Comparing the Starts: Bradley versus Klinsmann

We are 13 matches into the relationship between Jürgen Klinsmann and the United States National Team. A relationship that many believed was going to begin a long time ago. Back in 2006, Klinsmann was the frontrunner to be named head coach of the U.S. squad, but negotiations broke down, and Bob Bradley was named manager of the club in December 2006, after the U.S. struggled in the 2006 World Cup. Bradley reeled off an impressive run for the U.S. before being relieved of his duties in July 2011. He led the USMNT to a 43-25-12 record, which is the second best of any U.S. Men’s National Team manager. His accomplishments included a second place finish at the 2009 Confederations Cup and the U.S. team sitting atop its first-round group at the 2010 World Cup. But Bradley was often criticized for his bland offensive strategy and loyalty to certain players. In […]

German efficiency and…flair?

Flair, style, youth and enthusiasm. Those are the prominent traits of the team many commentators believe to be the favorite to go all the way at Euro 2012. Four years ago they would have been talking about Spain. Now it’s Germany. This style has surprised many fans as decidedly un-German. As a team known for discipline and getting results, the German faithful have been delighted to watch their young side produce some of the most entertaining soccer in the nation’s history. Die Mannschaft, as the German team is affectionately known, achieved perfection in its qualifying campaign, taking all 30 points from 10 games played. That’s a higher point total than any other group winner and almost twice as many points as Group A runner up Turkey. On top of that, the team tallied a final goal difference of 27, second only to the Netherlands’ 29. International friendlies have also been […]

Much Ado about Robin

For the Dutch, Euro 2012 is all about exorcising the demons of 2010. The Netherlands sides of the 70’s invented Total Football, a fluid, attacking style of soccer now epitomized by Barcelona and Spain. When the originators met the innovators in Soccer City, the Netherlands stooped to a defensive game plan designed to disrupt Spain’s flowing offense. Nigel de Jong’s blatant kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso was a low point, but the entire match was an ugly scar on Dutch soccer history. It wasn’t just that they lost, but the manner in which they did. “In the space of two hours in that final, they destroyed a 40-year tradition, dragged it through the s***,” said Hard Gras magazine editor Henk Spaan. “It was a disgrace; a lack of any historical insight, leadership and morals.” Needless to say there’s more than wins and losses as stake this summer for The […]

Less is More: If Chelsea go to penalties again

Chelsea will venture into hostile territory Saturday as they face Bayern Munich in their home Allianz Arena for the elusive Champions League spoils. The Blues have been this close before, much closer in fact, when they took on Manchester United in the 2008 final, a campaign that ended in a disastrous penalty kick exchange. Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski outline the mind games that took place that night brilliantly in Chapter 6 of their book Soccernomics, a chapter appropriately titled “The Economist’s Fear of the Penalty Kick.” Chelsea had been perfectly prepared for the shootout. With the help of outside research they knew individual player behavior (like the fact that if Cristiano Ronaldo paused in his run-up to the ball he tended to shoot to the keeper’s right), as well as their own tendencies (right-footed players usually took their shots to the keeper’s right while left-footed ones would go to […]

Has soccer had it’s Moneyball moment?

Michael Lewis’s 2003 book Moneyball began the process of changing the way people looked at the sport of baseball. The book’s profile of Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s, its in-depth look at Bill James’s sabermetric methods, and its frequent use and emphasis of non-traditional, relatively-unconventional metrics popularized evaluating baseball through an analytical lens. With the film version of Moneyball premiering this past Friday, we at Chimu started wondering: Has soccer had its “Moneyball” moment? Are we at the point where teams frequently use advanced soccer metrics to analyze performance and target players? The quick answer is, of course, yes. Teams all over the world are now using player tracking systems to analyze player and team performance, with a smaller, wealthier group of clubs hiring full-time data analysts to crunch numbers. Soccer’s data revolution is clearly here, sweeping across the globe relatively quickly, with more teams in more leagues jumping on board […]

Does having more possession increase a team’s chances of winning?

The above question has been posed before, and while previous studies have nullified the significance of having an advantage in possession, we wished to conduct our own study. writing for education For this study, we examined all regular season games of the current MLS season through September 1, a total of 235 games. It seems very logical that the team that holds the possession advantage has a greater chance of scoring more goals, and thus winning the game. The fact that a team cannot score without having possession of the ball lends itself to this conclusion. However, the numbers suggest something else. After gathering data for all 235 regular season games (of which 68 were draws), we noticed that more games have actually been won by the team that had less possession. This is true across all margins of victory (victories of 1-4 goals). We have seen more high-profile examples […]

Garbage in garbage out, the rocky road of big data analysis

The era of big data analysis in soccer is fast approaching. With this entails new and old challenges. Perhaps one of the hardest challenges for insiders and outsiders alike is the fact that it is big data. Computer scientists and modellers simulators have an oft-repeated expression “garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO). With big data comes an even larger challenge of testing, verifying and validating the raw data. If the raw data is crap, the resulting analysis will also be crap. Unfortunately, testing, verifying and validating large amounts of raw data is more of an art than a science. Proficiency and expertise come with experience. While lots of well-intentioned fellows (some even with degrees) may think they know what they are doing, they can still make serious mistakes that severely undermine their conclusions (see, for example, Mistaken Identifiers: Gene name errors can be introduced inadvertently when using Excel in bioinformatics). At […]