But this is not a defeat for analytics; it is not proof that the reliance on data has gone too far. The relationship between science and tradition does not need to be inherently antagonistic. Instead, it is best understood as a case of the advancements in analytics helping to refine the traditional reading of the game.
Yes, sometimes it is worth shooting from range, but only from certain areas, in certain situations and at certain times. You and I might have ideas about when those circumstances might arise, but it is only through the use of data that we can be sure that they are right. Analytics is there to deepen our understanding of the game, not to counteract it.
As was to be expected, the book recommendations have flooded in over the last few days. “The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro,” “The Glory Game,” “How Football Explains the World” and “Soccernomics” all received multiple recommendations, all of which I endorse.
Several of you nominated Fever Pitch, too, which I’m sure is very good; its influence, certainly, makes it worth your time. I can’t personally vouch for it, though: I have, appallingly, never read it. Or seen the film. Generally, I try to avoid reliving unpleasant childhood memories, and the one that centers on Michael Thomas’s most noteworthy contribution to English soccer history is at the very top of that particular list.
Roland Mascarenhas, meanwhile, asked if the reader who started this conversation — Alexander Da Silva — would be willing to consider expanding the book group beyond whichever circle of friends he was presumably thinking about inviting. If others wish to join, I’m happy to put it to Alexander and see if you meet his no doubt exacting criteria.
(This is risky, isn’t it? It’s the sort of thing that ends with me, Alexander and Roland in front of a special committee of the Senate, answering questions about how we’re using people’s data and whether we have accidentally become a vector for the collapse of democracy. And all because Roland didn’t just buy my book like he should have done.)
Rachel Block asked if last week’s column dispensed too easily with the idea that Chelsea might beat Real Madrid in a Champions League semifinal. Possibly, though not intentionally: it was merely an attempt to say that it’s hardly a stretch to believe that Real could knock Chelsea out. Either way, hopefully that has been addressed this week.