This is kind of an addendum to today’s football analytics post.
Couple of posts that caught my eye. One from Martin Eastwood, who has designed his own mathematical model to determine ideal team performance based on the relative skill of their opponent. The results are fascinating:
So what tactics should a manager choose? In the case of the underdog it surely makes sense to take the high risk strategy of attacking the match to increase their chances of winning all three points. The downside is of course that they are at more risk of losing by a heavier score line. But whether a team loses by one goal or by four goals, the net outcome in terms of points is the same – zero.
Over the course of a season it is much more beneficial to gain additional points at the risk of worse goal difference. One extra victory is worth more in league placement than having a superior goal difference to the teams around you. Plus, you need to hold on and scrape three draws to equal the benefit of getting that one extra win.
This is music to the football purists’ ears, and it certainly confirms my own personal bias regarding the relative, season long effectiveness of conservative play. My own favourite example? The United States defeating Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup. An expansive, proactive approach, while risky, worked extraordinarily well. Compare to Germany’s tepid World Cup semifinal, in which Germany significantly altered their preceding gangbusters style and lost to Spain.
Another interesting post: Prozone’s Blake Wooster on leadership. He concludes:
Having studied and observed leadership in its many forms over the past few years, there is little doubt that no one style offers a holistic winning formula. Football would do well therefore to move away from the stereotype of a leader as only someone who shouts the loudest in the dressing room and sweats the most on the field. Maybe they’re sweating from having to recover from being out of position – something that Moore rarely ever needed to do owing to his composure, anticipation and game intelligence.
Can we measure true leadership in football? Any takers?
Interesting enough, I had a bit of an Allen Curve moment on way home to Toronto after SSAC. I met with Nicole Forrester, a former Olympian high jumper, who was completing her PhD in Sports Psychology. She was convinced that certain character traits aren’t merely intangible, but that a lot of work has been done in measuring for these attributes. I’ve since emailed her for papers on the subject and am waiting to hear back.
In any case, I don’t think this field is as flighty as some might think…