Has choosing quality over quantity helped Leicester City?

This week I posed a simple question to the students in the “Sports Analytics in Practice” course that I teach with Philip Maymin at New York University’s Stern School of Business: “Would you rather have two 50% chances to score, or five 20% chances?” It’s a question that teams in the English Premier League and other competitions might want to ask themselves, too, in light of Leicester City’s performance this season. If the question was simple, the answer was not – and there was no consensus in the class. Some students thought a team should be indifferent. Others argued that in a low-scoring…
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How much has the Premier League changed?

Last week I contributed some charts and data to an article by The Economist’s James Tozer on the current season of the English Premier League. I thought I’d expand on a few of the things he covered. On the general point of the league being a bit wacky, I think several forces are at work. There’s a wide variety of coaching philosophies on show, and clubs are at different stages in their recruitment and performance cycles. For example, managers of teams with a lot of young talent, like Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham and Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, probably…
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Squad stability and performance

In my recent post suggesting a new approach to squad usage, I referred to the benefits of squad stability – essentially, giving players a chance to build stronger connections during matches to improve performance. Because I’ve received some questions about it, I thought I’d offer a taste of some of the research that went into that recommendation. Measuring the effects of squad stability is not easy, because there are so many countervailing factors. To understand what I mean, consider what would happen if a club used the same players again and again in the first half of the season. Would…
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