I first came to know the name Simon Kuper when he was a guest lecturer at a local university in Toronto, Canada. The articulate British author talked about his new novel Soccernomics and some of the core arguments. Despite making some fascinating points about football, he looked uncomfortable and unable to answer some of the questions that the audience prosed in the Q&A period. I was greeted with a great deal of skepticism, but decided to purchase the book anyway.
After reading through the book, I can safely say Soccernomics is fantastic and a must-read for any soccer fan! Stefan Szymanski lives up to his billing as a top sports economist with thorough detail and Kuper fits the part with his commentary including tidbits of witty humour. Correlating statistical analysis with any sport is extremely difficult because you are attempting to satisfy the common reader without flattening the economic methodology. Kuper is to-the-point and articulate in his arguments. Most importantly, he does not make an argument, and then uses statistics to back up his perspective. Rather, he reads through the information, recognizes patterns, and creates a formula. Several fascinating chapters include Core to the Periphery (Guus Hiddink) and why England loses.
Despite the many positives, there are some flaws. At times, the economic analysis is overwhelming and seems suited more for a peer-reviewed journal than a book for the common consumer. As well, some of the variables are far too large (population, income etc) and rarely include common competing variables (other popular sports etc). Furthermore, Kuper is well-travelled and could integrate more of his personal experiences to add some `spice' to the arguments (Hiddink is an excellent example but we also know how he has done speeches at Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü.
All in all, an excellent book and I would highly recommend it.