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What Has Luck Got to Do With It? There Is None in Football

Luck in football is little more than a myth and blaming a supposed lack of it is a lazy and convenient excuse for failure, while being jealous of others is failing to see what they do better.

Managers and players around the world constantly preach the need for some luck to help them achieve their goals, as well as curse what they see as the bad luck which prevents them from success.

But football is a game built on skill and hard work, so what has luck got to do with it, any of it?

Over the course of a season, the best will prevail and the worst will fall and in any single game the winner has always done at least something more than the loser. Luck in football is little more than a myth and blaming a supposed lack of it is a lazy and convenient excuse for failure, while being jealous of others is failing to see what they do better.

Hitting the woodwork is seen as the ultimate example of bad luck on a football pitch. 'He's done everything right, only to see it come back off the post,' one might hear a commentator or pundit say. But if a player hits the post or the crossbar, he is not unlucky, rather he hasn't been quite good enough to score at that particular moment.

If a shot rebounds rather than rippling the net, of course there is more the player could have done. They could have struck it more accurately and it would have been a goal instead of a near miss. It may seem harsh, but it's true.

If a goalkeeper makes a top class save he has done his job and the forward simply hasn't been good enough to beat him. Goalkeepers are sometimes called lucky if they save a shot in an unconventional way, but the fact that their positioning was correct in the first place is down to skill and intelligence, not luck.

To cite specific examples from a recent game, reigning Premier League champions Manchester City were declared both unlucky and lucky at crucial points of their 1-1 draw with Hull earlier this month. In the first half, Hull broke the deadlock through David Meyler, a goal put down to bad luck on City's part after the ball rebounded off the post straight to the Tigers player.

In reality, the situation had arisen because of poor decision making from Joe Hart and could have been completely avoided. Martin Demichelis had the situation under control, but seeing his onrushing goalkeeper panicked the defender into a poor clearance leading to the melee that caused the goal.

In stoppage time, City were declared as lucky to escape with a point, while Hull were supposedly unlucky not to win. But what people miss in such situations is that by failing to protect their lead and giving away a free-kick in a dangerous area, Hull had not been good enough to merit the three points. Then, a moment of quality from James Milner was exactly that - there was nothing lucky about it.

Onlookers constantly bemoan the luck of big teams - winning more than their fair share of penalties and always popping up with late goals. But the fact is more often than not they press right until the end of games to come away with at least a point, means so they get what is deserved. Attacking more frequently gives far greater likelihood of creating chances, winning a penalty or a free-kick. The greater quality of the players means those opportunities are much more likely to be converted - there is no luck.

In other situations, managers regularly complain, 'the ball just didn't fall for us today,' but players have to make sure the ball does drop to them. When Sam Allardyce was in charge of Bolton Wanderers, his team were labelled as lucky because the ball often seemed to fall to players at the right moment. But every player always worked hard to make sure they were in the right place at the right time and won nearly every loose ball as a result.

Teams fighting at the bottom of leagues wrongly claim they never get any luck. Leicester City dominated large spells of a recent meeting with Arsenal, but still ended as the losing side. The immediate reaction was that the plucky Foxes were unlucky, but had the players put away any number of the chances they created things might have been different. In the end they were deservedly beaten because they weren't good enough on the day.

Luck in football, both good and bad, is a myth and citing it as a reason for anything is a lazy excuse to mask what is really going on - what certain players and teams did well and what others didn't do well enough in what should always be a never-ending strive for perfection.

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