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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining romp that lacks groundbreaking revelation
`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...
Published on 17 Oct 2009 by J A C Corbett

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did nobody proof read it?
A smashing book (in terms of the content) but an absolute shocker of an e-reader edition. Clearly the publishers could not be arsed to proof read the conversion from the text to the electronic copy. No publisher in their right mind would print a book on paper with as many typos as this - they would be laughed out of the industry. It is a shame, as the book itself is very...
Published on 17 Nov 2010 by Tigerb


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining romp that lacks groundbreaking revelation, 17 Oct 2009
By 
J A C Corbett (Blackheath, London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained (Hardcover)
`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. There's a knowingness - which borders on smugness - in its tenor that belies the actual content -- which is interesting but not exactly earth shattering. In his earlier works and his weekly FT column Kuper has proven himself a far more entertaining and perceptive author; it's a shame he doesn't quite carry it off here, but maybe that's a problem that comes with co-authorship.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good piece of work, 28 Oct 2009
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This review is from: Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained (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. It cuts through a lot of the hype and guff that are spouted at us by the likes of Sky, ITV and the BBC - if you find yourself rolling your eyes at Sky's pre-match build up every Sunday, or wincing as Andy Gray/Andy Townsend/Lawro trot out another cliché then this book is absolutely for you.

For the most part, the statistical analysis is well explained, well presented and genuinely enlightening. There are also some fascinating insights from experts within football, but even more from experts outside football and for that reason alone I could quite happily have devoured another thousand pages. So much of this book was 'fresh' - that's really the ony way I can put it that makes sense.

I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book, despite my grumbles. And furthermore, once you've also read it, I guarantee you will probably want to put it in an envelope and send it to your club's Chairman/Manager with the note "Please, please, please read this!!!"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sample only - interesting, intelligent if not necessarily eye-opening, 27 Sep 2011
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars for Content, 27 Sep 2011
By 
T. Field - See all my reviews
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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. Elsewhere the authors latch on to odd statistics with great enthusiasm, and although it becomes a bit loose at the end it is still a good read, dealing with much more than merely England.

Now, as for those mis-prints, I gave up counting the errors with hyphens and dashes - many dozens, anyway. Get ready for this sort of thing in Kindle:
"... spectators who do not show upattheirclubthe next season..."
"they were a partalbeit a distant-part of European football".

Elsewhere the presentation gives the impression of a poorly-scanned Word document, with initial M of some words appearing as IVI, and intended "win" as "w'm". A reference to the "Bosnian ruling" could leave you thinking that the authors knew nothing about the game. Thankfully the rest of the text makes it clear that they know a huge amount. It is such a pity that this edition should be so woefully produced.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, 7 Aug 2009
By 
13 (LONDON United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained (Hardcover)
Given the subject matter, I thought this book could be a little dry. Far from it. Its exceptionally easy reading and deals with a number of myths about the Beautiful Game. The 2 authors neatly dissect various intuitions and myths that have arisen about footie, and present their findings in a very readable form.

I won't spoil the fun, but if you ever wondered WHY England lose, WHY Real Madrid buy galacticos (and its not because they want to win the league) and exactly how MUCH difference a manager makes, then you should buy this book.

Despite having finished it, this tome retains pride of place next to the bog for essential peaceful reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and informative, 13 Dec 2010
By 
M. V. Clarke (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This books takes an analytical approach to various footballing topics, such as England's performances in world cups, chances of scoring/saving a penalty, playing the transfer market and so on. It makes heavy use of statistical data and sets this against received footballing wisdom, often with surprising conclusions. Despite its premise, it's accessible and requires no real specialist knowledge of statistics. Sometimes it seems to take quite a while to reach a conclusion that seems intuitive, and occasionally, the rationale for the use of data could have been more clearly justified, but overall an interesting read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating analysis of footballing statistics, 7 Dec 2010
By 
Bacchus (Greater London - Surrey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained (Hardcover)
While you might not agree with the conclusions made by the writers in the book, you can't deny that it is a fascinating application of economic theory to football. It certainly gave me food for thought.

The thing that surprised me while I was reading the book was that I was taken more by the writers' methodology than the actual subject matter. I loved the way that something as romantic as footballing glory can be analysed using regression analysis. I never thought that I would see a mathematician like Gauss mentioned in a book about football.

Having said that, the romantic football fan in me still hopes for glory and wants his team to do better than the statistical factors would suggest it should. The book seems to suggest a degree of fatalism in football which I would love to disprove but expect I can't.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The beautiful old game seen in new ways, 18 Sep 2010
By 
Nick Harris - See all my reviews
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This has been described in some places as a kind of Moneyball for soccer; it isn't.
Rather it takes set of (largely Anglo-centric) assumptions about football, and tests them using broad statistical analysis.
So the title, for example, 'Why England Lose', explains how actually England do about as well as the size of the population and other factors warrant.
And the history of European football alongside industrial growth is considered when highlighting how few major European capitals have produced a European Cup winner. London hasn't to date, for example.
Simon Kuper's input is obvious in the writing, Stefan Szymanski's economist's brain in many of the fields of inquiry.
Thought provoking rather than revelatory. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 3 May 2010
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This review is from: Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained (Hardcover)
An interesting and compelling read. Give one a brilliant insight into the workings of football and sport. After reading this, you will see football from a very different angle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!, 22 Dec 2009
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This review is from: Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained (Hardcover)
A fascinating and well researched book which provides interesting information and dispels many of the so-called "expert opinions" of the pundits

Easy to read on a "Dip in and out" basis
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Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained
Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained by Stefan Szymanski (Hardcover - 6 Aug 2009)
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