Really, this review should be called, “Why I like Crystal Palace now.”
I have to admit, this isn’t a great book. While really interesting, this book fell victim to what a lot of stat books about sports fall victim to: the fact that sports is always a zero-sum game. Sure, you can analyze how effective passing is in scoring, but ultimately, the game is about scoring one (or more) goals than the opposition. As long as that happens, it doesn’t really matter how it came about. Therefore, strategy is as much about counteracting what your opponent does as having a defined strategy.
None-the-less, when I was done, I found myself with a better understanding of the numbers behind soccer, a sport I have come to rather late in life. And that’s why I’m a Crystal Palace (really a Tony Pulis) fan now. Here is a manager who has somehow managed to break the statistical rules of soccer. His teams at Stoke City were rewarded in the standings by having less possession and kicking the ball out bounds (or even better, getting the other team to kick it out of bounds). So, now with Tony Pulis taking over at Crystal Palace, they are beginning to play the same sort of game. Sometimes referred to as negative soccer, I just enjoy watching an underdog succeed.
And ultimately, that’s why this book is worth a read. You start to understand why Man United always won, which helps a novice soccer watcher as they get into soccer around the world understand.