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Book Review: What Can Players Learn From Soccermatics?

In the first part of the new series, professional sports betting player Neil Shah ( @ MyBettorLife ) reviews some of the very best books that can take your stakes to the next level. This week he is reviewing Professor David Sumpter's fascinating book: Soccermatics.

Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game

Football fan has become a different beast compared to past years. Watching the broadcast of football matches before or after the match, you cannot help but be bombarded with the statistics of individual players and teams.

How many kilometers did they run? How strong was Team A in possession of the ball? How many calories were there in the United goalkeeper's breakfast this morning? Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the point. This dramatic change in sports science, gaining a public face, is a relatively recent phenomenon, but this work has been done behind the scenes for years.

The book by Professor David Sumpter, although published in 2016, is still relevant today. He looks at how data is used in the modern game and uses his mathematical knowledge to see if he can outperform the bookmakers. He's an interesting author, and while there is mathematics in the title of the book, you definitely don't need to be an expert in mathematics to understand or enjoy it.

For context, I was a mediocre GCSE level math student, and the formulas he uses are very clearly explained and easy to use.

The book begins with some thoughts on the randomness of football and how a simple mathematical model can be constructed to predict football matches using the so-called Poisson distribution. Of course, this method has its limitations, but it is useful to understand it, since it is from this process that many bookmakers begin to build their own bet lines.

The book deviates slightly with a great comparison of how much slime molds look like 2010 Barcelona (yes you read that right), as well as a detailed analysis of the team's shape and geometry. All very interesting, but what does this have to do with your rates, you ask?

Pirlo and referral links

While reading this section, I definitely wondered how this knowledge could be applied to more niche betting markets. For example, the role of Andrea Pirlo at the time was compared to both Italy and Juventus, and how pass bonds formed with his teammates

... Often, when looking at bets such as players' performances (for example, at spread betting firms) or bets made by the player, we look at the player in isolation. These niche bets are often calculated based on season averages only and do not necessarily factor in opponents beyond their league table position.

Some teams in the bottom half like to hold the ball and some like to counterattack. Knowing how a player likes to distribute their passes (are they mostly in their own half of the pitch, or is there momentum ahead?) Is useful information to find lucrative opportunities.

We also do not always (and perhaps do not take into account the bookmakers) influence on other minor players. This season is a good example of that. At the time of writing, Harry Kane is out of the Tottenham squad and of course this will affect their goal threat. More importantly than his threat to score, however, his absence from the squad left Tottenham's passing passes quite sparse.

Something that could be overlooked in the betting markets is their difficulty in holding the ball and their delay. One of the results made in the book was that teams that focus their passes on just a few players score fewer goals than teams that distribute the ball more evenly.

... Teams that pass at least 5 times per minute scored more points on 21 On% in a season than just 3 times per minute. Again, these can be subtle changes worth looking out for, but when a team can change managers and therefore tactics, it can have an effect that takes time to develop and you can have a window of opportunity before betting markets catch up.

Data-driven approach

This chapter contains a lot of other information, and some of this data, while intended for scouts and coaches, will definitely be useful to professional sports bettors and syndicates. For obvious reasons, clubs are reluctant to publish much of this data, but Professor Sumpter believes that the field of football analytics is still evolving and the revolution is still in its infancy.

We all know how difficult it is to outperform bookmakers and bookmakers in the long run, but having access to this data and the ability to put it into practice is one way to gain a potential advantage over a market that is still lagging behind in the use of that data. information.

The era of Messi and Ronaldo

The next section illustrates the brilliance of Messi and Ronaldo in the debate about La Liga's top scorers. He also highlights some of the potential pitfalls when trying to predict the number of goals a player can score in a season. As we all know, these two great players have taken their scoring feats to a new record never seen before in Spain.

... However, despite these notable exceptions, Professor Sumpter also explains why we should be wary of applying this year. The actual likelihood that some players will reach the heights they reached a year earlier can often be exaggerated by season-based odds compilers, where the player avoided injury, was a little lucky, had other teammates, etc. what to watch out for when reviewing top scorer ante post bets

Other topics of interest to players may include discussions of information contamination, the wisdom of crowd theory, and crowd behavior. If you trade on a betting exchange, this section may be of interest to you.

The Betting Experiment

The first chapter I skipped, and the one that will interest you the most, is Dr. Sumpter's diary of his betting adventures. Spoiler alert: he actually made a profit after his mini experiment

What interests us more are the different methods he used to do this. He gives some great examples of how he wanted to evaluate his own games and how he bet. There is a good overview of how bookmakers set their odds and why it is often difficult to find any value.

He compares his own methods to that of a well-known forecaster, asking his wife to make predictions for games every weekend and using a combination of outcome ratings. While the process was fairly straightforward and the experiment was short-lived, it will still give you some ideas on how to test your own basic betting patterns and analyze your results.

In particular, in this post-covid age, some previously profitable strategies (such as betting on goals) have receded into the background, and therefore this kind of research may be useful at this time.

There are some good ideas here, although the context of what it was a few years ago should also be considered. One of the ideas mentioned is that rallies are often set incorrectly. This is often a result of the way bookmakers use their calculations of the Poisson distribution and player behavior (as players are more likely to look at a team winning rather than a draw). This is definitely an angle worth exploring if you haven't already.

It also touches on the usefulness (or uselessness, depending on which side of the discussion you are on) of using expected heads and performance metrics or rating systems when making betting decisions.


Book Review: What Can Players Learn From Soccermatics? Soccermatics is a really fun way to look at a beautiful game through the lens of mathematics. Aside from some interesting ideas you can apply to your bets, this is an enjoyable, fun and often humorous read about the game we love. If you're training your kids' team, there are some great ideas to try out on the training field that Professor Sumpter tried out with his son and their team.

... At the very least, it will make you think differently about the game you watch on TV, and the next time the game is quiet, you may find yourself hypnotized by the playing patterns on the field. Football analytics will become more common in our football discourse and this book is an excellent introduction to it.

Oh Neil Sha

Neel shah This year, due to coincidence and ambition that I had for a while, I decided to become a regular sports bettor and spend the year immersing myself in betting, trading and absorbing as much of the knowledge as possible on the topic. I still have a lot to learn and it's nowhere near as glamorous as people think, but so far it has been an amazing and rewarding experience and I loved it.

I hope my articles can help others on their own betting journey and we can all make our lives a little easier and more comfortable by betting smarter and earning £ $$$ along the way!

Feel free to write on my twitter: @ mybettorlife or visit my blog:

Message Book Review: What Can Players Learn From Soccermatics? first appeared on We love to place bets .

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