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Why England Lose

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Why England Lose Empty Why England Lose

Post by Thomond Tue 31 Jan 2012, 6:02 pm

http://v2journal.com/why-england-lose.html


This book takes a look at the sport of football, using mathematic and statistic analysis. The authors of the book frequently reference the book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis (now a feature film) and have seemingly been influenced by it. The book takes certain opinions and views among fans and pundits of the game and shows with the use of various formulae how often they are incorrect. In Britain in particular, football clubs were slow to use statistical analysis, excluding Arsène Wenger and the book shows us how mathematical principles can help bring about sporting success. They cite the example of Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team who rebuilt the franchise, making them a competitive , stable organisation primarily through the Major League Baseball draft. Beane used Sabermetrics (a type of statisical analysis in Baseball) to determine player performance in the hopes of determining who could be a good steal in the draft or if a player was past their prime.


So, why do England lose? If you listen to the authors, expectation in England is unrealistically high. The numbers will tell you that England are a decent outfit, who win approximately two-thirds of their matches( draws are counted as half a win). Over a twenty year period, from 1980-2001, England would have ranked as the tenth best team in the world in terms of winning percentage. So is England's performance incredibly surprising in that case? They frequently reached the last 16 and quarter finals of competitions during that time frame and twice reached semi finals. So in many ways they overachieved. However, Kuper and Szymanski show how certain freak results can alter expectations (e.g. England beating Germany 5-1 prior to the 2002 World Cup resulted in a high level expectancy among the general public)


According to the data, Englishmen accounted for 37 percent of the total minutes played in the 2007-08 Premier League by footballers. In what is the world's toughest league, this is quite a staggering figure. Foreign footballers certainly have improved standards of English footballers( they state that English footballers have had to improve to simply get playing time). But in what is the most competitive league in the world, (Kuper argues that while Barcelona and Real Madrid are now better teams, they are only tested by each other, rarely by other teams.) surely exhaustion is a factor. They use the example of an Olympic athlete in an Olympic year. They say how results prior to the Olympic Games aren't incredibly crucial as an athlete can't peak every match. Yet this is what is expected of the English footballers. To play well every week for club and for country.


The authors also argue that English football drives out the middle classes. They take a list of professional footballers and the occupations of their fathers. Of the 34 listed, 5 would have needed higher education for their jobs. That is roughly 15% of English players who had middle class backgrounds. When you consider that 70% of the population stay in school after 16 and 40% go into higher education, 15% is quite a low figure. Many footballers leave school before 16 to join a Club academy. While students are sometimes sent to do educational courses, it doesn't always occur and the classes are not taken seriously. They cite the example of a man named Stuart Ford a middle class student who was forced out of his club due to being teases relentlessly about his middle class background. Ford drifted away from football to become a lawyer.


Next the authors discuss the effect Fabio Capello has on the English football team. Prior to the 2010 World Cup he won 71% of his matches which was better than any previous English manager. As to why England fell flat against the Germans in that World Cup, they simply believe they came up against a better team and a manager with a better game plan. This could possibly be due to the fact that Germany is a central hub of Europe where networking in football and business is common practice. England however have failed to take on board new ideas , still believing to be the home of football. Germany and indeed many other European nations such as France and Spain are situated close to others which is why ideas and new ways of thinking about the sport and transmitted so quickly across the continent. England is geographically isolate from said countries, and have been slow to take on new ideas. The authors talk about how Arsene Wenger was one of the first managers in Britain to take nutrition seriously.



The next section of the book deals with the transfer market, penalty shootouts and capital cities in club football. The authors main statement on the transfer markets is this, "the higher wages you pay the more likely you will win" . Newcastle United were the exception to this (the period analyzed was from 1998-2007) their wage bill was fifth highest in the league yet their average placing was ninth. Newcastle United are made somewhat of a scapegoat for some of their lavish transfer dealings. Signing a frail Michael Owen for £18 million being criticised as were some other big name signings made by Newcastle. A humorous thought is also put to us. The authors cite an unnamed club whose scouts kept recommending blonde players. The bright coloured hair must have caught their eye and made them stand out from the crowd. Clubs now take the "blonde" factor into account with other distinguishing features which may attract the eye also taken into consideration. We also learn how certain nationalities are overvalued
(e.g. Brazilians just due to being Brazilian with the history of "joga bonito"), sell any player if you are offered more than they are worth (Moneyball used as an example, where Beane traded certain players for draft picks) and how to use the wisdom of crowds. Olympique Lyonnais, for example, have a team of people who decide on signing players.


