Monday, December 27, 2010

BS Stat of the Day: Arsenal Winning and My Away Jersey


Book it! Arsenal win 100% of their matches when I wear my away jersey while watching them.  I also have never washed it, so I guess I am going to have to go with whatever funk it develops.  Oh, I forgot to mention that I just got the away jersey for Christmas.

On a serious note, watching the match today was like exorcising an awful demon.  I've witnessed six awful losses to Manchester United and Chelsea over the last two years, and this was deeply satisfying.  Wins are so much more satisfying when one's ownership isn't buying them. Chelsea

Here's hoping your Christmas weekend was as glorious as mine.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays From Me and the Boys

The Gunners Wish You and Yours the Best

It's been a blessed year around my household, and I hope it has been for yours as well.  Thank you for making it such a great year on the blog.  As we approach Christmas and the new year, I wish you all the best.  Take these moments to relax, enjoy, reflect, and love.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Impact of Chelsea's New Youth Strategy

Remember which direction Chelsea's squad cost was headed at the beginning of this season?




We all know that squad transfer cost correlates to success, especially in the case of Chelsea.

Turns out the big guns would concur that reduced spending has impacted their form.
The big players are back, but for how long? The worry at Chelsea, as the champions enter a Christmas programme of four matches in 10 days, is that the rush of fixtures will overwhelm a much smaller squad than has previously been the case in the Roman Abramovich era. This concern was revealed yesterday by John Terry, and tacitly confirmed by his manager, Carlo Ancelotti.

Pondering the recent poor run of form, Chelsea's worst in 10 years, Terry said: "We've missed some key players at key times. In the past we had a big squad and could rotate and put other players in, we don't have that now, we have quite a young squad."
Somehow I don't feel so bad for a club now learning how to actually operate like an actual soccer team, and not some rich man's plaything that buys championships for it's owner.

UPDATE: I don't know how many times I heard Steve McManaman and Ian Darke make this exact point this evening during the Chelsea/Arsenal match.  I heard phrases like "old", "tired", and "who on that bench is going to come on to the pitch and strike fear into the opposition when Chelsea is already down?"  If they're seeing it, their must be some truth to the perception.  Perhaps years of buying championships by Chelsea is on hold for a while.

Quantifying the Lack of Opportunities for Trainees in the Premier League

A dying breed

I made the following statement in my recent piece on The Tomkins Times studying the correlation between table position and squad transfer costs.
The data shows that the Premier League averaged only 2.6 homegrown players per match (24% of the players on the pitch) in its inaugural season. Since then, it has been on a steady erosion of about a tenth of a player per game per season to the point of being under a player per game (8% of players on the pitch) by the 2009-2010 season. By comparison, the average percentage of a squad composition of youth players bounced between 15% and 20% the last ten seasons, meaning that homegrown players are getting very few shots at playing time. In fact, the difference is considered “extremely statistically significant” when the proper statistical tests are performed, which is a rarity in the sports statistics world.
What does the "extremely statistically significant" difference translate to in terms of squad and on-pitch opportunities?  To quantify this I looked at the percentage of squads and players on the pitch that were classified as trainees during each season in the Transfer Price Index database.  Luckily, those two data sets and the difference between them were normal and their variances equal, so I was able to use a paired t-test to quantify whether or not there was a difference and how big it was.  A nifty online calculator for t-tests can be found here.

The summary of the two data sets is shown below.


Running a paired t-test returns the following results (click to enlarge).


The projected mean difference is 5.333, while the extreme low prediction is 4.731 and high is 5.936.  This means there is an average 21%-27% gap in trainee representation on the pitch versus their representation on the squad.  This translates, on average, to about 1 in 4 trainees who will not see any action in a season.  By the latest seasons, it had ballooned to nearly 1 in 2 trainees.

It appears as if there is not only a pull from teams to buy transfers, but also a push by trainees to look for opportunities elsewhere and thus lose their trainee status and contribute to the high proportion of transfers - free or otherwise.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hyperbole and Reality: Why Wenger Needs to Spend Some Money

Arsene Wenger made his annual promise not to spend heavily in the January transfer window today, touching off a firestorm with many Goonners hungry for some silverware. The 7AM Kickoff blog probably has the most balanced review of the magician's pronouncement, rightly criticizing Wenger's hyperbole and asking where he should be willing to spend money.

