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Monday, 15 July 2013

Soccernomics aims to provide a degree of numerical analysis to soccer. I have heard is stated that each equation added to a book reduces the readership by a half. This book avoids that issue by being quite anecdotal and not digging into or explaining the statistics too deeply.

There are some interesting take-aways:
1. Fans are a more fluid group than people believe. There is a high degree of churn as people move, or get bored with the game or have families.
2. The market for players is effient and paying more for players will generally lead to better results. They do not use transfer fees as they are often non-disclosed.
3. Managers have a small impact on the overall performance of a team. They are little more than figure heads and spokespeople. The authors to have a lot of good to say about Wegner and Clough though.
4. The impact of 2 and 3 means clubs cannot select players on the basis of race without incurring a penalty. With regard to managers they can.
5. Football is not really big business. Even the largest Manchester Unite/Chelsea teams are barely, if at all profitable and their turnover is tiny compared to the largest firms on the stock exchange. The teams at the bottom of the Premier League are closer to a single Supermarket store in terms of turnover.

The book then drifts into some analysis of why England perform poorly on the world stage. They develop a model using income per head, population and football experience. This seems to indicate that England have slightly overperformed(they don't prove this factors are causal or identify exactly how good at predicting these variables are). They then speculate that the future belongs to large country that are open to new footballing ideas.

This book is rather like Moneyball which looks at baseball. But baseball is probably an easier game to analyse as there are fewer situations. And football is already heavily analysed via Opta, this book fails to really deep dive into the data and feels quite superficial. It is quite easy to read. I enjoyed it, but felt the best chapter were around the business of football and fandom rather than football itself.