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The Role of Luck


mickyg
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Brilliant win today against City.

However, It did get me thinking about what we call " luck".

In particular, when Chahill's header hit the post, I thought, aaarrrghh, if only that was two inches to the left. My first thought was, how unlucky was that.

In the end we won and that potential goal did not matter.

But how much do you think luck comes into it? Was Cahill's miss not unlucky, but just a slight lack of skill? Are the only "unlucky" things to do with a bad ref decision, or an unexpected breeze, or a hamstring problem?

I guess if you look at a whole season of 38 games, then things should balance out. You might get some bad ref calls in some games but they should be mitigated by some advantageous decisions in others.

And in some games you are one inch wide to the right on a shot versus in others where you are one inch to the left and score.

Statistically, as we get nearer to the end of the season I think the role of luck for the remaining closely-matched top teams will increase - because less games means a greater chance for things such as a bad ref decision or an injury to a key payer will count for more.

How much do you think that luck will play as to whether we win the league?

After the win against City, I am 70% sure that we will win the league, but would put that at + or - 20%

One or two bad penalty decisions could turn it either way. One or two shots close to the crossbar could do the same - though would these be due due to skill or luck?

Anyway, it seems that this league often comes down to a knife-edge in the blend of skill and luck.

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Brilliant win today against City.

However, It did get me thinking about what we call " luck".

In particular, when Chahill's header hit the post, I thought, aaarrrghh, if only that was two inches to the left. My first thought was, how unlucky was that.

In the end we won and that potential goal did not matter.

But how much do you think luck comes into it? Was Cahill's miss not unlucky, but just a slight lack of skill? Are the only "unlucky" things to do with a bad ref decision, or an unexpected breeze, or a hamstring problem?

I guess if you look at a whole season of 38 games, then things should balance out. You might get some bad ref calls in some games but they should be mitigated by some advantageous decisions in others.

And in some games you are one inch wide to the right on a shot versus in others where you are one inch to the left and score.

Statistically, as we get nearer to the end of the season I think the role of luck for the remaining closely-matched top teams will increase - because less games means a greater chance for things such as a bad ref decision or an injury to a key payer will count for more.

How much do you think that luck will play as to whether we win the league?

After the win against City, I am 70% sure that we will win the league, but would put that at + or - 20%

One or two bad penalty decisions could turn it either way. One or two shots close to the crossbar could do the same - though would these be due due to skill or luck?

Anyway, it seems that this league often comes down to a knife-edge in the blend of skill and luck.

 

 

Great post, "luck" or chance in sport is an interesting subject that I could easily write a dissertation on (probably will at some stage!) It's an extremely valuable tool in performance analysis. It helps managers understand what they can and can't control.

 

Firstly, we need to consider what we mean by "luck". Luck in the sporting context isn't pure random chance, it's not like flipping a coin or rolling a dice; an action on the field is contingent on the behaviours that precede it.

 

Let's break down the Cahill example. For Cahill to score a goal, we need Willian to hit his corner with exactly the correct trajectory and speed to meet Cahill's run, who in turn must hit the ball with the exact area of his head to turn its trajectory towards goal and with enough speed to avoid the goalkeeper. It requires success in two behaviours. Now, there are two ways we can achieve this ; Willian, given an unlimited number of balls, could kick them into the area mindlessly and eventually one may find the correct trajectory, and similarly, assuming Willian was able to repeatedly provide him with an infinite number of corners with the exact same trajectory, Cahill could randomly attempt to meet each corner and eventually one would hit his head in the exact method needed to register a successful goal. 

 

Neither method is practical or likely to succeed, so we rely on skill to narrow the odds for us. 

 

A skill could be defined as the ability to succeed at an event beyond the limits of random chance. Therefore, Cahill uses his skill; his ability to alter his head position, time his jump and calculate the necessary speed and angle for a successful shot allows him to narrow the odds in his favour, drastically. If someone was asked to head those balls completely randomly, it would be like asking him to draw the number 1 from a box containing 100 numbers. If you or I did it, using our skill, it would be like reducing the box to contain only 20 numbers. For someone like Gary Cahill, who is a very good header of the ball, we're asking him to draw from a box of maybe just 5 numbers. 

 

It's why to argue that Lampard was merely "lucky" in his deflections isn't possible; Lampard's skill in finding space and generating a large volume of shots naturally increased the chance of him scoring via deflection or otherwise compared to lesser players.

 

 

So when Cahill hits the post is he not lucky enough or not skilful enough? 

 

It's actually both. Without looking at stats, we still all know that Cahill's got an impressive level of skill at scoring/shooting on target from corners, more so than many other defenders. Given that, we could infer that if Willian was to provide that exact same cross again, the margin of error is so small Cahill would probably score. From that perspective, it was unlucky that Cahill didn't hit the target.