At some point, Wenger is going to need to spend money to compete for the top of the league. This isn't just my opinion as the data bears out the point as well. The graph below is taken from my recent post on the correlation between squad transfer cost and table position (click to enlarge).





It's clear that Wenger and Arsenal have outperformed the model - he gets better performance out of his meager squad cost than nearly anyone in the league (a more detailed post exploring his performance is coming in a week or so). To 7AM Kickoff's point, he clearly doesn't need to spend 150 million pounds to challenge for a title given his past performance, but it is clear he needs to spend more than he currently is to make such a challenge. The two clubs that have owned him the last few seasons - Chelsea and Manchester United - have huge advantages in squad cost in absolute terms. They also have the advantage directionally, as seen in another graph taken from my post on squad cost vs. table position (click to enlarge).





Gooners eager to throw Arsene out for his performance over the last few seasons need to take a deep breath and realize what he's actually accomplished. He's faced stiffer competition in terms of squad cost each of the last four seasons, and been the lowest spender of the top six clubs in the league. Simply put, the form and table position he's been able to maintain is only due to his ability to leverage the best value and performance in the transfer market. He has no equal in this regard as a manager.

At the same time, Wenger must be willing (and able) to spend some money soon if the goal is truly to compete for silverware. The Gunners can only get better by paying for battle hardened talent that they're critically missing right now. I won't pretend to know exactly what position they should be willing to spend money on (okay, I will make one obvious recommendation - GET A REAL TOP CLASS GOAL KEEPER, ARSENE!). I just know that Arsene's hyperbole justifying inaction in the January transfer window is as bad as the hyperbole coming from Gooners who are even thinking about wanting him dismissed. It's time to meet in the middle, and play for something worth a fight in April and May.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Light Statistical Reading: Why I Use Relative Measures Instead of Absolute Measures

One of the cool experiences I have had since my post showing the undeniable correlation between squad transfer cost and table position went live last Thursday was being contacted by none other than Stefan Szymanski, one of the co-authors of Soccernomics.  Stefan was quite complementary in his email to me, with much of the content in the email falling along the lines of his column in the Evening Standard.  He also attached four of his academic papers he's written over the last two decades, which was a treasure trove of data and analysis that was behind many of the chapters of Soccernomics.  I have linked to each of them at the end of this post, but being academic papers each of them has a fee associated with them.

Of the four, the most enlightening to an American sports fan would be the paper he co-authored with Stephen Hall and Andrew Zimbalist in the Journal of Sports Economics entitled "Testing Causality Between Team Performance and Payroll: The Cases of Major League Baseball and English Soccer."  This paper does a great job comparing the ability to "buy trophies" in US baseball and English soccer, with far more in-depth analysis than I ever could perform.  Their main goal was to determine causality - does pay build better teams, or do better teams beget high salaries?  What's great about this piece is that it clearly explains the authors' approach to which measurements they use in their analyses and why.  I am often challenged as to why I use multiples of an average and relative finish position, rather than absolute pay and points, and Szymanski, Hall, and Zimbalist summarize better than I ever could why these metrics are key.

"In particular, [in studying Major League Baseball] we focus on winning percentages in the regular season and payroll spending by each team relative to the average payroll spending of all teams for the season.  If wealthy teams can buy success, we conjecture, then the most precise measure of their spending is the ratio rather than the rank.  For example, given that luck still plays a part, then the team that spends the most is more likely to achieve the highest ranking if it spends 10 time the average rather than 5 times the average."
Essentially, outspending your rivals to greater degrees ensures a greater possibility of minimizing the effects of the noise generated by random events like injury, freak plays, etc.  The added benefit is that using this approach helps linearize the payroll data, and compensates for the natural diminishing returns as payrolls escalate to place in the top few league table positions.  The authors then continue later in the piece to explain why they look at long-term averages rather than point data from each season.
"However, given that there are numerous factors that may influence a team's performance in a particular season, many of them purely random, a more reliable test of the effect of spending might be to consider those teams that overspend during the long term to see if they outperform the rest."
This is exactly what the authors do in this article and what Szymanski and Kuper do in Soccernomics, with both approaches yielding regression equations that explain much of the variation between performance and team payroll.  It was with this approach in mind that I studied the Transfer Price Index and utilized MSq£ for my unit of measure when studying the effect of squad transfer cost on table position.

