Can the past predict the future in football?

“Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” This seemingly obvious statement is a mantra in the world of finance, yet it doesn’t seem to have filtered into professional soccer. Today the analytics community shares some of the blame for the omission – hopefully not for long. Before virtually every game, soccer commentators faithfully recite teams’ head-to-head records as though they could somehow sway the day’s events: “This [insert name of town] derby is finely balanced, with exactly 126 wins for each team and 126 draws in the past 189 years” or “Manchester United haven’t lost to [insert name of…
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The ten traits of ideal soccer metrics

Soccer analytics is still in its infancy. I say that because it lacks a central metric – a way of measuring player performance that is widely accepted by the analytics community, club directors, coaches, players, and fans alike. Yet every day, soccer wonks from around the world come a little bit closer to devising such a metric. Here are some of the traits I think it should have: 1. Accessible. Most of the people who work in professional soccer are not experts in mathematics and statistics, so trying to understand the roots of a complex metric may be too time-consuming….
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The value of a goal in the Premier League, Part II

In my last article, I showed how the value of a goal scored or conceded in the English Premier League could vary enormously depending on the likely position of a team in the table. For many teams, the value of scoring one more goal could also differ from the value of conceding one less goal at any given position. But my first analysis considered goals scored and goals conceded separately when predicting where a team would finish. What if we considered them together? To answer this question, I used a technique called k-nearest-neighbor analysis* to construct a grid of likely…
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