Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Big Data and Football's Search For the Holy Grail

At the recent Elite Minds in Sport Analytics Summit held at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, Chris spoke with CNN's John Sinnott about football clubs, the transfer market, and Big Data. You can read the story by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Creating Order From Soccer's Chaos

We spoke with Gelf Magazine's David Goldenberg about using advanced analytics to poke, prod, and disrupt thinking about how soccer works.


"There are far better sports to apply advanced metrics to than soccer. Basketball, for example, features loads of statistical categories and tons of points. In American football, everyone lines up in position after each down, making it relatively simple to run simulations. And baseball is so stats-friendly that it's often more fun to argue about changes in WAR and hat sizes than to watch the actual games themselves. The beautiful game, on the other hand, features frenetic action but relatively little in the way of discrete, quantifiable occurrences. Even soccer's results are maddeningly obtuse; the most common score is a 1-1 tie. Slowly, though, the world's most watched sport, which features most of the world's most popular athletes, is giving up its secrets to the quants."

        You can read the rest of the story here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Brendan Rodgers, WAGs, and Analytics: The Deadspin Chat With David Sally

While Chris was off somewhere in deepest England having fun at football clubs, David Sally spent the afternoon braving the inquisitive minds of Deadspin readers. Brendan Rodgers, Greg Louganis, Luis Suarez, coaching, Porto, WAGs, and yes, the future of soccer analytics, all came up.

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Books In Sports - The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong

Two guys are watching Premier League highlights, when onto the TV screen comes Rory Delap, then with Stoke City, doing one of his renowned throw-ins from the touchline directly into the box. One guy, a native of the American Midwest who’d been raised on baseball, basketball, and hockey, is amazed by the throw and the havoc it creates in front of the opponent’s goal.  “Why don’t other teams do that?” he asks.

The other guy, who grew up with soccer in Germany, explains that Delap is an unusual player, having been trained as a javelin thrower.

“But can’t teams train a guy to make throws like that?” asks the first guy.

“It’s not what you do unless you have to,” answers the second guy, who had played semi-pro soccer in his younger days.

“Well, why not? It seems to work for them.”

The former footballer is stymied for an answer.  All he can say is: “Because.”

In most cases, a debate like this would have ended here, with the guy with superior sports credentials having the final word.  But these guys were Ivy League professors, who do research in behavioral social sciences.  Instead of accepting “because” as an explanation for soccer customs, they began to question the behavior of clubs, managers, and even players, and to research the real outcomes of their decisions.

In their book The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong (Penguin, 2013), these two guys, Chris Anderson and David Sally, offer the results of their investigations.  Using the wealth of data that is now available about what happens on the field, and drawing from current theories in the social sciences, they undermine many of the conventions of on-field strategy and club management.  Their book brings together colorful stories and telling statistics in an engaging and insightful dissection of contemporary soccer.  You’ll be surprised to learn that much of what you knew about soccer is indeed wrong.  And as Chris and Dave admit in the interview, so were they.

Listen to the interview here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"The Numbers Game" on the Penguin Podcast: The Next Best Thing To An Audio Book

A couple of weeks ago, we had the great pleasure of discussing the story of The Numbers Game with Paul Martinovic on the Penguin Podcast for an episode focused on science.

You can listen to the entire interview by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New York Times - With New Book, Seeking Truth in Statistics of Soccer

We had the pleasure of chatting with Jack Bell, soccer writer for the New York Times, about the release of The Numbers Game in the U.S. on Tuesday, July 30. You can read his story by clicking here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Sports Illustrated Soccer Podcast - The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong

Should teams take more short corners? Grant Wahl hosts a special edition of the podcast, as he talks to Chris Anderson and David Sally, the authors of the new soccer analytics book 'The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong.'

You can listen to the podcast by clicking here or here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Talking Football Numbers With Damien O'Meara

We had a blast talking football numbers with Damien O'Meara on RTE's Game On broadcast. If you missed it, you can listen here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why The Bundesliga Isn't The Best In Europe

Ahead of this weekend's Champions League final, we break down what to expect for To read the story, click here. Enjoy!