While I have chosen to highlight this paper due to the applicability of the excerpts above, I would recommend the four papers below to anyone interested in soccer econometrics.

Key Stefan Szymanski Papers

Hall, Szymaski, and Zimbalist. "Testing Causality Between Team Performance and Payroll: The Cases of Major League Baseball and English Soccer."  Journal of Sports Economics. Vol 3 No 2.  May 2002.

Szymanski and Smith. "The English Football Industry: profit, performance and industrial structure." International Review of Applied Economics. Vol 11 No 1. 1997.

Szymanski. "A Market Test for Discrimination in the English Professional Soccer Leagues." Journal of Political Economy. Vol 108 No 3. 2000.

Garcia-del-Barrio and Szymanski. "Goal! Profit Maximization Versus Win Maximization in Soccer." Review of Industrial Organization. Vol 34 No 1. February 2009.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thanks, Captain Obvious!

(HT: Sounder at Heart)
Hopefully my posts provide information that is far more useful than the screen shot above.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Conceding Halftime Leads in the Premier League: Why Arsenal’s Collapse Against Tottenham was a One-In-Forty Occurrence

You should be angry, Arsene!

Just how rare was Arsenal’s second half collapse against Tottenham Hotspur on November 20th?  Sure it was Tottenham’s first victory at the Emirates, and its first win as the away team in this fixture in seventeen years.  Teams come and go in the Premier League as do players, so I don’t put much stock in such streaks.  The better question to ask is how rare was this collapse when looking at historical averages.  Chris Anderson from Soccer By the Numbers has been kind enough to supply the data behind his recent post on halftime leads and fulltime results (EPL seasons 05/06 through 09/10), and the results do indeed make Arsenal’s collapse look like a very rare event.

First, let’s look at all results without declaring if the team that is ahead at halftime is home or away and whether or not they went into halftime with a clean sheet.  This produces the table below.

The rows on the left indicate the halftime lead, and the columns across the top are the full time result.  The results for a halftime lead of 2 goals indicate that regardless of location or a halftime cleansheet, historical data indicates that Arsenal had a 95% chance of winning, a 3% chance of drawing, and 2% chance of losing.

Taking the analysis one step further, the data set is isolated for leads at home to produce the table below.

In examining this result, Arsenal as the home team still had a 95% chance of winning, a 2.5% chance of drawing, and a 2.5% chance of losing. It turns out that further reducing the data for a cleansheet while at home does not change the numbers for a two goal lead.  Nonetheless, the table below is provided for those interested in other clean sheet halftime leads and their results.

Ultimately, this means Arsenal’s loss was a one-in-forty occurrence given their two goal lead at home with a clean sheet at the half.  Even without Kabul’s winning goal in the 86th minute Arsenal would have still experienced a one-in-twenty collapse in conceding a draw with such a halftime advantage.

Of the other four such collapses the last five seasons, one team features twice and each of the two teams in this latest occurrence play a role in the other two matches.

First, Manchester City experienced such a fate twice in one calendar year.  The first time, April 26th 2008, saw City go ahead 2-0 in the first twenty one minutes, only to concede three goals in the final twenty one minutes of play against Fulham.  Liverpool then repeated the feat of overcoming a 0-2 Man City lead on October 5th, 2008 with Torres and Kuyt keying the Reds’ comeback.

West Ham United experienced a similar collapse against none other than Tottenham on March 4th, 2007.  Carlos Tevez contributed to the 2-0 halftime lead, while Tottenham battled back even by the 63rd minute.  This match was the only one of the four where the team leading at halftime subsequently took the lead again after relinquishing it in the second half, all off a Bobby Zamora goal in the 85th minute as a substitute.  Tottenham then battled back with two goals in the final minutes, including the winner in the 6th minute of stoppage time.

Ironically, Arsenal played the roll of spoiler in the fourth-and-final match as they came back on Bolton on March 29th, 2008.  Not only did the Gunners embarrass Bolton on their home pitch, but they did so down a man the entire second half.

It seems as if Arsenal is in rare company, having been on both ends of such an event.  Tottenahm is also in a rare position, having won two of the five occurrences.  I doubt any of the other collapses were as painful for those teams as Arsenal’s collapse in the latest iteration of the North London Derby.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Indictment of the MLS Playoff Structure, Part 1: Letting Too Many Teams in to the Party

Note: This the first of a several part series that I will be writing about MLS's playoff structure and how it penalizes successful teams.

