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The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong Paperback – 30 May 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (30 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670922242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670922246
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.7 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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)

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

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

4.1 out of 5 stars

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
Book reviewed on behalf of Waterstones.

The Numbers Game is a book written about two things – numbers and sport. Data science is growing in importance within the sports arena. Whilst people have been studying the numbers for around a hundred years, no one has really known what the numbers mean, or how to get the best from them. Even today, we are learning, but what we have learned so far is presented very well in this book.

This book isn’t written with the head of sports analysis at Chelsea in mind. It is written with you, the fan, the critic, the bettor, the armchair manager in mind. By reading this book, you will see that football is full of nuances that you didn’t know existed! The truth is being uncovered and this is a great presentation of the truth so far.

Ever wondered why your accumulators don’t come in? Why did Manchester United win the Premiership with unnerving regularity? What is the winning formula for your favourite football team? The honest answer, as discovered within this book – Luck! By analysing statistical data available, Anderson and Sally provide insightful detailed information showing that your sure thing isn’t quite as sure as you might think!

The book is very well written, with all points being very easy to follow and sometimes quite humorous. Graphs are presented clearly throughout the book to highlight key points and make them easy to visualise. If you have an interest in sports betting, or simply enjoy "The Beautiful Game", you must read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved the whole Moneyball story from the US, and this book does have plenty of interesting insights.
It's time that football used reason and evidence. I think 'gut' feelings in football are as unreliable as in much of the rest of business, sport and life. (We see what we want to see / confirmation bias, etc., etc..)
But... as another reviewer has said, there's a nagging feeling that some of the correlations are the result of other uncontrolled variables.
The authors do make it clear that there isn't one 'best' formula for all teams; that managers must play to their team's strengths. But that feels like an excuse for (for example) Wigan being relegated in spite of the book praising Martinez and his methods there.
Having said all that I enjoyed the book, in particular the analysis of why winning corners isn't much cause for celebration.
So - it's not quite 5 stars. If you think that a bit of intelligence and 'stats', could improve your team - I recommend it.
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