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Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained Hardcover – 6 Aug 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSport (6 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007301111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007301119
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.1 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

For Simon Kuper's Football Against the Enemy:
"A terrific book, deftly written" Guardian
"Another great work on soccer … effervescent and hilarious" Independent

About the Author

Simon Kuper's first book, Football Against the Enemy, won the 1994 William Hill Sports Book of the Year prize and is widely acknowledged as one of football's seminal books. Simon writes a weekly sports column in the Financial Times and has previously written football columns for The Times and The Observer. Stefan Szymanski is Professor of Economics and MBA Dean at Cass Business School in London. Stefan has a global reputation and has acted as a consultant to government and to major sports organisations such as the FIA (motor sport), UEFA (football) and the ICC (cricket).


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jim VINE VOICE on 17 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`Why England Lose' or `Soccernomics' - to give it its non-UK title - is an attempt by Simon Kuper, a leading football writer, and sports economist, Stefan Szymanski, to give football the `freakonomics' treatment. The result is sometimes entertaining and often interesting, but overall the effect is somewhat uneven and frequently bogged down by the authors' attempts to provide a theoretical framework for their musings.

Comparisons with Moneyball, Michael Lewis's 2003 account of how Billy Beane revolutionized the Oakland Athletics baseball team through statistical analysis, are inevitable. At times `Why England Lose' seems a self conscious attempt to give football the Moneyball treatment . But the very nature of the game is less controlled than baseball, which essentially boils down to one-on-one encounters between pitcher and batter. Football's inherent randomness, despite the authors attempts to argue otherwise, make it more difficult to be influenced by statistical theory.

Arsene Wenger is the golden boy of this book. He has used statistics and psychology to brilliant effect, particularly in the first half of his career as Arsenal manager. The authors unravel some of his strategies, but don't really add much new. There's a sense that even an in-the-know fan could suss them out (buy young, sell after a player has peaked, make a player feel wanted, and so on) over a few post-match pints.

But instead of on-the-field business the authors explain other footballing phenomena. Some, such as why new stadiums and football tournaments don't bring desired economic benefit, is fascinating. Others, such as which country is the best `pound for-pound' footballing nation, less so.

This is an entertaining book, but I'd stop short of describing it as a must read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Field on 27 Sept. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This book makes a number of ironical comments about football and associated attitudes, but the biggest irony of all is that there should be explicit thanks to the "copy editor who saved us from many errors". In this Kindle version the number of errors in punctuation and spelling is so great as to get in the way of the meaning. Having said that, the content of the book is terrific, so perhaps it is fairer to concentrate on that aspect before noting some examples of the awful presentation that (for me) earns a yellow card and the loss of a star.

One early analogy for the study of football statistics struck me as excellent. One can drive a car without a dashboard display, but having the dashboard instruments makes it a lot easier. From this starting point the authors set out on a fascinating review of all aspects of economic and social behaviour to explain the rise and fall of various clubs and countries.

No database seems to be beyond them. No sooner have we looked at the extra goals per game that a home team might expect to expect, than we are into an argument (based on persuasive facts) that there are far fewer suicides in years when there are big tournaments. It can get a bit nerdy, but generally the tone is light enough to carry you along.

The central argument, which is referred to often enough without being dominant, is that England (given its population, experience and GDP) provides "a good team that does better than most". In other words, there should be no great expectation of winning trophies; England should rank about 7 or 8 in the world, and by reaching quarter-finals so often they justify that expectation. It's a sober and sensible view that all TV commentators should be forced to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Ives on 27 Sept. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
A book about football and statistics may not sound like everyone's cup of tea, but I found this surprisingly readable and accessible. I have long held similar views to much of what is said and although I might quibble over a few details, I would agree with the general gist of the book. This book seems meticulously researched and although some other reviewers have said it appears somewhat slapdash on the Kindle, this seems to have been remedied as I found no such typos or layout problems. Perhaps for an updated edition, it might be an idea to include some charts, tables or diagrams for those who can't instantly recall how well England performed in every World Cup or Euro Championships. Recommended.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dode on 28 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Most importantly, the first 200 pages of this book are excellent reading - please keep that in mind while I get through a couple of minor irritants!

As someone else mentioned, I found my attention drifting through the middle section of the book. I couldn't quite see the point of some sections, and others seemed to huff and puff for page after page without any meaningful conclusion.

Secondly, about half way through I had to skip back to the front to see if I hadn't missed a foreword by Arsene Wenger. This is a very `Arsenal' book. There are numerous digs at Liverpool and Spurs, and every 3 pages either Chelsea or Man Utd are being cited as a negative example of something or other. Looking at the index, Arsenal and/or Wenger are mentioned 45 times - and every single reference shows Arsenal in a positive light. While some are perfectly justified, a piece on loyal supporters uses Nick Hornby (a famous Arsenal supporter and author) as the archetypal diehard (they are called "Hornbyesque fans") really stretched credibility. No offence to Hornby (who if I remember rightly, grew up a long way from North London anyway) but writing on the subject of diehard supporters and using Arsenal as a positive example? I would accuse the authors of a lack of research but I suspect at least one is a regular visitor to the Emirates!

But these irritants should not detract from the book as a whole. As I mentioned, the first 200 pages of this book are an absolute joy. Depending on your view of football many of these chapters will either confirm a lot of things you may already have suspected, or better still, come as an absolute revelation.
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