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Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution

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The future of football is now. Football's data revolution has only just begun. The arrival of advanced metrics and detailed analysis is already reshaping the modern game. We can now fully assess player performance, analyse the role of luck and measure what really leads to victory. There is no turning back. Now the race is on between football's wealthiest clubs and a group o The future of football is now. Football's data revolution has only just begun. The arrival of advanced metrics and detailed analysis is already reshaping the modern game. We can now fully assess player performance, analyse the role of luck and measure what really leads to victory. There is no turning back. Now the race is on between football's wealthiest clubs and a group of outsiders, nerds and rule-breakers, who are turning the game on its head with their staggering innovations. Winning is no longer just about what happens out on the pitch, it's now a battle taking place in boardrooms and on screens across international borders with the world's brightest minds driving for an edge over their fiercest rivals. Christoph Biermann has moved in the midst of these disruptive upheavals, talking to scientists, coaches, managers, scouts and psychologists in the world's major clubs, traveling across Europe and the US and revealing the hidden - and often jaw-dropping - truths behind the beautiful game. 'A book full of exciting ideas and inside views on modern football. The most exciting book in an exciting time for football.' Thomas Hitzlsperger


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The future of football is now. Football's data revolution has only just begun. The arrival of advanced metrics and detailed analysis is already reshaping the modern game. We can now fully assess player performance, analyse the role of luck and measure what really leads to victory. There is no turning back. Now the race is on between football's wealthiest clubs and a group o The future of football is now. Football's data revolution has only just begun. The arrival of advanced metrics and detailed analysis is already reshaping the modern game. We can now fully assess player performance, analyse the role of luck and measure what really leads to victory. There is no turning back. Now the race is on between football's wealthiest clubs and a group of outsiders, nerds and rule-breakers, who are turning the game on its head with their staggering innovations. Winning is no longer just about what happens out on the pitch, it's now a battle taking place in boardrooms and on screens across international borders with the world's brightest minds driving for an edge over their fiercest rivals. Christoph Biermann has moved in the midst of these disruptive upheavals, talking to scientists, coaches, managers, scouts and psychologists in the world's major clubs, traveling across Europe and the US and revealing the hidden - and often jaw-dropping - truths behind the beautiful game. 'A book full of exciting ideas and inside views on modern football. The most exciting book in an exciting time for football.' Thomas Hitzlsperger

30 review for Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rohit Gavirni

    The book is about the rise of data-driven technologies around football told through a collection of neatly stacked stories about people who strived to get a better understanding of the sport, and people who wanted to influence the sport through their unique analytical insights, disregarding their background. The book will definititely help you look at the game more objectively, helping you to factor out the role of chance. More importantly, it helps develop a more tolerant attitude towards singul The book is about the rise of data-driven technologies around football told through a collection of neatly stacked stories about people who strived to get a better understanding of the sport, and people who wanted to influence the sport through their unique analytical insights, disregarding their background. The book will definititely help you look at the game more objectively, helping you to factor out the role of chance. More importantly, it helps develop a more tolerant attitude towards singular events, or a series of them which can sometimes span through the better part of a season! The author also shows why football's complexity makes it extremely hard for a Moneyball-like model to dominate to the level that it does in other major sports. The author's range of experiences with people from different backgrounds and tiers of the leagues is impressive. I particularly enjoyed the author throwing light on the entrepreneurial efforts of these people along with their technical approaches. His love for the sport clearly shows up in his writing, although I would have preferred some of the subsequent stories to be more crisply written. It's a must read for anyone who follows the sport. I hope it inspires someone do a Freakonomics for football myths using data-driven analyses.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sreedharan