Pay As You Play begins its concluding section with the following observation.
"Contrary to popular wisdom, things don't even out exactly - after all, no higher power exists to bring immaculate balance (and if there are football gods, one assumes that they exist purely to mock us, not provide parity on refereeing decisions) - but a whole campaign is a better barometer for the quality of a football team or a manager than one or two games."
Sadly, that's not how we determine our league champion in the United States' top flight of soccer. Our little revolution in 1776 has led to an odd cultural habit in our country - we refuse to ever adopt something as-is, often insisting on some uniquely-American twist to a perfectly fine product. This even applies to our soccer league. Sure, we've gotten rid of some of the worst examples of such attempts at creating "American soccer" (backwards counting clocks, insisting on eliminating the tie, etc), but the abomination that is a playoff-based championship persists and it penalizes successful clubs. Let me explain...

Some Background on US Professional Sports and Playoffs

A playoff-based championship format makes sense under two conditions:
  1. When a league is too large to play a balanced schedule, OR
  2. When the time constraints of the competition do not allow for a balanced schedule.
Scenario (1) applies to much of the professional US sports landscape. We're a nation of 300+ million people, we rank third or fourth in land mass (depending on the calculation method used), and most of our leagues are well over 20 teams. The National Football League (NFL) has 32 teams, and the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League (NHL) each have 30 teams. Travel from coast-to-coast can take 4-5 hours on a direct flight, with a three hour time change also involved. Beyond the geography, the each league would require between 58 and 62 games in a balanced schedule.

Given these difficulties, each league has split themselves along conferences and subdivided divisions, as well as adopted a playoff system. The format ensures that each team plays a balanced schedule within their division, and then a rotating batch of teams within their conference and across conferences. This overall unbalanced schedule then demands a playoff to decide the champion, with seeding determined by each team's relative performance during the season. Each of the leagues break a differing percentage of their teams to the playoff rounds:
  • NFL: 37.5% (8/32 12/32)
  • NBA: 53.3% (16/30)
  • MLB: 26.7% (8/30)
  • NHL: 53.3% (16/30)
Each round of the leagues' playoffs consist of a best-of-five or a best-of-seven series of games (the NFL is the one league that doesn't, opting for a single elimination playoff). Using the a five or seven game series minimizes the chances of a team pulling off a string of a few upsets to win a championship, and instead forces teams to play a minimum of 12-16 games to win a title.

The MLS Playoff Structure

The top flight of US soccer, Major League Soccer (MLS), also uses a playoff system to determine its champion. For a number of years MLS has been admitting eight teams each season into their championship playoff system (in 2011 they will admit 10 teams), even when they reached their modern era low of ten teams after contraction in the early 2000's. I have focused on the 2005 season onward, as the related financial data I use in other analyses stops being reliable any further back in the league's history. From 2005 to 2011, the league has increased from 12 to 18 teams. This has generated the following percentage of teams making it into the MLS playoffs.
  • 2005: 66% (8/12)
  • 2006: 66% (8/12)
  • 2007: 61.5% (8/13)
  • 2008: 57% (8/14)
  • 2009: 53.3% (8/15)
  • 2010: 50% (8/16)
  • 2011: 55.6% (10/18)
The tournament is a bit of a hodge-podge of elimination formats. The initial round is a two match home-and-away format with the team with the highest aggregate number of goals moving on to conference finals (penalty kicks are used as tie breakers). The final two rounds - the conference finals and the MLS Cup - are both decided by single elimination matches. Since 2007, the league has used the following format to determine seeds:
  1. The top two finishers in each conference (MLS has two - East and West) are automatically seeded as #1 and #2 in each conference bracket (overall seeds 1 through 4)
  2. The next four seeds are populated with the teams with the next four highest point totals, regardless of which conference they are from. These teams can be referred to as wild cards. If a conference's four spots are already filled by their top two finishers and two of the wild cards from their conference, any remaining wild cards from that conference will be placed into the opposite conference's bracket.
This structure provides for some interesting pairings. First, it doesn't seem to reward outstanding play of top finishers in a conference. In all other leagues, the reward of being seeded #1 in the playoffs is getting to play the lowest seed. That is not the case in MLS where situations like the 2010 season arise - the two Eastern Conference qualifiers got to face Colorado (#7) and San Jose (#8). Meanwhile, Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake, who fought to the last week of the season for the top-of-the-table position, were rewarded for all their hard work in facing the hottest team in the league (Seattle at #6) and a team whose home pitch was a fortress all season long (Dallas at #5).

