Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Posts Tagged ‘Statistics’

Europe’s Top Midfielders and the Uses of a Lamp-post

Posted by hakanrylander on March 24, 2011

Most fans agree that United need a truly world-class attacking midfielder, who can consistently deliver the brilliant killer pass in the final third of the field. Someone like Sneijder, Ozil or (in our wildest dreams) Xavi or Iniesta.

Maybe we should start looking close to home. In our search for this missing piece in the jigsaw statistics might, as often, provide some surprising answers. When Opta lists the players who, on average, completed the highest number of successful passes in the final third of the pitch during the group stages of the Champions League this season the No 1 spot is held by Iniesta. No 2 is Xavi. No surprises so far. But in third place is – wait for it – Darron Gibson.

Un unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than illumination.


Posted in Academic, Manchester United, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

A brief guide to when to commit a red card offence

Posted by hakanrylander on February 20, 2009

Defenders often face the decision whether to deny the opponents a scoring opportunity if this means receiving a red card. From now on Ferdinand, Vidic et al can rely on academic research to help them in this decision-making process.

In a study published in the latest issue of Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports three researchers from Colombia University, New York (Vecer, Kopriva, Ichiba) analyse the effects of red cards in soccer. One of the conclusions is that when the opponent’s chance of scoring in a particular situation is 57,5% or higher it’s better to prevent such a scoring opportunity from the very beginning of the game, provided that the offence doesn’t lead to a penalty but just a red card.

The tricky part might be to in an instant calculate whether the probability of scoring is above or below 57,5%.

Posted in Academic | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Review: The Economics of Football

Posted by hakanrylander on November 10, 2008

economicsoffootballThis book is a sometimes enlightening, sometimes frustrating mix of the interesting, the obvious and the too complicated. The authors Stephen Dobson and John Goddard lectures in Economics at The Queen’s University of Belfast and at University of Wales Swansea respectively. They’ve attempted to analyse professional English football at club level, using a combination of economic reasoning and statistical and econometric analysis.

In previous posts I’ve touched upon two of the segments that I find most interesting; the increasing inequality between rich and poor clubs and how the length of a spell of wins/losses affects the probabilities of the outcome of the next game.

Another chapter deals with the highly interesting question of whether it’s possible to beat the bookies by using a statistical model based on historical results. This is of course crucial, not least from the point of view of personal wealthbuilding. The answer, sadly, is negative. Or perhaps I just have to construct a better model than these guys managed to.

Though some parts are very interesting others are boring (relating things I already knew) or incomprehensible (describing complex statistical models in detail). To a large extent it’s possible to skip these segments, but at times I found that my somewhat limited understanding of the finer points of econometrics hindered my ability to question the conclusions reached by the authors.

Despite these reservations the book increased my understanding of some of the factors that drive the development of football, and was well worth the effort.

Posted in Academic, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Review: Myths and Facts about Football

Posted by hakanrylander on October 8, 2008

The Independent today reviews an interesting book yet to be published; Myths and Facts about Football: The Economics and Psychology of the World’s Greatest Sport. The book draws together academic research from around the world, exploring a number of wellknown “facts” about football and submitting them to scientific and mathematical tests. Some are found to be myths, such as “teams run a greater risk of conceding just after scoring” and “taking the lead just before half-time makes a win much more likely”. While others are found to be true, e.g.  “goalkeepers dive too often for penalties” and “teams who celebrate goals collectively achieve better results”.

Seems like a bit of a goldmine. I’ll get back with a proper review once I’ve read the book.

Posted in Academic, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The enigma of the negative persistence effect

Posted by hakanrylander on September 29, 2008

For some time now I’ve suspected that a number of hardcore visitors to this site share a soft spot for a scientific approach to the good things in life; football, sports betting, medical products, you name it. Those of you who fall into this category, please help me out. While reading a statistical analysis of English football I came across the following statement:

“Analysis of sequences of match results reveals evidence of a negative ‘persistence’ effect: a recent run of good results appears to create either pressure or complacency, increasing the risk that the next result will be bad.”

Does this really make sense? It seems to me that a run of good results would in fact increase the chance of the next result being good. I wouldn’t e.g. bet against Chelsea at least drawing their next home game.

Posted in Academic | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »