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The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong Paperback – 5 Jun 2014

85 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241963621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241963623
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Does the impossible of making the beautiful game even more beautiful (Malcolm Gladwell)

A must-read . . . Chris Anderson and David Sally have the ability to see football in a way few have before them. Be warned: The Numbers Game will change the way you think about your favourite team or player, and change the way you watch the beautiful game. (Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A's, the subject of Moneyball)

A fascinating and stylish investigation into a rapidly developing way of understanding football (Jonathan Wilson, author of Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics)

Whether you are a traditionalist or a numbers nut you can enjoy this book. It's thorough, accessible, and devoid of the absolute truths so many on both sides of the debate peddle. (Gabriele Marcotti, football broadcaster and author)

It is the book that could change the game forever (Times)

You need to like football. Millions of people do. And they should rush to read this book immediately. The game they love will take on new depth, colour and subtlety (Ed Smith The Times)

About the Author

At 17, Chris Anderson found himself playing in goal for a fourth division club in West Germany; today, he's a professor in the Ivy League at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. An award winning social scientist and football analytics pioneer, Anderson consults with leading clubs about how best to play the numbers game. David Sally is a former baseball pitcher and a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in the US, where he analyses the strategies and tactics people use when they play, compete, negotiate, and make decisions. He is an adviser to clubs and other organizations in the global football industry.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Herne on 2 Jun. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am part way through this book, and the content is VERY interesting (despite the fact I am not a huge football fan I am a numbers fan and loved Moneyball, the book) BUT be warned if you get the kindle version. It DOES NOT display some of the graphs discussed in the text on my Paperwhite although it DOES show them on the Android version of the kindle app that I have on my phone. That said, I am loving the discussions, especially the one about taking corners...will add more when I have finished! 4/5 for the kindle version, 5/5 for the content so far!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William Jordan on 2 July 2014
Format: Paperback
An interesting book, which certainly does challenge, in my view very successfully, a number of preconceptions you might have about football. First of all, on the role of luck in the game (probably around 50% of the distribution of league tables at the end of a season can be set down to what you'd expect from chance results), and related to this the fact that games are hard to predict (the favourite wins much less often than in other sports). The role of substitutes (they make a difference when you are losing and you should probably use them much earlier than most managers do use them). The role of managers (a bit more important that some other studies have suggested - but it's still hard to quantify). And perhaps most interesting of all, some insight into the techniques of different managers - with teams managed by Tony Pulis specialising in keeping the ball out of play (a very special variant of possession football) and with Wigan under Roberto Martinez specialising in long-range shots and free kicks and totally ignoring corners. Other findings - such as that winning teams tend to find the right blend between attack and defence - are perhaps more in line with received wisdom.

My reservations: the style seemed to me a bit long-winded (with the authors wanting always to build up to their punchlines/surprising findings a bit too much); the chapter on 'predictions' I could do without (I'm not sure how falsifiable most of them are!); and the central thesis - that perhaps there is no one 'right' or 'best' way to play football, because the game evolves and styles of attack and defence evolve - is perhaps underplayed.Of course perhaps it isn't the central thesis of the book - the authors do seem to think that while Stoke or Wigan might defeat (some of) the numbers through their style of play, neither will ever be wining the Premiership...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Lye on 16 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Numbers Game is an interesting read if you're interested in football tactics. The sub-heading ("Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong") slightly oversells itself. In fact the book bore out much of what I already thought I knew. And it ducks some challenges - for example in an analysis of the relative value of attackers and defenders, the authors remove Lionel Messi from an analysis of the impact of attacking players because his "coefficient" is so abnormally high - which ducks the point that it is precisely because of players like Messi (however rare they are) that clubs pay huge sums for star attackers.

But quibbles apart, there's lots to interest and entertain the "serious" football fan, and the book is well-written and presented, and manages to present some fairly complex statistical analysis in a clear and helpful way.
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Format: Paperback
A very interesting book - but not because of its analyses.

In fact, it;s the little factoids that give it life. For example, there's the story of a player who was substituted afetr 6 minutes (and on other ocasions came off very early one - yet who survived longer at the club than his manager did.

For a book that focuses so much on The Numbers Game (the clue's in the title, guys and gals) that's a big failing. There are a number of reasons for this, but to highlight just three:

1) The charts are badly designed - or badly reproduced.

Some look as though a spider's crawled across them, and the reader could interpret them in any way they fancy. Although some highlight teams (for example) in the chart, most don't. So if the outlier on the right is - say - Arsenal, you're left in the dark as to who the lefthand outlier is. And that could be just as informative.

2) A number of stats seem to be interlinked but are treated as separate ones.

It's as though research on people with 4 limbs had shown that the vast majority had two arms. Further research also showed that the majority had 2 legs. But, forgive me, if you have 4 limbs and 2 of them are arms, then ipso facto the others will be legs.

One example comes when looking at the fact that big wage bills are almost entirely down to the top teams. The implication is that money wins. However, winners (in England at least) also receive huge amounts of money, allowing them to pay the big wages and atract better players. the latter 'chicken and egg' point is to some extent glossed over.

3) The third problem is one outside the control of the writers - timing.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By S.C. Arthur on 20 May 2014
Format: Paperback
If the authors of this book (or the publishers - I don't know who's ultimately responsible) had just been content to leave it with its main title then I would have walked away from it not terribly impressed, but not particularly bothered by it either; as a statistics-heavy summary of general trends in football there's relatively little wrong with it, aside from being a bit dry. But no, they also feel the need to lure in the unsuspecting (which, it turns out, includes me) with the strident assertion that "Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong". Others will just have to take my word for it that I went in with an open mind, fully prepared to believe that there are plenty of traditionalist myths in football just ripe for debunking. As it turns out, however, Chris Anderson and David Sally's earth-shattering, paradigm-smashing conclusions are mainly as follows:

- Scoring goals is good; conceding goals is bad.
- Defence is just as important as attack.
- Paolo Maldini was really good.
- 3 goals is usually enough to win the game, unless your defence is rubbish.
- Teams who pass well do better than teams who don't.
- Keeping the ball is good; giving the ball away is bad.
- More shots on target lead to more goals.
- Wealthier teams tend to be more successful.
- Smaller/weaker teams do better when they play to their own strengths instead of their opponents'.

Well consider my mind blown.
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