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Forget Messi and Ronaldo: Piatek leads top leagues in goals

FC United
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Luck Index: Top 10 Premier League games in 2017-18 where luck played a part

The ESPN Luck Index examined how the 2017-18 Premier League would have looked if luck was not a factor. We'll back soon with the results.
ESPN FC's Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop share personal accounts where luck had a significant impact in their footballing careers.

The Luck Index shows that luck certainly played a part in the Premier League last season. Here are 10 games that could have turned out very differently.

Watford vs. Liverpool, Aug. 12
Actual result: Draw
Luck Index result: Liverpool win

Liverpool thought they had a win in the bag on the opening day of last season, leading Watford 3-2 deep into injury time. But in the 93rd minute Richarlison put the ball into the middle and it deflected off a defender and the crossbar for Miguel Britos, who looked to be standing in an offside position, to bundle it home. After the game, Jurgen Klopp was unimpressed, saying: "It's obvious because the linesman is on the line. He needs to see it."

Swansea City vs. Manchester United, Aug. 19
Actual result: United win
Luck Index result: Draw

Manchester United are the luckiest team in the top six, according to the Luck Index, six points better off than they would have been. On the face of things, a 4-0 victory might not be an immediate candidate for them, but United were perhaps fortunate in this early season win over Swansea. United scored the first of their four goals just before half-time, but 15 minutes earlier Paul Pogba should have been sent off for two quick fouls in four minutes. If referee Jon Moss had issued the red card, perhaps this would have been a different outcome.


The ESPN Luck Index

The Luck Index: The findings and methodology
- Man United luckiest, Liverpool unluckiest
- Index proves luck doesn't even out over time


Bournemouth vs. Manchester City, Aug. 26
Actual result: City win
Luck Index result: Draw

Stoppage time is always a thorny issue. The amount indicated by the fourth official is always a guide, rather than a definite fact. Still, Bournemouth could have felt rather affronted that Raheem Sterling's 97th-minute winner -- doubly unlucky considering the deflection it took -- was allowed to stand in this early season thriller, because there should only have been five added minutes. Most of the attention afterward was on Sterling being sent off for excessive celebrations, but the Cherries had cause for complaint.

Tottenham vs. Swansea City, Sept. 16
Actual result: Draw
Luck Index result: Tottenham win

Tottenham's final league position wasn't ultimately impacted by the Luck Index -- they finished third in both -- but they still had a couple of iffy results. One of those came early in the season against Swansea, a 0-0 home draw that at the time was seen as further proof of their Wembley curse. However, they should probably have been awarded two penalties that day -- one for a Martin Olsson handball, one for a foul by Jordan Ayew on Serge Aurier -- and given Harry Kane's skill from the spot, you can be fairly sure at least one goal would have come from them.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United, Oct. 14
Actual result: Draw
Luck Index result: Liverpool win

According to the Luck Index, Liverpool were the unluckiest team in the Premier League, a whopping 12-point difference between their actual total and deserved mark. With those extra 12 points, they would have finished second -- enough to give their famously reticent fans cause for complaint. The most contentious of those missed points came against Manchester United, when Liverpool probably should have been awarded a penalty when Ander Herrera fouled Philippe Coutinho: had that been scored, things might have taken a very different shape.

Arsenal vs. Tottenham, Nov. 18
Actual result: Arsenal win
Luck Index result: Draw

Luck in football is often an unquantifiable thing: actions have knock-on effects, and it's frequently tricky to figure out exactly what would have happened if previous events had gone differently. Would things have turned out differently if Shkodran Mustafi's opening goal -- from an offside position, heading home after a dubiously awarded free kick -- been disallowed as it should have been? You could certainly suggest that a 2-0 win could easily have become a draw.

Manchester United vs. Brighton, Nov. 25
Actual points: United win
Luck Index points: Draw

Luck takes on many different forms in football. Sometimes it's from human mistakes, a bad refereeing decision, a terrible mistake -- but sometimes it's something that can't be helped. A deflected goal, for example. Manchester United were pressed all the way in their 1-0 win over Brighton in November and were extremely fortunate to score the only goal they managed. Ashley Young's shot deflected off the unfortunate Lewis Dunk, went into the net and claimed a broadly undeserved victory.

West Brom vs. Arsenal, Jan. 31
Actual points: Draw
Luck Index points: Arsenal win

We all know about Arsenal's abysmal away record in the second half of last season, going from Dec. 28 to the penultimate game of the season without winning on the road. But at least some of that might have been down to luck, such as in their 1-1 draw with West Brom on New Year's Eve, the Baggies salvaging a point thanks to a late penalty. But that penalty, converted by Jay Rodriguez, perhaps should not have been given -- so much so that even West Brom manager Alan Pardew described it as "fortunate."

Leicester vs. Stoke, Feb. 24
Actual points: Draw
Luck Index points: Stoke win

The only significant difference between the bottom of the Luck Index table and the actual table was that, had things gone their way, then Stoke might have survived at the expense of Huddersfield. The adjusted table gives the Potters an additional four points, two of which could have come at Leicester in February. Stoke were ahead thanks to a Xherdan Shaqiri goal at the King Power Stadium, but late in the game Marc Albrighton hammered in a low cross that ricocheted in off the unlucky Jack Butland and into the net, meaning a 1-0 lead turned into a 1-1 draw. Stoke had other problems, but a bit more fortune might have kept them up. Additionally, this backs up Leicester's status as the luckiest team in the Index: this extra point gained was one of seven over the season.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea, Feb. 25
Actual points: United win
Luck Index points: Draw

Two of United's six bonus points from the Luck Index came in their home win over Chelsea in February, a game they recorded a 2-1 victory in but were helped out by an over-eager assistant referee. Alvaro Morata scored what was theoretically a perfectly good goal, but it was incorrectly disallowed for offside, meaning United held on.

For all the information about ESPN's Luck Index, please click here.

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