Second, it has resulted in the last three MLS Cups having teams from the same conference facing each other for the league championship. One might question the fairness of a playoff system where a team who has underperformed all season long gets to cross over to the theoretically weaker conference (assuming that the conference with fewer teams is weaker) for their playoff run. No one would make the serious argument that New York (2008), Real Salt Lake (2009), or Colorado (2010) were one of the top four (let alone two) teams in MLS each of the seasons they reached the final. Yet those teams got a shot at winning the league championship after underachieving all season, with Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids each walking away with the title.

If the standard of admittance to the MLS Cup playoffs is so low, what quality of play is required to reach that low standard?

Points and Goal Differential Required to Qualify for the Playoffs

What exactly does it take to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs? Luckily, data compiled from the 2005 season onward can give us insight into the typical points and goal differential required to finish eighth or higher in the overall league table.

Given the increasing number of teams since 2005 and the varying level of matches played in a season, each of the variables has been normalized. Finish position was translated via the now-familiar Soccernomics natural logarithm transform, which also provided a good way to assure the data set was normally distributed. Each team's points were translated into a percentage of the available points earned in a season. The plots below show the relationship between each metric - finish position versus % of points earned, finish position versus goal differential, and % of points earned versus goal differential. Click on each image below to enlarge them.



















Now that the relationship between points, goal differential, and finish position is understood, the performance required for an 8th place finish and qualification for the MLS Cup playoffs can also be understood. Applying the equations in the regression plots to each season produces the table below.







What one immediately sees is the low quality of teams that will typically qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs. A losing record (< 50% of available points earned) can be expected, and so can a negative goal differential. The requirements of a typical 8th seed were getting more difficult from 2005 through 2010 as the number of playoff spots remained the same while the number of the teams in the league increased, so that by 2010 the typical team would have earned 46% of the available points and had a positive goal differential. Fans were disappointed when the MLS commissioner announced that the playoff field would be expanded to 10 teams in 2011, lowering qualification standards back to 2008 levels.

When examining the actual points accrued and goal differentials of the 8th seeded teams from 2005 to 2010, the picture looks only a little bit better. The table below (click to enlarge) summarizes their results versus the regression equations, with the yellow columns representing the data for each of the teams.







As would be expected, three of the teams earned a percentage of points above the predicted value and three below. San Jose's 46 point haul over thirty games in 2010 was the best performance of an eighth seed over the six years. This should come as no surprise as it was also the most lopsided table over the period with six Western Conference teams qualifying for the playoffs, a result of the Western Conference's domination throughout the season.

The results for goal differential look like a great overachievement, but they mask the teams around the 8th seeds that had substantially worse results. In 2006, Colorado was tied on points with New York and had a -13 goal differential. In 2007, Chicago tied Kansas City on points and had a -5 goal differential, while FC Dallas was ahead of Kansas City with 44 points yet had a -7 goal differential. Kansas City, New England, and Chivas all qualified in 2008 with negative goal differentials. New England qualified again in 2009 with a negative goal differential, this time at -4.

What's even more disturbing is the final column of the table, which indicates the final round in which each team participated. Save for New York in 2006, each of the 8th seeds has made it out of the first round. Three of them have gone on to the MLS Cup, with two of them winning the Cup (LA in 2005 and Real Salt Lake in 2009). It seems that most teams that have qualified eighth have been able to pull off at least two games above their seasonal average poor performance and move on to the next round of the playoffs.

Preliminary Conclusions

It seems as if MLS is not only pretty generous with who they let in to the postseason, but their playoff format almost seems to favor teams that have underperformed. Without a multi-game series that gives the higher seeded team some sort of advantage (home field, first game being away and counting away goals more than home goals, etc.) there seems to be no benefit in the MLS playoffs to performing better during the regular season. We Americans love our postseason tournaments - arguably the biggest sporting event each year is known as "March Madness" for all the upsets it produces. This style of single elimination playoff championship is only found in one of the four major US professional sports leagues, and it is not the way MLS should be determining it's champions after nearly seven months of a balanced regular season schedule.

