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Swansea Are Just The Latest Team To Fall Victim To 'Bad Luck' That Doesn't Really Exist

19/01/2017 17:02
Reuters Staff / Reuters

​Former Leeds and Republic of Ireland left-back Ian Harte was a guest on Sky Sports' popular 'Goals on Sunday' programme at the weekend. Regular viewers of the show will be aware it's an appealing mixture of anecdotes from its guests, highlights from the previous day's action, as well as a degree of punditry on the Premier League games in question.

So when the subject of Swansea's 4-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal came up and analysis moved to the game at the Liberty Stadium, a former Premier League defender might have been able to offer some insight as to just why they shipped four goals yet again.

After it had been widely agreed that Swansea had shot themselves in the foot with appallingly lax marking for the first goal, Harte's response to the second and third Arsenal goals, both own goals, was simply, "You just don't get the rub of the green when you're down at the bottom".

He said it twice at separate intervals, once as each own goal was scrutinised, and there were nods of knowing approval from the rest of the studio each time. But it wasn't only Harte who was satisfied with excusing the decisive goals because of the wretched luck that only ever affects teams at the wrong end of the league table. There was consensus elsewhere, too.

Already losing 1-0, suddenly it's 3-0 through no fault of Swansea's and the game is over as a contest. Two own goals, what could they do? If only it wasn't for that rotten bit of luck and all the others like it. Maybe the Swans would be challenging for a place in the top half instead. Teams at the bottom of the table always have all the worst luck, it's just not fair.

Stop. It's clichéd, it's a myth and it's just plain wrong.

'Bad luck' and the suggestion it affects bottom clubs more than top clubs is merely a poor excuse that seems all too prevalent a view in English football. It's something easy to hide behind and you read about and hear of this 'bad luck' only affecting sides fighting relegation week-in, week-out, from moaning managers and players, to pundits, fans...everyone.

Teams make their own luck in football. They always have and always will. That's why good teams seem to get all the positive breaks, and why bad teams never get any. Swansea were slapped with 'bad luck' as Arsenal kept extending their lead on Saturday because they didn't deserve any 'good luck' at the key moments in question.

Take a closer look at the two 'unlucky' own goals. Would 'bad luck' still have featured with disciplined positioning, greater defensive awareness and better quality? Almost certainly not.

When Jack Cork attempted to block Alex Iwobi's cross and the ball looped over Lukasz Fabianski's head and into the far corner of the goal, it was the collective result of poor play by several individuals. Gylfi Sigurdsson had failed to get the ball under control after an initial clearance, Kyle Naughton allowed Aaron Ramsey to far too easily shield the ball, and Cork's effort to block wasn't as convincing as it should have been.

When the second own goal went in, the ball ricocheted off Naughton from a low Iwobi cross. But, again, a better body position from the Swansea defender, better anticipation and being on his toes would have made the situation defendable. As it was, the ball struck just him.

It was all poor defending, and that, not 'luck', was the root of Swansea's defeat. It's usually the case whenever this debate is rolled out. Swansea might been more fortunate at the other end of the pitch had they been awarded a penalty, but that particular incident with Ki Sung-yueng remained incredibly subjective even with slowed down video replays. It's impossible to argue.

While some other managers might blame 'bad luck' and are only too happy to pin defeats on it because it removes the responsibility from, Paul Clement, to his great credit, stopped short.

If a manager actually believes a defeat is the result of 'bad luck' he has no reason to change his tactics for the next game because they were obviously working until 'luck' intervened. Fortunately for Swansea, Clement doesn't seem to have entered that trap.

"We've all got a difficult job on our hands, but we have to get back on the field and get the basics right. I believe if you keep working hard and get that organisation right, you'll have a much better chance," he said in his post-match interview with BBC Sport.

Having worked at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, he's a world class coach and will no doubt be drilling his players on the training ground this week. If only everyone wasn't so submissive to this 'bad luck' myth, we might actually see better quality.

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