    The first time we watch football, we probably see it as twenty people running frenzied after a ball. At some point, you may notice the nuances, the subtle tactics, the mazy runs and the different ways athletes control the ball. Christoph Biermann makes sure you see past this as well. Forget boomerisms like "tenacity" or "grit". They didn't win because "they wanted it more" or they were "in form" What really matters is the data: the dangerousity, the npxG, the Pressure Passing Efficiency Index. Of The first time we watch football, we probably see it as twenty people running frenzied after a ball. At some point, you may notice the nuances, the subtle tactics, the mazy runs and the different ways athletes control the ball. Christoph Biermann makes sure you see past this as well. Forget boomerisms like "tenacity" or "grit". They didn't win because "they wanted it more" or they were "in form" What really matters is the data: the dangerousity, the npxG, the Pressure Passing Efficiency Index. Of course, there's a tremendous amount of sheer luck involved. But Biermann tells accounts of hundreds of people who attempt to situate football analytics away from fate. The end-product is a cold efficient model that dives deeper into the game, free from cognitive biases and kismet.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Grassby

    Thoroughly enjoyable and insightful read. I thought it would be a book “just” on statistics in football, but it was so much more. As all data and statistical analysis should be, it was contextualised alongside the modern history of this growing aspect of the game, and struck a balance between the traditional approach to analysis in football, and the more modern advanced statistical analysis. Written by someone who clearly loves the game, and wants to know more about it - and I’d highly recommen Thoroughly enjoyable and insightful read. I thought it would be a book “just” on statistics in football, but it was so much more. As all data and statistical analysis should be, it was contextualised alongside the modern history of this growing aspect of the game, and struck a balance between the traditional approach to analysis in football, and the more modern advanced statistical analysis. Written by someone who clearly loves the game, and wants to know more about it - and I’d highly recommend the book to anyone who identifies as such.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Walker

    First off, the book is pretty poorly edited." There are a bunch of annoying grammar mistakes (simple things every now and then like substituting “that” for “which) and redundancies throughout the text (I am not sure how much of this is down to the translation from English to German). Some thoughts that don’t really get wrapped up properly and the subject tends to jump around occasionally. He sometimes gets off on tangents and un-needed details which can cause you forget the subject of the chapte First off, the book is pretty poorly edited." There are a bunch of annoying grammar mistakes (simple things every now and then like substituting “that” for “which) and redundancies throughout the text (I am not sure how much of this is down to the translation from English to German). Some thoughts that don’t really get wrapped up properly and the subject tends to jump around occasionally. He sometimes gets off on tangents and un-needed details which can cause you forget the subject of the chapter. It's not that the side topics he discusses are bad, they would just be better utilized as footnotes so they don't fill up several paragraphs and cause the topic of the chapter to appear somewhat disjointed. Because of this, the anecdotal portions suffer a little bit. But if you can push past these errors there is a LOT of good and useful stuff to be found. The book does a good job of making use of Danny Kahnemann and Amos Tversky’s work into decision theory and heuristics & biases (I got all excited when the author mentioned them because I had just barely finished the Undoing Project). He makes soccer stats very approachable and easy to grasp. He also explains how every metric for judging performance can be put into practical application. Its filled with tons of graphs and data sets (as you would expect). Aside from the main focus of the book - the more recent innovations in soccer data analytics (xG plots, spatial tracking, xGA, xA, PPDA, etc.) - there is not a whole lot that will be new to you if you have already read something like soccernomics.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Roberts

    A very interesting book about the various ways in which analysts and coaches are attempting to use the increasing amount of data available to them. It appears there is no 'one' model for assessing players but rather multiple ways of interrogating the data according to the philosophy of the analysts and coaches. In my view, use of such data is an aid to judgement and not a replacement for it. And interestingly that's how Borussia Dortmund used it under Klopp. A very worthwhile read A very interesting book about the various ways in which analysts and coaches are attempting to use the increasing amount of data available to them. It appears there is no 'one' model for assessing players but rather multiple ways of interrogating the data according to the philosophy of the analysts and coaches. In my view, use of such data is an aid to judgement and not a replacement for it. And interestingly that's how Borussia Dortmund used it under Klopp. A very worthwhile read

