Win-stay lose-shift strategy in formation changes in football

Kohei Tamura, Naoki Masuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Managerial decision making is likely to be a dominant determinant of performance of teams in team sports. Here we use Japanese and German football data to investigate correlates between temporal patterns of formation changes across matches and match results. We found that individual teams and managers both showed win-stay lose-shift behavior, a type of reinforcement learning. In other words, they tended to stick to the current formation after a win and switch to a different formation after a loss. In addition, formation changes did not statistically improve the results of succeeding matches. The results indicate that a swift implementation of a new formation in the win-stay lose-shift manner may not be a successful managerial rule of thumb.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalEPJ Data Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2016


  • reinforcement learning
  • sports
  • soccer


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