David Moyes – Flawed genius or just plain unlucky?

Lucky football?

Napoleon had his “lucky generals.” When told of the heroism, skill and experience of a General he is reported to have asked:

That’s all very well, but is he lucky?

Even the most football-phobic can’t help to have heard of the recent sacking from Manchester United of their manager, David Moyes.  Moyes had a torrid ten-month spell at the helm of arguably the most famous football club.  He got off to a great start, winning his first league match in charge 4-1. But its all been downhill from there.

But what happened? He’d been a successful manager at Everton before being “chosen” by Sir Alex Ferguson as his anointed successor to take over the club on his retirement. You don’t lose your talents and skills overnight, so what went wrong, why have the club done so badly this season after being crowned champions at the conclusion of last?

There are many, many reasons, and many far more qualified than I to comment and pass judgement.  But there is one interesting ‘statistic’ I read a couple of months ago that I think is pertinent to the discussion, and one that I have not yet heard mentioned.

Favourites win less often in football than any other sport.

Football is not a random game but it is, it seems, more random than most games.  Random doesn’t sound very romantic, especially when discussing the ‘beautiful game’, but if we say it is a less predictable sport than most, that the underdog has a greater chance of causing an upset, then perhaps we begin to explain the allure of the game.

I discovered this gem whilst reading “The Numbers Game” by Chris Anderson & David Sally who take an analytical and statistical look at the game of the football.  The book is rigorous yet readable, the produce the data and interpretation to develop and back up claims such as the one above.  If you like football and you like numbers, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

So perhaps Moyes was just one of Napoleon’s unlucky Generals. After all, they still won more matches than they lost.  Perhaps those that he did lose were down to luck, the unpredictability of football. Had he been ‘given time’ like his predecessor his (bad) luck would have become statistically insignificant and he would have gone on to greatness with the club. But now we shall never know.

This entry was posted in Probability and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>