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Mohan

    Highly insightful for someone who wants to understand the game from a different perspective. However, certain sections seemed superficial and lacked detailed explanations. "Data tells a story of the game - not the story, but often a new and better one than the one we have all become used to." Highly insightful for someone who wants to understand the game from a different perspective. However, certain sections seemed superficial and lacked detailed explanations. "Data tells a story of the game - not the story, but often a new and better one than the one we have all become used to."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nopadol Rompho

    If you love football (soccer) and math at the same time, you will like this book. It tells you how you can use analytics into the game.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Fawwaz

    Reading this book makes me realize how wide the gap of knowledge in sports (especially football) between europe and my country, a third world country.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Raghoonandh

    A good overview about how Clubs are starting to look at data for tactical decisions. Covers lot of breath but not enough depth.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    Interesting but lacks depth, especially for those already interested in the soccer analytics space.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tiago

    For anyone, like me, who thought that analytics and football do not mix well, this book is really an eye opener. Not only do they blend well but also achieve good results. The book presents some new metrics devised to analyze player and club performance. The initial goal was simply to help with odds and betting but, afterwards, some clubs started to embrace a data-driven approach to have answers for questions like: How to choose a new player for your club? We have lost 3 games in a row. Are we t For anyone, like me, who thought that analytics and football do not mix well, this book is really an eye opener. Not only do they blend well but also achieve good results. The book presents some new metrics devised to analyze player and club performance. The initial goal was simply to help with odds and betting but, afterwards, some clubs started to embrace a data-driven approach to have answers for questions like: How to choose a new player for your club? We have lost 3 games in a row. Are we that bad or simply out of luck? Are we really efficient when we have ball possession? As football is a very conservative (and gut based) sport, it is difficult to push for an analytical approach as told by some of the stories in the book. Overall, it was a nice read and made me put a couple of other books/articles about the subject on my radar.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristo Tohver

