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Soccernomics PDF

A few years ago, the data department at Manchester City carried out a study of corner kicks.

City hadn’t been scoring much from corners, and the analysts wanted to find out the best way to take them.

They watched more than four hundred corners, from different leagues, over several seasons, and concluded: the most dangerous corner was the inswinger to the near post.

The beauty of the inswinger was that it sent the ball straight into the danger zone.

Sometimes an attacker would get a head or foot to it and divert it in from point-blank range.

Sometimes the keeper or a defender stopped the inswinger on the line, whereupon someone bashed it in.

And occasionally the ball just swung straight in from the corner.

All in all, the analysts found, inswingers produced more goals than outswingers.

They took their findings to the club’s then manager, Roberto Mancini, who like almost all managers is an ex-player.

He heard them out politely. Then he said, more or less: “I was a player for many years, and I just know that the outswinger is more effective.”

He was wrong, but we can understand why he made the mistake: outswingers tend to create beautiful goals (ball swings out, player meets it with powerful header, ball crashes into net) and beautiful goals stick in the memory.

The messy goals generally produced by inswingers don’t.

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