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A little less inefficient

Just like people tend to believe that the country they live in is better than most, we tend to overestimate the relative strength of our own league, and so overlook transfer targets who could improve our squad. There’s a reason why players bought from strong clubs tend to be more successful at their new club. Such miscalibration bias can be described as illusory superiority.

And similar to how people tend to underestimate the likelihood of bad things happening, we tend to underrate the significance of a player’s previous utilisation record and overestimate our ability to ‘make them work’ at our club. There’s a reason for the correlation between a player’s minutes played at the previous club and whether they play at their new club. Optimism-bias.

And just like how other industries can be biased in favour of applicants with more experience, football tends to overvalue know-how when recruiting. Yet only certain types of experience are important and so we often end up paying an unnecessary premium. Experience-bias.

We are all biased, because that’s the only way to survive in a world where we have insufficient information. The problem kicks in when we allow our heuristics to affect our better judgement and ignore the information that would prevent us from making the same mistakes. Paradoxically it feels safer just to follow received wisdom, even when the data suggests otherwise.

And of course there will be exceptions – the player who is able to ‘step up’ to a higher level, or the player who becomes a regular at their new club despite hardly getting a look in previously. But they’re called exceptions for a reason: they’re outliers.

So then the conversation turns to one of strategy and risk. Are we prepared to take a gamble on the outliers, where both risk and reward are high? Or should we be targeting safer options, where there is a greater probability of success? Or, better still, can we identify the talents that others wrongly perceive to be risky, thus finding value in the market.

Irrespective of this context, with such an indifferent track record in player recruitment we must embrace every sliver of information that will help us become that little less biased and a little less inefficient.

About Blake Wooster

Blake Wooster has created 66 entries.