    These are the things I learnt from this book or strated to think about: How do you rate football players on their performances? As Biermann demonstrates journalists (professional football ones) differ in their judgements from 2 to 5 during one single game. How would that then work in refereeing - how do you really make a difference between a good referee and a great one as subjective feelings are always misleading. Why really good teams go through bad patches even if they are not playing that badly These are the things I learnt from this book or strated to think about: How do you rate football players on their performances? As Biermann demonstrates journalists (professional football ones) differ in their judgements from 2 to 5 during one single game. How would that then work in refereeing - how do you really make a difference between a good referee and a great one as subjective feelings are always misleading. Why really good teams go through bad patches even if they are not playing that badly? Or why then some good referees go though bad games and decisions? Is there a fairer way to measure the quality of a team performances over the result or standard things like possession and attempts of goal. Something like Expected Points or Expected Goals? To be successful you have two ways to go about it - either be the best in the business in whatever field you are in or try to solve the issue from a completely different angle. Like in high-jumping Dick Fosbury reverted to the now universally used "flop" style. The biggest change in football and how it is understood and interpreted has come from the rise of video analyses. Firstly it has enabled brilliant coaches like Guardiola or Van Gaal or Tuchel or Klopp to study extensive videos on their oppositions and their own team performances to come up with new ways of succeeding. It has also enabled them to learn from other coaches and derive how successful their methods are. Secondly they now have material to show the players exactly what they want them to see and explain their methods. Gone are the days when "tactical training" required tedious sit-throughs of whole games. With the help of video analysts this has now been cut significantly to only those moments that matter. FC Bayerns Head of Department of Match Analysis (8 people) Michael Niemeyer says: "For me a good coach is also a good analyst" It is fascinating though that if in 2010 when video analyses and big data really went widespread - the world of soccer statistics seemed to be the future. However today still the big leap into big data and statistics has not happened. There are a few teams making use of it (like FC Midtjylland in Denmark as one example.), but generally football looks at it with suspicion. One of the problems of football data has been its non-uniformity. Numbers are gathered but not in the same way and not measuring the same exact things - thus they are not always reliable. Or you can look at statistics from a match (Like Brazil vs. Germany in 2014 WC semi-final 1-7) and see that Brazil won all of the statistical battles like possession, shots, tackles, corners, dangerous attacks and still suffered the heaviest defeat in the WC semi-finals ever. In short the answer to using statistics then is to collect even more data, and try to analyze it from others aspects and from different angles. Come up with models that really demonstrate effectiveness on the field of play. "Packing" is one such possible metric. For example in the EURO2016 34 of 51 games were won by teams who had bypassed more players (essence of packing) than the opponents and only 3 teams lost and there is a much stronger correlation between packing and winning than between possession or passing stats. Another similar metric is "controlling space" (how much space you have around you when you receive the ball and how much space you allow your opposition when they get the ball) and "dangerousity" (how much danger did a team create and how much were they exposed to). As computers learn they will do all the measuring work and provide data which then can be interpreted and analyzed and put to use by clubs and coaches. One field in football that already today heavily relies on data is scouting and the best scouts (using the best systems) are heavily sought after like Sven Mislintnat (from Borussia to Arsenal). Cognitive football Hoffenheim coach Nagelsmann makes his training sessions so complicated that his sports psychologist Jan Mayer says about the players "We want their head to spin during training" - and you only learn when your brain has to work hard. Sandro Wagner on Nagelsmann "He takes a complicated game, takes it apart into different sections, rehearses those and then puts it all back together, step by step" Together with SAP Hoffenheim have created game apps that aim to improve perception, understanding and decision-making for the players. Some players like goalkeepers come in twice a week, youth team once a week, outfield players when they want to. Another really interesting trend (used by Midtjylland and Tuchel for example) is psychological profiling of players and how different players work together. So that your team needs a balanced amount of fighters, artists, engineers and social workers on the field (similar to Belbin). Future strategies Really interesting idea is that of Ghosting - a game is played and based on the data feed into the computer previously - the computer offers an ideal route for the player to take in that situation. So for a defender to either close down the opposition or stay put on the 16m area line. And you can see live the difference between the two. Same can be applied to refereeing if we know from which positions referees make the best calls - so with ghosting we could teach referees where to position. It is clear however that the more detailed the analyses gets, the more expensive it gets and the danger is that the top clubs (Liverpool, Bayern etc) buy the systems and work with them behind closed doors so taking them out of the public domain. Could that happen in refereeing so that the smaller countries will stay more behind the leading ones?

