Never underestimate the importance of luck in football

So much hinges on fortune, and sheer happenstance. The FA Cup semi final last weekend was a typical example of that. Chelsea were only really able to qualify because of the second goal they were given, which was pure luck, as they had against Wigan the few weeks’ previously. In fact, half of their goals in their last three games have been pure fortune – referees errors, blatant ones at that.

Who knows if it’s a coincidence, but Chelsea have enjoyed the luck in recent times. But if they beat Tottenham to the Champions League by a point, they could snap Luka Modric from their rivals, who may also lose Gareth Bale. Yet the opposite could happen if Spurs finish in the top four.

It shows how crucial those small instances of fortune can affect the game. It is harsh, but it is the way things go. An unfortunate injury here, or a bad decision there, can change whole season.

Liverpool are another example, a team who on the face of it play some of the best football in the league. The amount of shots they have which hit the post or bar though, is unbelievable. They are one of the most unfortunate teams in the league. Sometimes, things go against you. The maxim that luck evens itself out is only half true.

For every team who benefit, there is one who suffer. Decisions will not even themselves out easily. One team may get significantly more luck than another. It would be a freakish statistical coincidence if luck really did even itself out over the course of the season.

It is worth considering when discussing the failings and successes of managers and players, that luck does play a significant role in the game. Sometimes, no matter how good a strategy, a team will lose. It is notable how in tennis, and other individual sports, the best athletes will always get to the finals of tournaments and play each other regularly. In football, more than any other sport, the best teams do not always reach the latter stages. Such is the role of fortune and luck. It is what makes the game so unpredictable, and perhaps so loved.

That is what must be considered when sometimes we discuss changing the game, and bringing in goalline technology or other video evidence. Do we want to take luck out of the game? Without it, the game will be ever more predictable. Barcelona and Real Madrid are already so much better than everyone else. Taking luck out of the game will only strengthen their hold on the sport.

But it is also why it is harsh sometimes to judge managers whose failures owe too much to that most intangible and frustrating of factors. Dumb luck.