Four years ago this week, sitting on the third floor of my university’s library, I launched 5 Added Minutes. For a couple of months, the blog was simply a place to express frustrations at media clichés and received wisdom in football, but it quickly evolved into a medium for me to use data and analytics to challenge the conversations that were taking place in press conferences, ‘expert’ columns and television analyses.
I wasn’t the first to join this ‘revolution’ – not my word, but Simon Kuper’s in a June 2011 Financial Times piece; one of the first mainstream articles to take a view on the impact of statistics on professional football – and since 2011 there have been many more who have taken an interest, and even a lead, in the development of football analytics. But when a WordPress notification reminded me that it had been four years since the creation of my blog, I felt obliged to reflect on the journey of both amateurs and professionals in this industry. How far have we come, and has some of the promise of the Kuper article materialised into results?
5 Added Minutes doesn’t care too much for Messi vs Ronaldo debates, but it does care for data and insights into behaviour, of which the Ballon D’or voting system provides lots of. Each country has three voters – the national captain, national coach and member of the media – who provide three votes worth 5, 3 and 1 point towards the best player in the world that year.
In the four awards since 2011 (held in January 2012 to celebrate the achievements of the previous year), Messi and Ronaldo have shared 60% of the points on offer – from a maximum possible of 89% – with Messi edging out his rival with 32% of the points.
But in this era of shared dominance, which countries have preferred the Argentine? And which have opted against him? The voting patterns of three individuals may not reflect the views of an entire country, but they provide a curious and sometimes amusing insight into certain national preferences:
No football fan ever believes the referee is on their side. Most, however, will accept that officials are subconsciously swayed by home support; indeed the authors of Scorecasting believe almost all of home field advantage can be explained by involuntary refereeing biases.
But are some Premier League referees more susceptible to these biases than others?
Cricket fans will be familiar with this scenario:
- it’s reaching the end of the first innings in a one day international;
- the team batting is nearing 300 runs;
- a commentator will claim that reaching 300 will give the batting team a psychological edge going into the second innings.
But is this true?
New names have dominated Premier League managerial appointments in the last two years, but there is some evidence that these less-familiar faces are being given even less time than ‘experienced’ Premier League managers to improve their teams.
Four Premier League clubs appointed new managers this summer; three of these appointments were new to the league (van Gaal, Koeman, Irvine) whilst the fourth, Mauricio Pochettino, was himself a Premier League rookie just 16 months earlier.
This summer marked the 10-year anniversary of Arsenal completing their Invincibles season; a team remembered not only as a ruthless winning machine but also for being totally unlike anything previously seen in English football.
There has been plenty of good writing on The Invincibles – indeed this post was inspired by Dennis Bergkamp’s recent autobiography – and this blog won’t attempt to compete with these pieces. Instead, 5 Added Minutes is more concerned by the question: how unlikely were The Invincibles?