  13. 5 out of 5

    James

    This fell somewhere between Soccernomics and one of Michael Calvin's books, as Biermann explored the metrics that are now being used to analyse football, but also gained access to people at the vanguard of using them. Soccernomics was the first mainstream book that looked at data to explain football, and given the frenzy to emulate the Oakland A's it is perhaps surprising that it's still seen as a bit nerdy 10 years on. As Biermann interviews many men (as he says, it's always men) involved in ana This fell somewhere between Soccernomics and one of Michael Calvin's books, as Biermann explored the metrics that are now being used to analyse football, but also gained access to people at the vanguard of using them. Soccernomics was the first mainstream book that looked at data to explain football, and given the frenzy to emulate the Oakland A's it is perhaps surprising that it's still seen as a bit nerdy 10 years on. As Biermann interviews many men (as he says, it's always men) involved in analytics, the reader is given the impression that clubs employ the analysts, but only a proportion actually use them. Biermann starts off the book by noting that a lot of football results can be attributed to luck, but Chris Anderson doesn't help the geeks' cause. After writing The Numbers Game he is interviewed in the book, and appears surprised that running a football club in the third tier actually involved practical aspects of the job, rather than playing Football Manager in real life. Less flippantly, the best analysis in the world still requires a coach willing to implement the ideas. A lot of the focus was understandably on the author's homeland of Germany, but he also got access to Midtjylland as well as discussing Liverpool, and it was written well enough that it didn't matter. The section on Lucien Favre I found really interesting, and gave me the sense that analysis is partly finding patterns in data, and partly improving the metrics you generate. Packing was quite interesting, but it was also quite difficult to work out whether making it a target would improve a team's performance, or whether it was merely a reflection of performance. When fewer stats were available, possession was deemed a great KPI, before it was found that merely increasing the stat didn't improve performance in itself. The author recommends three books as further reading, but having read all of them I think this was the best. It didn't try to draw snappy conclusions like The Numbers Game but still felt closer to the actual world of football than Soccernomics or Soccermatics. Partly this was the access, but as he related it to individual matches at times this covered the big picture and the details, and though it didn't have any explosive revelations, it did give a fascinating insight into one part of the sport.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    [4/5] This is one of those books I expected to love. I love football and data, after all. I really liked it in the end, but it didn’t start great. The author spends a lot of time in the beginning on xG and people who created mathematical models that could not be properly presented or explained. Then gets to the norm-breakers and talks about Tuchel and Guardiola, but towards the end of that section (with the importance of set pieces) it starts getting more interesting. The part after that is far mo [4/5] This is one of those books I expected to love. I love football and data, after all. I really liked it in the end, but it didn’t start great. The author spends a lot of time in the beginning on xG and people who created mathematical models that could not be properly presented or explained. Then gets to the norm-breakers and talks about Tuchel and Guardiola, but towards the end of that section (with the importance of set pieces) it starts getting more interesting. The part after that is far more interesting as he dives into more advanced xG concepts, PPDA, various packing metrics, dangerosity, then the various scouting tools and finally how teams are using data and technology to improve the mental aspects of their players’ game. It is an interesting overview (and history) of looking at football through numbers and I thought the author did really well considering his lack of knowledge in the general data/tech area. To me as an analyst it also brought up many interesting questions that seem to pop up no matter which industry you’re in - is more complex always better and how can we still get value from all of these metrics and models? How do we get from descriptive to prescriptive? How do we get the stakeholders’ buy-in? A few years into the future, it’s interesting to see where some of the mentioned people ended up, most notably Brentford as a stable PL team, Ankersen is now at Southampton, statsbomb and Ted Knutson outgrew their then status of a blog to become a huge player in the industry and are competing with the likes of opta. It would be nice to read an updated version of this book at some point, to see how far it has all come since the original, but for now this one is more than enough to make any football and data fan happy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Henrik Warne

    A status report from 2019 of how football analytics is used. Many examples from German football. A few of the things that stuck with me: In the context of expected goals (xG), the result that the difference between Christiano Ronaldo and an avergage player is only about 2 percentage points (13.3% of his shots resulting in goals vs the league average of 11.1%, page 34). The reason he scores so many goals is that he shoots more, and from better positions, than the average player. I also liked the gra A status report from 2019 of how football analytics is used. Many examples from German football. A few of the things that stuck with me: In the context of expected goals (xG), the result that the difference between Christiano Ronaldo and an avergage player is only about 2 percentage points (13.3% of his shots resulting in goals vs the league average of 11.1%, page 34). The reason he scores so many goals is that he shoots more, and from better positions, than the average player. I also liked the graphs of how the xG changed over complete games from the 2018 World Cup. Quite illuminating, along with the figures for the match odds based on simulations of the shots (page 37 and onwards). Also quite interesting was how Dortmund was 17:th in the table, but had had a lot of bad luck compared to all the chances they created. There is also a lot of information on the clubs Midtjylland (Denmark) and Brentford (England) on how they are adopting "moneyball" for football. Also good was the discussion of "packing" - the number of players that are taken out by a pass or dribble, as well as the concept of "dangerosity". Overall, a good book if you are interested in football analytics. The book meanders a bit through different subjects though, and it also feels like a snapshoot of the development at that point in time, more than a complete primer on football analytics. But that is mostly because there is a lot of development in this space. If you are interested in football analytics, there is a course given by David Sumpter of Uppsala University that I really enjoyed. I've written about it here: https://henrikwarne.com/2020/11/25/ma...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution (2019) by Christoph Bierman is an excellent read about the modern application of statistics to soccer. Soccer, or football as it will be referred to from here on, is very difficult to apply statistics to. Possession, shots taken and passed made can all be deceptive.  Prior to the modern era of ubiquitous digital footage of thousands of games and the availability of cheap computing power coming up with better football statistics has not be Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution (2019) by Christoph Bierman is an excellent read about the modern application of statistics to soccer. Soccer, or football as it will be referred to from here on, is very difficult to apply statistics to. Possession, shots taken and passed made can all be deceptive.  Prior to the modern era of ubiquitous digital footage of thousands of games and the availability of cheap computing power coming up with better football statistics has not been possible. Charles Reep's simplistic counting of passes being the best known failed example.  But today with annotations available for thousands of games a year being done more sophisticated analysis has become possible.  In the book Bierman talks to a number of modern football statistics innovators and  describes their influence on the modern game. To anyone who is familiar with these ideas the first new metric Xg or expected goals should be familiar. But other concepts such as 'packing', PPDA, dangerousity and others are likely to be new. The book has lots of examples from Bierman's home country of Germany and quite a few from other places.  Football Hackers is well worth reading for anyone interested in how to apply statistics to a complex, flowing game. For anyone interested in getting a feel for what's coming in modern football it's highly recommended. It's also well written and flows well from concept to concept and person to person. 

