September 16

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The Best Football Analytics Books to Read Today


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Over the last couple of decades, statistics has gradually assumed greater importance within the footballing world.

This is most certainly a far cry from how things were in the sport back in the ‘70s, ‘80s or even the ‘90s.

Arguably, player data is now integral to the decision-making process undertaken at most football clubs today.

 

How Football Clubs Use Analytical Data Today

 

There are two main ways in which this info-centric part of the game is of use to clubs:

 

Player Recruitment

These days most football clubs have extensive scouting networks across each and every continent.

But with data now widely available, clubs can create a shortlist of players who have statistics that fit a particular profile, all without having to leave the training centre.

There’s a case of a team in Eastern Europe that employed a company called 21st club that specialises in this field of work.

Using 21st Club’s tool – which calculates the historical link between a player’s on pitch actions alongside overall team performance level and subsequently assigning an overall rating – a player who was earning 25% less than the average player on the client’s shortlist and who was better than all but one on the said shortlist, was identified.

 

Monitoring Fitness Levels and Tracking Match Performance

Companies like STATSports are making significant sums as their GPS sports vests are used by some of the biggest teams in world football as a way of measuring and monitoring the fitness of players.

These vests are able to track various metrics such as:

  • Total distance covered
  • Maximum heart rate
  • Dynamic stress count
  • Maximum sprint speed

It goes without saying that the increased prize money available and the fierce competitiveness within the sport has lead to clubs seeking to eke out any possible legal advantage to get an edge over their rivals.

Clubs will want their athletes in tip top shape for matches and they can only be sure that their athletes are in the best physical condition by using the data at their disposal to keep an eye on their performance in training.

Look at Milner go here!

Now that you have a grasp on why clubs use data so extensively, I’m going to offer a list of the best football analytics books that provide even greater insight into some of the fascinating ways that data driven tools and metrics are used in the sport today.

Let’s begin…

 

Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution

best football analytics books - the science and art of data revolution

The author of this fantastic title – Christoph Biermann – has spoken with numerous scientists, managers, scouts and psychologists involved in the game to provide a balanced account of the growing influence of data within football.

He emphasises that winning in football no longer takes place solely on the field, but also in the boardroom as club executives and data analysts seek to gain extra competitive advantages over their rivals by way of innovation.

 

Benefits
  • The data analysis techniques presented in the book are presented in an easy to follow manner, which shouldn’t put off those who struggle with mathematical concepts
  • Provides thought provoking knowledge on concepts like expected goals, packing and “dangerosity”
Drawbacks
  • In a section of the book, the reader is introduced to people that use quantitative methods to analyse football but this section fails to provide further insight into this aspect of data analysis

View Price on Amazon

 

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong

best football analytics books - the numbers game

Chris Anderson – a former goalkeeper who is now a football statistics guru – and David Sally – a former baseball pitcher turned behavioural economist – debunk the commonly misplaced myths about the game in this great book.

Football has always used numbers to represent certain in-game concepts.

Look at formations for example, with shapes like 4-4-2, 3-4-3 and 4-5-1 using numbers to denote how many players are positioned in each strata of the field.

Or how the game uses 3 points to signify a win and 1 point to signify a draw.

Numbers have always played a part in making the game what we know and love today, but there’s more…

In this book you’ll learn why preventing a goal is more valuable than scoring one at the opposite end; why corners should be taken short and why it’s better to improve the worst player on the roster than to splash out for a world-renowned superstar.

 

Benefits
  • Match scenarios like the optimal time to making substitutions and the comparison between the worth of scoring and conceding was presented very well
Drawbacks
  • There is a fair bit of repetition in the book, which makes for a less entertaining read
  • There is a flaw in their analysis when comparing football to other sports as they failed to account for the fact that in football there are 3 outcomes – win, draw and lose – whereas in American sports it’s only wins or losses.

View Price on Amazon

 

Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game

best football analytics books - soccermatics

The premise behind this book is that in order to make sense of the shot statistics, league tables patterns of play and tactical shapes, we need to understand the mathematical models that are applied in physics, biology and economics.

Soccermatics therefore binds together mathematics and football, with numbers used to reveal some of the inner workings of the game.

The author – David Sumpter – has done extensive research on some of the world’s most famous footballers and teams, and he reveals the fruits of his meetings with some of the professionals who utilise numbers and statistics for performance enhancement within the game.

 

Benefits
  • The chapter on player recruitment was fairly relevant to the direction that data analysis is taking at present to support football clubs
  • There was an insightful section on betting techniques that are used to predict outcomes of games
Drawbacks
  • One of the main flaws was in David Sumpter’s use of behaviours in the natural world amongst organisms in comparison to players on a football field. For example, how animals or insects might congregate together and how this could be read across to the soccer pitch.

