3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Truly awesome melding of football and numbers...,
This review is from: Soccernomics (Paperback)
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I think this is almost certainly the best football book I've ever read, just beating Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics: A History of Football Tactics. It's superbly written, the stats, economics and research are well considered and convincing, and overall it's a compelling page-turner of a book.
First, let's set the scene - it's perhaps not surprising that I like this book so much. I have about three hobbies, the main one of which is watching and reading about football. I've been entirely seduced by the Football Weekly/Jonathan Wilson/Blizzard culture of 'thinking people's football'. Not only that, but I'm a maths graduate, and pretty much the only bit of that that has survived my graduation is my love for statistics. So in some ways a book on football, trying to get into the numbers to destroy or confirm the myths around it - and that's essentially what Soccernomics is - sounds perfect for me.
But having said that, I'm not normally a great reader of non-fiction: I need to be engrossed and entertained. And here I truly was.
The book is written by a partnership - Simon Kuper, a journalist, and Stefan Szymanski, an economist - and it is clearly a partnership that works really well. The writing is so accessible, and the skill in presenting what are at times quite complex statistical and economic theories is clear. But that doesn't mean they've watered down the maths - my feeling is that the numbers here make sense, and follow through, and are well thought out. The writers are also open and clear about when and where they are making assumptions, which is a really great demonstration of the thoroughness of the work.
So, would this book be suitable for someone not quite as football/numbers mad as me? I think so. And the reason for that is that a lot of this book is about looking at the world surrounding football: how do social and economic factors affect a national team's performance? Which is the most football-mad country in the world and why? Statistically, is there racism in football? Is football actually 'big business'? (According to this book, no - it's small business and it's bad business!)
So whilst my favourite bits were the early chapters - analysis of the transfer market, whether managers have an impact on their teams' performance or not and particularly the spectacular chapter about penalty shootouts, and the amazing story of the Manchester United-Chelsea shootout in Moscow in 2008 (and how Game Theory and statistical analysis affected it) - there is a lot here for anyone with an interest in sport, football in particular, statistics and economics.
The truth is I couldn't recommend this book enough.