  17. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    I have undertaken a quest to further my knowledge of Football (soccer) from a ‘Moneyball’ perspective and was referenced this book from Soccermatics by David Sumpter. Where that book was more a Mathematicians take on Football this was truly an eye-opening overview of where Football is at as far as Analytics goes within the game. Sadly, the book was not available on Kindle so I had to purchase the paperback, making it the first physical book I have read in some time. The author takes you on their I have undertaken a quest to further my knowledge of Football (soccer) from a ‘Moneyball’ perspective and was referenced this book from Soccermatics by David Sumpter. Where that book was more a Mathematicians take on Football this was truly an eye-opening overview of where Football is at as far as Analytics goes within the game. Sadly, the book was not available on Kindle so I had to purchase the paperback, making it the first physical book I have read in some time. The author takes you on their personal journey through a quest to see if a Billy Beane can exist in the world of Football. Along the way you will see how Analytics has evolved within the game and where it is going. Concepts like the Packing, ghosting and an array of other metrics and views are brought about quite well. The author also brings up a host of innovative coaches who revolutionized the game with different outlooks on how the game should be played as well as scouting techniques used to find players to work within those systems. In addition, there is also some good reading material referenced as well. Overall, this is a five plus star read. If you are a fan of Football and want to know more about where the game is heading this is the book to get. I have a feeling I will be reading this one a few more times and referencing it regularly.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tuan Doan Nguyen

    At first, I expected the book to be somewhat a copy of David Sumpter's Soccermatics , which I rated highly. It turned out to be rather interesting, with a very long chapter dedicated to a number of metrics we have tried, with various degree of success, to deconstruct the sport, chasing a dream of finding a surefire way to build a data-drive, Moneyball like success story.. One thing I do appreciate is the book's recognition for the capriciousness of the game and a complex system surrounding the p At first, I expected the book to be somewhat a copy of David Sumpter's Soccermatics , which I rated highly. It turned out to be rather interesting, with a very long chapter dedicated to a number of metrics we have tried, with various degree of success, to deconstruct the sport, chasing a dream of finding a surefire way to build a data-drive, Moneyball like success story.. One thing I do appreciate is the book's recognition for the capriciousness of the game and a complex system surrounding the pitch. The data will tell a story of the game - not the story, and most people inside and outside of the sports are still trying to understand what all these numbers are useful for. As the book suggests, the hardest part is not to come up with new concepts like Expected Goals, Packing, Dangerousity, but to be able to apply these mathematically-inspired insights in a system prone to irrationality and knee-jerk decisions.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wouter

