Today on my lovely walk to the grocery store, I was able to think about a few things, as I am wont to do while walking. I had been reminded by reading this post at Avoiding the Drop before leaving the house that not all was right in the world and so I mentally revisited the tortuous ground of Spanish league tiebreaker scenarios. This is not a quick and clean set of rules, but RFEF spells them out in Chapter 4, Article 296.2 of their Relgamento General (see page 174):
Si al término del campeonato resultara empate dos clubs, se resolverá por la mayor diferencia de goles a favor, sumados los en pro y en contra según el resultado de los dos partidos jugados entre ellos; si así no se dilucidase, se decidirá también por la mayor diferencia de goles a favor, pero teniendo en cuenta todos los obtenidos y recibidos en el transcurso de la competición; de ser idéntica la diferencia, resultará campeón el que hubiese marcado más tantos.
This translates to:
If at the end of the championship, the result is two clubs drawing, the winner will be the club with a greater goal difference (the sum of goals for and against from the two matches played between them); if there is still no difference, the winner will be the club with the greater goal difference from the whole competition; if the goal difference is identical, the champion will be the club that has scored the most goals.
In case you couldn’t follow that, here is the list, in short that takes affect if the teams are tied on points at the end of the season:
- Goal difference in the head-to-head matchups between the two clubs
- Goal difference in the league as a whole
- Goals for.
Other sites (including The Offside and the AtD post linked above), are mentioning “Head-to-Head points” followed by “Head-to-Head goals scored” or some such variation on that theme, but RFEF makes no distinction between that because, mathematically, that makes no sense. I can, though, see how it would be confusing, but the RFEF is fairly straight-forward about it.
My thoughts on the system have been laid out in the past, especially in the run up to the 2006-07 conclusion that messed with everyone’s head and actually called Article 292.2 into action. While I don’t believe that there will be a tie on points at the end of this particular season, I would still like to reiterate my statements and perhaps put them more concisely than I did before.
Basically, I am more interested in a body of work than I am in what happens across roughly 180 minutes against a particular opponent. That is to say, what has happened across the the entirety of the season (~3,420 minutes) is, to me, more valuable in determining who is the better team. The reason for this is sample size: we play entire seasons in order to eliminate momentary blips that are more common in single instances, but very unlikely across an entire season. Determining an entire league on the back of two matches is akin to claiming that Athletic Bilbao is as good as we are if they can draw with us in our coming meeting. They drew with us at San Mames, after all and obviously head-to-head shows you who is the better team, right? Obviously that is some snarky commentary on the whole concept, but I do think it at least points to the flaws in the system.
Now, I’m not saying head-to-head is not some sort of a marker worth keeping track of, but I believe it should be down the rungs a little bit, as it is in other leagues.* Head-to-head opens up an entirely absurd series of logical conclusions that must be drawn if you open that door and I prefer not to open that door until it is absolutely necessary. Others obviously disagree, but I doubt I will ever support a system that first discards the actual games that caused tie in the first place.
The way to avoid forgetting about the rest of the league is to take overall goal difference (goals scored minus goals allowed) first, then most goals scored, then fewest goals allowed, then, head-to-head record. Any combination of those first three (GD, GF, GA) would be preferable to me — for instance you could easily argue that fewer Goals Allowed is a better marker than more Goals Scored and I’ll admit that on this point I’m defaulting to the norm.
What that means, dear readers, beloved culés, is that in my book, Barça are currently second in the table, 2 goals down in goal difference and 5 goals down in goals scored (but 3 goals to the better in goals allowed). Sorry kids, but when you play like trashwhores, you get ranked like trashwhores (well, relatively, at least) and currently we’re on a silly slide that we can only overcome through hard work. Still, we control our own destiny and that is always wonderful.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
*I am not giving the “everyone else is doing it, so we should do it too” reasoning, merely pointing out a fact.