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OptaJoe’s Football Yearbook 2016 That thing you thought? Think the opposite By Duncan Alexander

Release date: 19th August, 2016
Publisher: Century

List Price: £10.99
Our Price: £9.09
You Save: £1.9 (17%)
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“Opinions are the lifeblood of the game, the self-perpetuating essence that has allowed 90 minutes of action on the weekend to dominate the news cycle seven days a week,” writes Duncan Alexander (aka OptaJoe) before taking us on an often engrossing journey littered with odd, peculiar, or plain brilliant statistics and numbers likely to have readers backing their opinions up with more than hunches.

Opinions are subjective, biased and often formed on the basis of flawed evidence, but that, surely, is part of their appeal. How often have we heard a fellow spectator at a game declare that player X is rubbish, only for the same supporter to hail said player as a demigod when he rattles in an unstoppable 25-yarder?

Alexander calls the surfeit of opinions caused by the widespread use of social media “the democratisation of viewpoints”, which, while technically correct, ignores the fact that you must wade through an awful lot of barely literate dross before happening upon someone making a valid, well-supported point.

Thankfully, readers of OJFY should ensure that the calibre of football opinion improves, a development which, let’s hope, extends to television’s football pundits who insist upon ‘describing’ action that viewers have just seen for themselves along the following lines: “X beat the full-back, crossed it and Y volleyed it home.” Such infantile comments, the stock-in-trade of ex-pros who insist that only by “being in the game” could you have identified what’s just happened, should become a thing of the past if Sky Sports and the BBC distribute copies of OJFY to their pundits. Let’s not hold our breath though.

Football, of course, is not all about statistics – as Leicester City’s possession percentages proved last season, but they do prove conclusively why, for instance, England’s performance at international tournaments goes from bad to worse. OJFY confirms that fewer than one third of players in the Premier League are English; worryingly, the percentage is getting steadily smaller.

That last sentence was a fine example of an opinion bolted onto an unequivocal statistic. Should OJFY become an annual publication, one day all opinions will be similarly well-supported.


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