    This was a lovely read. The author provides a nice and concise overview of the development of new metrics to better understand football. The author brings with him a deep love of the game, a curiosity and drive to understand and explain and a human touch allowing him to really flesh out the many interesting figures he meets. Where the area of football metrics once was the realm of a bunch of nerds, who were very willing to share their insights, football data analysis is now a competitive market, This was a lovely read. The author provides a nice and concise overview of the development of new metrics to better understand football. The author brings with him a deep love of the game, a curiosity and drive to understand and explain and a human touch allowing him to really flesh out the many interesting figures he meets. Where the area of football metrics once was the realm of a bunch of nerds, who were very willing to share their insights, football data analysis is now a competitive market, which means that the part on the most recent developments is a bit obfuscated by corporate secrecy. This is a shame, but you can’t fault the writer for this. It makes you wonder whether in ten years’ time there will be a book lifting the lid on the analyses that the world’s top football clubs are developing right now.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Austin-Marks

    An interesting analysis of the role of data in football and wider sport. This came to me via a recommendation in a book club and is not something I would usually choose. Overall, the book contained some great anecdotes about how the data revolution started and it's continuous integration into football today. Then main takeaway for me was that most clubs are moving beyond the initial stage of just understanding what's happening on the pitch and now using data science to predict what will happen next An interesting analysis of the role of data in football and wider sport. This came to me via a recommendation in a book club and is not something I would usually choose. Overall, the book contained some great anecdotes about how the data revolution started and it's continuous integration into football today. Then main takeaway for me was that most clubs are moving beyond the initial stage of just understanding what's happening on the pitch and now using data science to predict what will happen next. Over the next 5-10 years, I see a big divide developing between rich clubs who can build the best analytic models (The Man City's of the world) and the lower leagues who cannot compete. Either way, the role of data in sport is here to stay and it seems that clubs most adapt for success or be left behind.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Niveet Singh

    Biermann hits the nail on the head about halfway through the book. He writes that when analysing data "context is crucial, always". The same goes for sport. I wholeheartedly agree with Biermann. Data tells a story. But it is not THE story. It's another tool in the belt. Though quantitative analysis in football is in its infancy relative to American sports, its development will help inform judgements about the world's most popular sport. Football is predisposed to random events. And unlike basket Biermann hits the nail on the head about halfway through the book. He writes that when analysing data "context is crucial, always". The same goes for sport. I wholeheartedly agree with Biermann. Data tells a story. But it is not THE story. It's another tool in the belt. Though quantitative analysis in football is in its infancy relative to American sports, its development will help inform judgements about the world's most popular sport. Football is predisposed to random events. And unlike basket or rugby, performance is weakly correlated with results. Building models that answer precise questions or analysing real time data will help clear-up the often murky world of tactics, scouting and player development.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Boris

    Probably one of the best books in the field of sports science, this one gives you a bit of a historical overview of the number one problem in football analytics - quantifying what is not quantifiable by nature. Throughout the entire book, the author gives very imaginative examples of trying to define what is good football and a good player and how to measure it, by visiting some of the biggest names in the field. It is a bit outdated, but still an excellent guidebook for beginner data scientists Probably one of the best books in the field of sports science, this one gives you a bit of a historical overview of the number one problem in football analytics - quantifying what is not quantifiable by nature. Throughout the entire book, the author gives very imaginative examples of trying to define what is good football and a good player and how to measure it, by visiting some of the biggest names in the field. It is a bit outdated, but still an excellent guidebook for beginner data scientists searching for their role in the football game. The book takes a few different approaches, through measuring individual performance, teamwork, scouting, and predictions. I give it four stars in search of a more up-to-date one, but other than that - a great read!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sankalp Nanda

