Soccernomics: Why Transfers Fail, Why Spain Rule the World and Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

Suppose that you could apply the methods of baseball's "Moneyball" to soccer.  Is it possible to assess the promise and the decline of soccer players on the basis of scientific evaluation of their performance? The challenge is formidable because of the nature of the game - instead of episodes of batting and fielding in baseball, soccer presents a fluid situation in which hundreds of passes and runs, tackles and headers flow directly from one to another.  Further, there is much less scoring, and the contributions of individuals are often difficult to discern.  The stakes are sufficiently high that minions are employed at minimum wages to record every pass, tackle and run by every player in dozens of major and minor-league games played daily. The authors (a weekly sports columnist for the Financial Times and an economist) address issues other than the evaluation of players.  Do managers make any difference? Which country loves football (soccer) most (Norway)? Why does England lose and why do clubs from smallish towns do better than those from big cities? There is much to argue about in "Soccernomics", which is one of the reasons I enjoyed reading it, but the main one was the fact that actual data is used to address practical questions that many people care about.  The book was written for a UK audience and is not really marketed in the US.  This is a logical decision because of the preponderance of examples from the Premier League and Championship Clubs, which are not extensively covered in American media except possibly during the quadrennial World Cup.

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Publication Date: 
Wednesday, July 24, 2013