The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally – Book Review

The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally – Book Review

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game
Author – Chris Anderson and David Sally
Publisher – Penguin
Pages – 400
Release Date – 5th June 2014
Format – ebook, paperback
Reviewer – Steve

I received a free copy of this book

synopsis of a witch

Football has always been a numbers game: 4-4-2, the big number 9 and 3 points for a win. But what if up until now we’ve been focusing on the wrong numbers? What if the numbers that really matter, the ones that hold the key to winning matches, are actually 2.66, 53.4, 50/50, and 0 > 1? What if managers only make a 15% difference? What if Chelsea should have bought Darren Bent?

In this incisive, myth-busting book, Chris Anderson, former goalkeeper turned football statistics guru, and David Sally, former baseball pitcher turned behavioural economist, show that every shred of knowledge we can gather can help us to love football and understand it even more. You’ll discover why stopping a goal is more valuable than scoring one, why corners should be taken short, and why it is better to improve your worst player than to buy a superstar.

You’ll never play, or watch, a game of football in quite the same way again.

‘The Numbers Game’ is essential reading for football fans everywhere and will also appeal to readers who loved Moneyball and Freakonomics.

At 17, Chris Anderson found himself playing in goal for a fourth division club in West Germany; today, he’s a professor in the Ivy League at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. An award winning social scientist and football analytics pioneer, Anderson consults with leading clubs about how best to play the numbers game.

David Sally is a former baseball pitcher and a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in the US, where he analyses the strategies and tactics people use when they play, compete, negotiate, and make decisions. He is an adviser to clubs and other organizations in the global football industry.

Review of a witch

‘The Numbers Game’ is a book written about two things – numbers and sport. Data science is growing in importance within the sports arena. Whilst people have been studying the numbers for around a hundred years, no one has really known what the numbers mean, or how to get the best from them. Even today, we are learning, but what we have learned so far is presented very well in this book.

This book isn’t written with the head of sports analysis at Chelsea in mind. It is written with you, the fan, the critic, the better, the armchair manager in mind. By reading this book, you will see that football is full of nuances that you didn’t know existed! The truth is being uncovered and this is a great presentation of the truth so far.

Ever wondered why your accumulators don’t come in? Why did Manchester United won the Premiership with unnerving regularity? What is the winning formula for your favourite football team? The honest answer, as discovered within this book – Luck! By analysing statistical data available, Anderson and Sally provide insightful detailed information showing that your sure thing isn’t quite as sure as you might think!

The book is very well written, with all points being very easy to follow and sometimes quite humorous. Graphs are presented clearly throughout the book to highlight key points and make them easy to visualise. If you have an interest in sports betting, or simply enjoy ‘The Beautiful Game’, you must read this book.

Book reviewed by Steve

Three star rating

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