All discussion to in this post has been based upon point data - single observations or groups of observations but no study of the statistical distributions. What really drives success in the MLS playoffs, especially the critical first round where upsets seem to abound? Luckily, someone else has compiled good summary data of what can be used to predict first round success. The topic of what seems to predict first round success will be the studied in detail in Part 2 of this series.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Up and Running on Facebook

I have decided to add a Facebook product page to help spread the word about the blog and my research/analysis. I will also be using the Facebook page to accentuate my Twitter feed - both will be used to relay on links that I don't post here on the blog. Hope to get a few of you as followers! Just click on the box to the right to get started.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Thank You Letter to Paul Tomkins

The aforementioned side project that I had been working on is now up on The Tomkins Times. The post uses Paul Tomkins' Transfer Price Index database to make a pretty compelling case that contrary to Soccernomics' assertion, finish position is correlated to transfer fee expenditures. This clearly has big implications related to fairness within the league, ability to spend in the future due to heavy debt loads at some clubs, and will certainly be impacted by the forthcoming Fair Play rules. I encourage my readers to check it out. I'll have a brief post on Arsenal's performance against the new transfer metric that we developed at a later date.


Most of all, I can't sing Paul's praises enough. He reached out to me over half a year ago about running some analyses on his database. Unfortunately, I was not able to indulge him at the time due to the hectic summer I had with the wedding, business travel, and just getting my blog off the ground. Luckily, I saw a mention of Pay as You Play before I went on my honeymoon last month and it rekindled my creative juices. I contacted Paul, and was lucky enough that he was still interested. The rest is history.

Paul took a chance on a newbie that had a hot statistics hand, and I can't thank him enough. The data he has assembled is a statistician's dream, and I am so privileged to have access to it. More bloggers and writers need to be like Paul - engaging, understanding, patient, and above all non-judgmental and not egotistical. Paul is a true collaborator, seeking talent and engaging it when he sees it. And when it's especially "rough talent" like me (I know I am way out of my league when it comes to Liverpool knowledge), he's willing to continually work with the writer.

It's been an awesome experience over the last week, and I hope to repeat it in the future. If you're a fan of good discussion and analysis (especially related to Liverpool), pay the six dollars a month to be a subscriber to Paul's blog. I've been singing the man's praises, but the blog content is even better! Reward great talent, effort, and product when you see it.

PS - Special shout out to Paul's co-author on Pay as You Play, Graeme Riley. His reviews of drafts and continual suggestions throughout the development of the piece were invaluable. Trying to make a complex 12-page study reasonably readable for a wide spectrum of readers is no easy task, and Graeme played a large part in getting it there.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Few Programming Notes

Just a few quick notes about blog content:

  • You'll notice I have added an image to the top right hand column of the blog. It is a banner ad, but I am not getting compensated for it. OK, they did give me a t-shirt last summer but that was way before they ever approached me about advertising. Anyways... Normally I am not one to litter my blog with ads, but I make the exception for Pothunting because they're fighting the good fight. They don't want franchised, single-entity Americanized soccer. They want the world's game brought to the US unadulterated, like it was many years ago. Pothunting celebrates the hidden history of US Soccer through vintage club t-shirts. Check them out and support their cause. My personal favorite is Brooklyn Hakoah.
  • I have spent the better part of a week working on a large post for another blog that reached out to me an offered me an awesome opportunity. The database I got access to is ground braking, and the blog's authors gave a relatively unknown guy a shot at a much bigger audience. I am so thankful for the opportunity they gave me, and I hope to not disappoint the readers when it hits the blogosphere sometime soon. I'll post a link and have some exclusive follow up material on this blog later in the week.
  • Next up I'll be working on a few more posts for this blog. I plan on posting the first half of a two-part critique of the MLS playoff system, and will follow it up with a post related to EPL half time leads. I hope to have those done by the end of next week, which would set me down the path of about two blog posts per week - my sustainable target for the foreseeable future.
  • I just bought Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture. After that its time to make the significant commitment to read The Ball is Round.
Hope all is well with you readers. I for one am a bit nervous about my Gunners' match tomorrow night. They better win it, or they face the prospect of missing out on Champions League knock out round play.