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Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the… (2009)

de Simon Kuper, Stefan Szymanski

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Using insights and analogies from economics, statistics, psychology, and business to cast a new and entertaining light on how the game of soccer works, "Soccernomics" reveals the often surprisingly counterintuitive truths about the world's most popular game. An essential guide for the 2010 World Cup.… (més)
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Anglès (21)  Suec (1)  Totes les llengües (22)
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This book is labeled “World Cup Edition”, so you think you’re getting a book about the World Cup. Wrong! This book is about English soccer with a couple chapters about Spain, South Africa, and the like thrown in at the end.

It’s obvious that this book was repackaged with minimal changes (from the first Soccernomics book) to coincide with 2014 World Cup. As a book that has practically nothing about the World Cup in it, that is some blatant false advertising. I can forgive a lot of things in a book, but not such an obvious disregard for the truth.

To make it worse, they contradict themselves rather a lot (for example saying that having more money doesn’t make you happier, then flipping by saying it does). Soccernomics was a very frustrating book to read. It was well written, but the authors have no regard for consistency or the truth. It had so much potential, but they just screwed it up.
( )
  astronomist | Oct 3, 2021 |
I've had this book waiting to be read on my bookcase for as long as I can remember. I've picked it up several times but always decided to read something else due to the length of it (450ish pages). It is written by a football journalist, Kuper, and a football fan economist, Szymanski, with the view to exploring the truth behind a lot of the generally accepted football maxims. While there are parts of the books which are really good, such as exploring why teams started to sign black players in the 80's when the league was basically racist, most of it feels slightly cherry picked. There are also some startling contradictions. For example, in the first half of the book Rafa Benitez is portrayed as doing a poor job because he spent a lot of money on players per point achieved. Then towards the end of the book he is portrayed as a good manager because of his wage bill per point achieved. Even if you ignore this contradiction most football fans accept that managers rarely get the final say in the signings they make and it if often done by committee. I know for a fact that Benitez really needed a winger when he first came to Liverpool. The club wouldn't or couldn't buy who he wanted so he ended up with Antonio Nunez as he was the only available player who fitted the price point. Nunez was a poor signing but Benitez should not be held solely accountable for it.

Another telling section deals with how Barcelona train kids at their youth setup and how this delivers value for money. Unfortunately for the writers this section was written after the academy had produced the likes of Victor Valdez, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Sergio Busquets, and Leo Messi. I say unfortunate because since then they have produced very few if any players who have gone on to become stars in the first team with Sergi Roberto being the only real exception. Successful academies tend to have 'golden generations' which excel. The academies then produce players who mainly end up transfered to other teams with the odd player making it in the first team and Barcelona have followed this common pattern. The writers also extol the fact that the academy focuses on techincal skill and not athleticism when it comes to training their players. Being a small player is not a problem to them and they actively look for players other teams have overlooked. They use Leo Messi to prove this point. This convieniently misses the fact that Messi had a condition that needed growth hormone treatment from the age of 13 until he became an adult. When he joined Barcelona as a kid one of the big drivers was that the club would pay for the medical treatment he needed, something his family couldn't afford in Argentina. His size was an issue, and although there was a medical need, they never the less took steps to ensure he wasn't too small to succeed. Admittedly this is a minor point but I felt it would have been better suited to use Andres Iniesta for this example.

A final nail in the coffin for me is the fact that Damien Comolli is used as an example of the direction teams should go in when appointing a director of football. Unfortunately, he proved to not be particularly good at identifying talent during his time at Liverpool and left after a string of players failed to make the grade. He was also considered a failure at Saint-Etienne and is currently not working in football at all. ( )
  Brian. | Mar 20, 2021 |
What a great book! I didn’t really know what to expect, other than that it seemed like a popular book on soccer. It is also rather thick at around 450 pages. But as soon as I started reading I was hooked. It is extremely well written, and endlessly fascinating.

The authors have used statistical analysis in many areas related to soccer, such as penalty shots, manager impact, fan loyalty, most soccer-crazy country and the transfer market. It could have been a rather dry book, but it is not. There are so many interesting observations and conclusions in the chapters, and the writing is top-notch.

I particularly liked the chapter on which city teams have been successful in the European Cup. In it, the authors point out that teams that have been dominating are all from provincial cities, like Manchester, Barcelona, Munich, Marseille and Milan. For the most parts, the capitals have not done so well. As they write: the town of Nottingham still has more trophies – two – than London, Paris, Istanbul, Berlin and Moscow combined. The explanation they offer is that a lot of people moved to industrial towns a century ago, and one thing that united them was soccer. The capitals on the other hand had many other things to unite them, and did not need soccer in the same way. This pattern of which cities have the most successful soccer teams is rather obvious to me once it has been pointed out, yet I never made the connection myself before I read Soccernomics.

I also really liked the chapter on penalty taking. They write about the 2008 Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester United that was decided on penalties. Chelsea had access to research about which side Van der Sar usually was diving to, depending on if the penalty taker was right-footed or left-footed. In the end, Van der Sar figured out the system Chelsea was using, and saved the last penalty to win the game for Manchester United. There are many more examples in this chapter on the use of statistics for penalty taking, and it is fascinating reading.

The chapter towards the end of the book on the rise of Spanish soccer was also very interesting. The authors’ thesis on why some countries are more successful in soccer than others is that the connected-ness and exchange of ideas between countries is the most important factor. Spain is an interesting example. In the 1970s, when Spain became more open, there was a heavy Dutch influence (Johan Cruijff, Rinus Michels) that proved very beneficial for Spanish soccer. The chapter does a very good tracing and analysing this development.

These were three chapters that stood out for me, but that doesn’t mean the others were bad. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. My only little quibble is that when analysing the importance of the manager for a team, they concluded that it is quite rare that they have a big impact – team results are mostly determined by the quality of the players, with a few notable exceptions such as Alex Ferguson. But in the chapter on the English national team, they conclude that they have performed better with a foreign manager than with local manager. This seems a bit contradictory to me, but perhaps I misunderstood.

All in all though, a really great book. I have recommended it to everybody I know that is interested in soccer. ( )
  Henrik_Warne | Dec 13, 2020 |
Part of my current futbol kick. A bit heavy on the economics side of things, but informative nonetheless. ( )
  Terrencee | May 8, 2019 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 22 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Now, along comes Soccernomics, a sharply written and provocative examination of the world's game seen through the prism of economics and statistical data. It demolishes almost everything that most soccer fans believe about the game and how professional soccer teams should operate.
afegit per chazzard | editaGlobe & Mail, John Doyle (Jan 28, 2010)
 

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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Simon Kuperautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Szymanski, Stefanautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat

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Using insights and analogies from economics, statistics, psychology, and business to cast a new and entertaining light on how the game of soccer works, "Soccernomics" reveals the often surprisingly counterintuitive truths about the world's most popular game. An essential guide for the 2010 World Cup.

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