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The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong Paperback – 30 May 2013
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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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There also seems to be a fair bit of repetition in the book, making it perhaps a bit more of a dry read than it needed to be.
Interesting enough in parts, but it's tricky for me to give this more than three stars when there are so many other really good football books out there.
However, there was a nagging doubt throughout that some of the analysis was not thought through properly. Comparing football to other sports is all well and good, but they failed to consider fully that there are 3 common results in football (win, draw or lose) as opposed to two (win or lose) in other sports they were comparing too, particularly American sports.
That said, sections about when to make substitutions and the comparison of the worth of scoring vs. conceding (who knew that scoring two scores is worth the same as a clean sheat, hence why some teams focus on defence so much?) were done very well.
That all said, the book tried to make this all sound new, when in reality you suspect there is much similar work happening at top clubs. But it would be refreshing to see a further emergence of this style of analysis in the television pundrity of the game, rather than simply over discussing refereeing decisions.
I'm not mathematically minded, but Chris Anderson's book is as accessible as it is enjoyable - very!
The Numbers Games is very interesting study of football. Challenging misconceptions of some ideas which are trotted out every football commentaries.
Never thought Tony Pulis, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola would be in the same sentence as a football positive.
Bought: June 2013.
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.
That said, when you get past this the book settles into a rhythm and despite some dodgy graphs and some wild leaps painted as obvious conclusions, there is some really interesting stuff in here. It just isn't the all encompassing solution it acts like.
"Soccernomics" and "Pay to play" do the same thing in a less annoying style. Read them first, and come to this if you find yourself wanting more.