Mike Ashley was right to spend

Newcastle grabbed the headlines during the January transfer window, outspending every other club in Europe – at least if we discount transfers between clubs owned by the Pozzo family. As an analyst and longtime member of the Toon Army, I can’t endorse all of the club’s signings. But I do know this: Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, was completely correct to splash the cash. There are two big “cusps” in the payouts attached to final positions in the English Premier League. One is between fourth and fifth, with entry to the Champions League on the line. The other is between…
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It’s the variance, stupid

Things happen when a top club draws with a squad at the bottom of the fourth division, even when the top club played a team of young prospects. People start wondering if those young prospects really have what it takes. People start to speculate about how the young prospects arrived at the club. And people start to point fingers. A few months ago I asked if it was possible that the vaunted Liverpool analytics department, with its seat on the club’s transfer committee, simply wasn’t very good. After all, the public knows almost nothing about its activities and its influence…
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Mesut giveth and Mesut taketh away

Mesut Özil’s record-breaking season at Arsenal is getting plenty of attention. I’ve already suggested that last season was, at least in the time he played, an even better one. But I think it’s useful to look at a few more statistics that may give greater clarity to his role. Soccer is a dynamic game, and every player’s actions affect every other player’s actions. Moreover, when one guy plays, there’s another guy – or several – sitting on the bench. So analysts have to figure out the net effect on the whole team’s performance of apparent changes in a single player’s…
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