View Price on Amazon

 

Soccernomics

best football analytics books - soccernomics

In the world of football literature, Soccernomics is one of the most widely recognised and recommended titles.

And for very good reason.

Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski provide excellent answers to some of the biggest questions that football fans want to know, such as why England frequently lose whilst the likes of Germany and Brazil win more often than not.

Focus is also paid to Spain’s period of international dominance and why so many clubs fail to recruit the right players.

 

Benefits
  • The early chapters of the book are very engrossing, as they couple fact-based presentation with insight and analysis from the viewpoint of an economist
  • Interesting anecdotes on the Ajax and Barcelona academies
Drawbacks
  • Failed to tackle some largely important aspects of football such as hooliganism and crowd safety
  • Too many comparisons made between football and baseball due to the success of the popular book called Moneyball

View Price on Amazon

 

The Expected Goals Philosophy: A Game Changing Way of Analysing Football

best football analytics books - the expected goals philosophy

Football fanatics and casual fans alike will often have heard of the expected goals metric that’s often used to analyse performance.

Such is its significance that even professional gamblers draw on this data point in order to determine which teams are worth a lucrative bet.

And then you’ve got club scouts also using it to scope for the hidden gems in the transfer market.

Expected goals is big business.

Yet despite its ever-growing importance in football, the majority of casual fans still don’t fully understand what the expected goals term is, or when to apply it correctly when analysing a player’s performance.

This book sets out to put things straight.

Readers will learn all about the methodology which has seen English Championship side Brentford battle for promotion on a couple of occasions, along with amassing more than £100 million in transfer revenue as a result of their use of the expected goals metric in their player recruitment.

 

Benefits
  • The expected goals model is explained succinctly and a reader doesn’t need to be moderately academic to understand the nuances behind it
Drawbacks
  • There is too much repetition in terms of content and language used
  • Limited use of statistics to back up the content of the book or to aid with comparative analysis

View Price on Amazon

 

Outside the Box: A Statistical Journey Through the History of Football

best football analytics books - outside the box

Back in the day, the numbers and performance metrics didn’t mean much in the world of football.

It was certainly a simpler time, with teams mainly focused with succeeding on the pitch.

Players didn’t have to adhere to the meticulous dietary and fitness regiments that they have to today.

This book uncovers when the numbers started to become more important to the various stakeholders within football and it offers a thoroughly detailed explanation of what the numbers mean.

The author – Duncan Alexander – reflects on the 28-year life of the Premier League and demystifies the mysths surrounding the game whilst at the same time revealing some hidden truths.

Armed with OptaJoe archives and tonnes of data, he explains why Liverpool have had a lengthy trophy drought and reveals whether Messi is the greatest footballer of all time.

You’ll have to pick this title up and find out the answer to these questions!

 

Benefits
  • Each chapter focuses on a specific season and chapter endings include a statistical overview of each season which is a nice touch
  • Contains numerous Premier League facts which offer plenty of insight for casual and dedicated fans alike
Drawbacks
  • Disappointing lack of info graphics or innovative statistical investigation given the author’s access to Opta statistics

View Price on Amazon

 

Data Analytics in Football: Positional Data Collection, Modelling and Analysis

best football analytics books - data analytics in football

This last recommendation is a totally data driven one.

Daniel Memmert and Dominik Raabe explore how positional data on players can be collected, modelled and analysed and they challenge some of the sports longest held assumptions by way of cutting-edge methodology.

Some of the topics covered in this title include the emergence of positional data analysis and the benefits of a data driven approach to decision making in football.

The book contains data collected from the German Bundeliga and UEFA Champions League and is supplemented with interviews from some esteemed professionals within the industry such as Ralf Ragnick and Urs Siegenthaler.

View Price on Amazon

 

Final Recommendation

Ultimately, from this blog post you should have been able to deduce the fact that data driven insights are playing an increasingly important role in several facets of the sport today.

If I was to pick and place one of the recommendations in this post above the rest in the list of the best football analytics books, I would vouch for Soccernomics; not only due to its overwhelming popularity among football readers, but also because it looks at analytics from multiple angles as opposed to most of the other titles.

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About the Author 

Samuel Waihenya is 24 years of age and has been trading on the Football Index for the better part of the last 6 months. He's made mistakes and learnt plenty along the way, such that he is now fully confident in his trading. As a result, he seeks to help others make the most out of this fantastic platform that does in fact offer financial returns that are "too good to be true" :)

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