The Liverpool sale has been widely discussed here by both Brad Humphreys and James Reade. Just recently, Paul Hayward of The Guardian wrote up an editorial piece about how it would be bad news for Liverpool if their new owners took a Moneyball approach to managing the club. The author perpetuates fear of statistics and analytical thinking and analysis of players in sport, especially in football (soccer). Mr. Hayward especially notes that Arsenal, one club in Europe who is run with such an approach by their manager Arsene Wenger (who has a degree in economics). He claims that the dictatorship that Wenger runs at Arsenal has been bad for the club, and lead to many bad decisions, yet if one looks at the standings over the last few years, it is quite clear that Arsenal seems to have fared better from one year to the next.
Two reconnaissance stops were the clue. At Fulham, where Roy Hodgson, coincidentally, was manager, success sprang from the restoration of stalled careers – Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Gera – and the digging out of hidden treasure (Brede Hangeland). At Arsenal, NESV was touring the Bloomingdales of worldwide scouting: a club where analytical models were so ingrained that Arsène Wenger shipped out Gilberto Silva for taking a fraction of a second longer to redistribute the ball than he had a season earlier.
The authors main argument: statistics may work for baseball in North America, but they will not work for football in England. He even states:
The urge in matters of scouting is to defend not a computer model but the human eye, intuition, knowledge, the moment of revelation. There was no Moneyball when Liverpool spotted Kevin Keegan or Alan Hansen or when Manchester United, to quote Sir Alex Ferguson, first saw on a parks pitch a young, spindly Ryan Giggs – “a dog chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind”.
Already, this piece has seemed to pick up some ridicule from popular sport sites in the U.S. , though I will be curious how it is received in the U.K. I understand many fans are suspicious of people using numbers and stats to understand their favorite sport, but if the results produce wins, should they really complain so much? Looking at the Arsenal model again, they seem to have done quite well both on the field and financially in the last few seasons.