to The Spews 3-1 H, drew with Yokohama FC 1-1 A; next two: Tokushima H, Ehime FC A)
Unfortunately, despite beating Jekyll & Hyde (Mito), they seem pretty rubbish.