7 books for sports analytics fans
From history to science, learn everything about everything in football data.
Voracious readers are always looking for another book, whether it’s to read or to put on a “to-read” list that they will get to one day when they have a free weekend. Whatever your level of knowledge is, you can always learn more about data science and how it can be applied to football. We have found seven very well-regarded and informative books about the field of football tactics and analytics, and are delighted to recommend them to anyone looking for their next read.
Soccermatics by Dr. David Sumpter
Written by one of the top players in the game of football analytics, Soccermatics is a look into the numbers behind football, which it calls “the most mathematical of sports”. It shows how numbers work not only in a general sense but also with a focus on individual players and teams. It is a very technical read, but a good one.
The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally
A behavioral analyst and a former football player wrote this book, which upends a lot of conventional wisdom about the game. They look at the efficiency and success of different ideas. Interestingly, they show the lack of correlation between salaries and success, but they take the same mathematical cudgel to many of football’s sacred cows.
Football Hackers by Christoph Biermann
Rather than being written by an expert (though Biermann is a very knowledgeable football journalist), this book is about the author interviewing many experts. He assembles a wide variety of views and ideas about analytics and creates a fairly comprehensive overview of it all as a result.
The Expected Goals Philosophy by James Tippett
One of the best-known books discussing “football’s best-kept secret,” The Expected Goals metric, is written by the same man behind The xG Philosophy Twitter account (which collects xG data and compares it to actual results). The book dives into the concept of xG and exactly what makes it such a powerful metric. If you don’t know what xG is, this is the book for you.
The Mixer by Michael Cox
It is not quite an analytics book, but The Mixer does discuss the seismic change that has happened in the last 30 years of football with the existence of the Premier League. Calling it a historical overview would be accurate but not complete, as it is a riveting read, illuminating quite a bit about the Premier League and its tactics. It comes well recommended everywhere, and with good reason.
Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson
This is also not a hardcore analytics book. It is, however, the single best book written about the evolution of football tactics, focusing on a few coaches and examining their methods. It is an essential read, one anyone who wants to understand the game to a deeper level should dig into, and a great way to understand coaching.
How to Score by Ken Bray
Despite the title, this is not a pick-up artistry book. It is a laser-focused analysis book, trying to determine every factor in the most thrilling moment of a football game, a goal. The author analyzes goals all throughout football history and tries to find the different factors that materialized them. Its one problem is its age; it was written in 2005, and the science behind exercise has since improved quite a bit.
What books are we missing? There are new books coming out all the time, especially in such a fast-changing field. Give your ideas in the comments.