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Our view

The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future
DANIEL KAHNEMAN – Author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

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Changing the Conversation
21st Club presents a collection of insights for football club boardrooms

Changing the Conversation

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  • 27 May 2015

    Did you exceed expectations?

    In August, we presented a framework to set expectations for the new season.Instead of setting a league position benchmark, we suggested clubs set a points benchmark to assess themselves against in May (or December, for many Scandinavian and American clubs). The reasoning followed that whilst league position is sometimes at the mercy of rivals’ form, points tally is something entirely within a club’s control.
  • 22 May 2015

    When a champion looks like a loser

    The conventional wisdom at the end of a season is that ‘the league table never lies’. The best team will always be champions, the worst team always bottom. This wisdom, however, is a contradiction to the comments we routinely hear after tight matches. “I thought we were the better team” or "I thought we were a bit lucky" have become stock answers to post-match questions.
  • 08 May 2015

    Giving ourselves too much credit

    At the end of the season, in reviewing what went right or wrong in our roles, it’s often easy to pinpoint a few crucial moments.“I'm glad we renewed his contract then, it clearly gave him a boost for the rest of the season.”“Without our crisis meeting in December, the campaign would have fallen apart.”
  • 07 May 2015

    What if the manager is asking the wrong questions?

    A recent article by Alex Morgan for Football Everyday covered some of the football-related presentations at the recent Sports Analytics conference in London. The column featured some hitherto unknown titbits of the kind data leading club analysts have at their disposal, including a long and detailed look at the excellent work of Ian Graham at Liverpool FC. For that reason alone, it’s worth your time. 
  • 01 May 2015

    The flexibility-stability trade-off

    The difficulties in managing the contractual position of a squad is one of the main obstacles to achieving long-term success at a football club.Buyout clauses, extension options, achievement-based salary bumps contingent on team-based performance: just some factors that must be considered within the wider context of helping the team win in the long run.
  • 22 Apr 2015

    Can analytics help a last-placed team avoid relegation?

    Let’s pretend for a moment you’re Sean Dyche, manager of Premier League bottom-dwellers Burnley FC. All that stands between you and the drop are five fixtures against beatable sides, a potential 15 points to take your team to safety. You know, grimly, that you’ll likely need a minimum of ten to survive. In desperation to stay up, you decide to consult a stats analyst.
  • 17 Apr 2015

    Targeting the season’s end

    The closing stages of a season are a period of perceivably varying incentives, at least relative to earlier months. For clubs and players chasing trophies, Europe or survival, the rewards are motivation enough to perform, but what of those with seemingly little left to play for? Can other targets affect how they perform?
  • 08 Apr 2015

    When letting players know about analytics is a good thing

    When is it appropriate for a club to let footballers in on the team’s analytics research?This question came up in a conference here in Toronto last March in which I was a panelist. Other speakers included the director of analytics for the NBA Jason Rosenfeld and assistant GM for the New York Giants Kevin Abrams—in other words, people who generally knew whereof they spoke.