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Why England Lose: And other curious phenomena explained Paperback – 29 Apr 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSport (29 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007354088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007354085
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Why England Lose is an Arsène Wenger of a book - more thoughtful than most of its rivals and, by football standards, positively intellectual.' The Times

'It is rare, even after the great leaps football literature has taken in the past two decades, to find a book that takes the breath away, but Why England Lose does. Every page engages, entertains and challenges the lazy assumptions that still dominate football, not merely in its punditry, but all too often in the way that clubs are run.' FourFourTwo

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).


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
It's an interesting idea for a football book - use data to look at football phenomena instead of conventional wisdom, and see if some myths can be exploded. And for a little while, it works really well. The first feature on Why England Lose throws up some interesting angles, like the dearth of middle class players in the game, and the apparent fact that actually England do okay. And then, the attention to detail appears to drop. This is a shame because the book remains entertaining throughout, but the glibness of the conclusions reached, the selective data used to illustrate points that could easily be explained by other phenomena, it makes the book less enjoyable. More damagingly, those points that I can't verify personally are no longer as believable as before, and on revisiting the original chapter, I found that I didn't have the same confidence in either the data used or the conclusions reached.

I'll give just a couple of examples - there's a whole chapter on European Cup Winners that raises an interesting point that the main metropolitan areas of Europe can't offer a single European Cup/Champions League winner between them, and then uses some highly selective interpretation of data to predict that London will soon be winning them all the time. Doesn't include the success of Real Madrid or Ajax by the way. More annoyingly, there's an interesting chapter on football being boring or interesting if the same sides dominate. It reaches the point that it's interesting. So it ignores Celtic and Rangers in Scotland, or the big 3 in Portugal, and instead draws conclusions from crowd levels in England in two selected periods.
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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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