The undeserving champion
“We need in football this type of luck,” said Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp of Emre Can’s improbable goal against Watford on Monday. A loss for Liverpool would have cut their chances of a top four finish to 62%; a little more than a coin flip. As it was, Liverpool’s win gave them a 90% chance of playing Champions League football next season.
The dramatic swing in Liverpool’s fortunes illustrates the fine margins that exist at the end of the season, and, by extension, the absurdity of the belief that every team gets what they deserve. For it can’t be said that just because Can pulled off an unlikely strike, Liverpool deserve their probable place in the top four, just as it can’t be said that Liverpool would be less deserving of their place had he missed.
The reality is that luck – whether it is unsustainable streaks, refereeing decisions, or simply moments that happen to transpire in a convenient way (like Can’s goal, as Klopp put it) – doesn’t ‘even out’ as we might like it to. Clubs accumulate deficits and credits that push them into league positions they don’t deserve. Like a gambler who loses on a few spins, there is no universal force to give him what he is ‘due’.
The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can critically assess our season. The odds are we probably haven’t got what we’ve deserved, so it’s time to identify those critical moments that could have gone another way and objectively assess where we really are as a team.