The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong by David Sally
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"Soccer is a team game, but it is one prone to being decided by sheer, staggering individual ineptitude. Every team has had one, a player whose very presence chills a fan's blood...."
Although this is a book on statistics, the commentary between the data points is what makes it worth reading, but probably what will make this book become quickly dated as well, despite the author's suppositions that many aspects of the game have reached stasis or a critical mass and will not change for decades.
Many of the critiques of this work point out that one can interpret statistics in any fashion to support one's hypothesis, and this book is no exception to that adage. He uses statistics to explain the relative uselessness of managers, then uses another set of data to explain why the right manager is indispensable. He makes my point that defense is more important than most people realize; while they're watching the striker do his job, a defender is working equally hard to prevent him from doing so.
I'm not sure everything I knew about soccer was wrong, but it's a catchy title. If you are someone who enjoys numbers and analysis, this book will bring you into the modern age of sports analytics and help you sort out what matters from what doesn't; nearly everything is being measured now, and no one is quite sure what to do with all the data. The game is becoming less mysterious and more precise, however, and reading this will help you understand what's behind the numbers.
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