    A wonderful book for football and analytics lovers An amazing book which really has gone in detail on how analytics has grown in this beloved sports. From story of Midjyland to borussia dortmund, real life stories and development of different metrics which gives us a far detailed insight than ones we are usually thrown with will keep you at the edge of your seats throughout the book. While it remains frank about the achievements of this field, it has given enough information about how analytics h A wonderful book for football and analytics lovers An amazing book which really has gone in detail on how analytics has grown in this beloved sports. From story of Midjyland to borussia dortmund, real life stories and development of different metrics which gives us a far detailed insight than ones we are usually thrown with will keep you at the edge of your seats throughout the book. While it remains frank about the achievements of this field, it has given enough information about how analytics has and can continue to change this sport. Excited to see the future 🙂

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul Marshall

    I was drawn to this book as a software engineer who is curious about how analytics are used in football, and to this books credit, I now know more and have more questions. This book has made me question the way I thought about football, and give me an understanding of how data can be used in lots of ways (although still in its infancy really) for a variety of things in football. Would definitely recommend this if you are looking for an alternative view on how football is evaluated, really easy rea I was drawn to this book as a software engineer who is curious about how analytics are used in football, and to this books credit, I now know more and have more questions. This book has made me question the way I thought about football, and give me an understanding of how data can be used in lots of ways (although still in its infancy really) for a variety of things in football. Would definitely recommend this if you are looking for an alternative view on how football is evaluated, really easy read and well written. My only negative would be that sometimes the tables could have been explained a little better, but it's a minor point, and after reading them a few times you got the point.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andy Parkes

    Fascinating! This looks at how data analysis has becoming increasingly widespread in football Always intrigued me how people have tried to make mathematical sense out of game that is ridiculously unpredictable. There are so many factors on an individual and teams performance that finding patterns isn't easy. But this book looks at that does it's best to explain a lot of it in layman's terms. Some of the tables and graphics look awful on a Kindle Recommended read if you have any inkling of interes Fascinating! This looks at how data analysis has becoming increasingly widespread in football Always intrigued me how people have tried to make mathematical sense out of game that is ridiculously unpredictable. There are so many factors on an individual and teams performance that finding patterns isn't easy. But this book looks at that does it's best to explain a lot of it in layman's terms. Some of the tables and graphics look awful on a Kindle Recommended read if you have any inkling of interest in this area

  26. 4 out of 5

    Beycan Yavuz

    It is really insightful book. It shows an unknown part of football. If you are interested in football or data analysis, you should read it. It also reveals the importance of the data. There are many practical examples in the book. I noted down most parts and look it up later on the internet. (For Example: now I am reading articles on Statsbomb.) It motivates you to go depth in football analytics. (I started reading analysis after games and listening podcasts about the data analytics)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jose Pliego

    “It’s possible to describe the sport’s history as the relentless attempt to get grips with its capriciousness.” This book is an amazing introduction on how statistical and mathematical models are being used in football. Biermann focuses on the individual stories of some “football hackers” and some specific teams. I would label this book as an essential read if you are interested in the more technical aspects of the beautiful game.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dimitris Mullings

    Really enjoyed this book. The author expertly gives a broad overview of many of the data-driven approaches to looking at football over the last fifteen years or so. Each chapter is short and entertaining, using examples of famous players, teams and matches. I came away from each chapter with a different way of looking at football, and I’ll definitely be thinking more objectively about football going forward.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andy Hunt

    Unsurprisingly detailed and educational It's worth stressing this is for the purist and certainly stars geeks. If you like Moneyball you will like this. It takes a dip about 3 quarters through, could possibly have dropped some of the content. But overall very interesting and well-written. Some great stories especially about Brentford and some individual transfer deals that should not have worked but did. A real insight. Unsurprisingly detailed and educational It's worth stressing this is for the purist and certainly stars geeks. If you like Moneyball you will like this. It takes a dip about 3 quarters through, could possibly have dropped some of the content. But overall very interesting and well-written. Some great stories especially about Brentford and some individual transfer deals that should not have worked but did. A real insight.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julian Gerez

    I’ve read a few different books now about the use of advanced analytics in soccer. This is like the Michael Lewis version of books of that ilk: the others I’ve read are more technical, but this one was definitely the most fun to read and built the best narrative of the characters and personalities involved in this field.

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