If you want to be really harsh you could argue he simply wasn't skillful enough. Brana or Terry are even more accurate from set-pieces, i.e more skillful, and therefore they would've been more likely to score from that chance. And secondly, from a team perspective, corners are a very inefficient method of scoring, so maybe as a whole team we're not skillful from corners.

 

There are two universal caveats that we need to consider when "analysing" chance within in the sporting context:

 

1) We will always over-rate the role of skill/agency/intention for teams/players we like and under-rate the role of chance;

2) We will always under-rate the role of skill/agency/intention for teams/players we don't like and over-rate the role of chance.

 

I'm unashamedly a massive fan of Cahill; without looking at statistics, I've probably overrated his heading ability from set-pieces. Turns out he only has 5 shots on target from 14 attempts this season; perhaps he's not as clinical as I think, and given those stats, maybe he wasn't as merely unlucky as I hoped. Essentially, we tend to say that something we favour is skilful, but something we dislike is merely lucky. It's a bias that is best kept in mind when reading match threads or analyses! 

 

 

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I dont think hitting the woodwork is bad luck, its a miss plain and simple.

 

My point is that from City's perspective they got lucky; a player of Cahill's skill at set-pieces would bury that chance more often than not.

 

If "luck" was in City's favour they would've been 1-0 or 2-0 inside the first 30 minutes. They weren't good enough to capitalise on their chances, we stopped them creating good chances for a period and then created our own.

 

 

As for the second part Micky, take the West Ham game (and Everton earlier this season) as examples of luck. If we were to replay those games with the same chances etc. just by sheer probability we would win those games 9 times out 10. Having 20-30 shots and not troubling the scorer is incredibly unlikely.

 

From that perspective there is a lot of luck, the biggest "lucky" situation being that we win a game during a round where our opponent loses. We can't control our rivals losing, apart from head-to-heads, so rather than sit on our hands and hope we can employ "skill" i.e. winning all our games to increase our chance of winning while a rival loses.

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not scoring is not bad luck. we won the champions league through great defending, which forced barcelona/bayern to try too hard to score, trying to put it right in the corner and therefore hitting the post/bar (messi pen). hitting a post is a good effort, especially if its a strike from 30 yards, but its certainly not bad luck if you dont score. things that cant be controlled are bad luck i.e ref decision, injuries etc. 

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I see it that luck is a factor, but it's minuscule. Small enough that when you ramp up the skill level it becomes almost ineffective.

Remember a few years ago when Liverpool hit the post 50393838459493 times and everybody was proclaiming how unlucky it was? All I was thinking was, this is the inevitable consequence of having an attacking line up which contains Adam, Downing, Kyut and Carroll.

People often use luck to curse when they have failed. Many would say we were unlucky against Barca in 09 , but I know we created very little in the game and gave inestia a good look at the end. These are what stung us, our ability, not luck.

In terms of football, either playing or watching, I could count on my hands the amount of times I have felt cheated or blessed by some intangible forces of nature.

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not scoring is not bad luck. we won the champions league through great defending, which forced barcelona/bayern to try too hard to score, trying to put it right in the corner and therefore hitting the post/bar (messi pen). hitting a post is a good effort, especially if its a strike from 30 yards, but its certainly not bad luck if you dont score. things that cant be controlled are bad luck i.e ref decision, injuries etc.

That's similar to the way I see it, "luck" relates to things that are outside of our control. For me this includes things like shots hitting the post etc., because no football player can pinpoint exactly where their shot is going to go, obviously some players are more accurate than others but all anybody can do is send the ball in the right direction and whether it goes in or hits the woodwork is down to probability.

I think SydneyChelsea said basically the same thing but expressed it much better.

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Essentially, we tend to say that something we favour is skilful, but something we dislike is merely lucky. It's a bias that is best kept in mind when reading match threads or analyses! 

 

 

Yep. As Cocteau said:

 

"I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?"

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In the Cahill and Matic post hits there is an element of bad luck, they each had an exact spot just inside the post that they were aiming for, the fact that they slightly missed that spot is down to a slight lapse in skill, but for the fact that using the same amount of skill they could have missed that spot by an equal amount in almost any other direction and still scored means they were some what unlucky. There are other examples where you could say that hitting the post and not scoring would not be classed as unlucky. Eto's was a good example of this, he had an open goal and was probably aiming the ball right at the middle of the goal and hit the bar, this means he's missed his target by 3 or 4ft. Lack of skill is to blame there. Likewise with a ball that gets deflected onto the post by the keeper or if the keeper has it covered should it be on target then even if you do hit your exact spot the keeper saves it and it goes down as a good save and good skill from the keeper.

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