If you look at the cities that have won European Cups (i.e. Champions League) you will find that very few of the major capital cities (London, Paris, Athens etc) won the trophy yet smaller areas like Nottingham, Birmingham and Eindhoven have. Why is that? The example of Manchester is used here. Manchester grew into one of the bigger cities in Europe during the industrial revolution with a vibrant locomotive industry. Immigrants moved to Manchester for jobs as did people over Britain. Perhaps people looked for a sense of community, they found in their villages or for a pastime and they found the local football club. There are currently 7 professional football clubs from the Greater Manchester area in the top 3 divisions of English football. It could also be said that clubs from smaller areas might have less attractions and more space available for young people to play football. This is seen in Mönchengladbach where a talented crop of youngsters played together during the 1980s accompanied by some star players. Glasgow Celtic also achieved this with their European Cup winning team. The authors believe that the likelihood of a London club in particular winning it is increasing with increased funding for Arsenal and Chelsea with their owners and increased ticket sales. (this book was written before Paris Saint Germain FC were bought by Qatari investors but I think you could deduce the likelihood of PSG winning a Champions League has increased with their new ownership)



The rest of the book deals mostly with the international game. It talks about topics such as how an international tournament won't bring in a large amount of money but will help people in a different way. Studies on suicide show that in a World Cup year the number of people who commit suicide decreases. Perhaps, a good feeling sweeps through a country at that time who knows. People may feel a greater sense of belonging and national pride when their country competes in a World Cup and even more so when their country hosts a World Cup. We also find out how the population of a country isn't a major factor in its success in Football and other sports. It's their economic situation. China didn't haul in a large amount of medals in the Olympics during the 80s when they weren't a huge power economically, yet in the 3 Olympics since Sydney they have finished 3rd,2nd and 1st in the overall medal tables. You could contrast this with India, another huge country with a population only slightly smaller than China yet it finished 49 places lower in the medal table than China in the 2008 Olympics with a paltry 3 medals. The example of Norway is then sighted, a country far smaller than India but with a very stable economy and where the people are quite well off. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Norway outperformed India by 6 medals. Considering Norway would be known as a country more interested in Winter Sports that is impressive.


So what is my overall opinion on the book? I think it's well written, and raises some very interesting points about football. I think it might also banish some preconceived notions we have about football such as "England are underachievers" and how football can be a profitable business. People who mightn't know a lot about statistical analysis, might fail to understand it at times. I did find it tough at times to comprehend certain terms that were used and it sometimes feels the book is a bit too full of information. However, for the majority of it, the reader is entertained as the duo blend the mathematical side well with the points they're trying to express.

Thomond

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Post by Glas a du Wed 01 Feb 2012, 7:58 am

Good crack Thomond.
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Post by Adam D Tue 07 Feb 2012, 8:21 pm

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Why England Lose Empty Re: Why England Lose

Post by kwinigolfer Tue 07 Feb 2012, 9:09 pm

Without going through all the analysis point by point, it should be noted that the use of Moneyball as an analogy for British football has very limited applicability.

Use of statistical analysis is all very well but Billy Beane applies it to a franchise not a club in a competitive league where failure (for England's top five or six clubs, say) is not reaching the Champions league. Lower down it is avoiding the relegation zone, then it is relegation.

American sporting franchises can finish bottom of their league and they are rewarded with top picks in the amateur/college draft to try and make them competitive again.

Beane is still in Oakland, sometimes having a decent year, sometimes a terrible one. This year Oakland is coming off a bad season and has responded by getting rid of 75% of its most marketable commodities. In compensation it has acquired a number of untried youngsters, plus draft picks, and they will surely be competitive again in 3 or 4 years. Don't think that would fly at Old Trafford somehow.

In the NFL, the Colts were without the injured Peyton Manning and responded with a 2-14 season (deliberately losing once they determined they were not competitive?) so that they can acquire the Number One draft choice.

It's just not the same so comparing anything (except the use of metrics) in Footie with Moneyball is wide of the mark.

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Post by guildfordbat Tue 07 Feb 2012, 9:34 pm

kwinigolfer wrote:Without going through all the analysis point by point ....

I'm sure John Terry will now he longer has the distractions of international captaincy! Laugh

Kwini - got your ticket for Alderney yet? Wink

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Post by kwinigolfer Tue 07 Feb 2012, 9:59 pm

Travelling via Paris so may encounter some Air France striking shenanigans.
In which case I'll have to spirit my way there. Just as John (not Terry, he probably thinks allderkneee is between allderhip and allderfoot) would like it.

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Post by guildfordbat Tue 07 Feb 2012, 10:16 pm

kwinigolfer wrote:Travelling via Paris so may encounter some Air France striking shenanigans.
In which case I'll have to spirit my way there. Just as John (not Terry, he probably thinks allderkneee is between allderhip and allderfoot) would like it.

Very Happy clap

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