Liverpool unluckiest Premier League team & Manchester United luckiest, says study

Liverpool v Manchester United - Philippe Coutinho is fouled in the box
The study found Liverpool's 0-0 draw at home to Manchester United in October would have become a 1-0 win had the Reds been awarded a penalty

Liverpool were the 'unluckiest' team in the Premier League last season while Manchester United were the 'luckiest', new research claims.

The Reds dropped 12 points in matches affected by wrongly disallowed goals or incorrect decisions on penalties and red cards, says a study conducted by ESPN, Intel and the University of Bath.

It says United gained six points over incidents that went in their favour.

Manchester City remain top in a new simulated table accounting for 'luck'.

However, the study found Huddersfield should have been relegated instead of Stoke when 'incorrect' refereeing decisions were taken into account.

It also found Brighton would have finished six places higher - moving up to ninth and earning an extra £11.5m in prize money on their return to the top flight.

Conversely, Leicester would have finished 14th instead of ninth, ending the season with £9.7m less in prize money.

Fourth-placed Liverpool would have swapped with second-placed United, and champions City fallen three points short of their 100 mark.

How did the 'Luck Index' work?

A research team collaborated with ex-Premier League referee Peter Walton, analysing footage from every game of the 2017-18 Premier League season and watching for:

  • Goals that should have been disallowed
  • Incorrectly disallowed goals
  • Incorrectly awarded penalties (that were scored)
  • Penalties that were not awarded but should have been
  • Incorrect red-card decisions
  • Red-card incidents that were missed
  • Goals scored after injury time overran
  • Deflected goals

Once incidents had been indentified, an alternative outcome of the affected matches was predicted, using a model that also considered factors including team strength, form, and home advantage.

For example: in Liverpool's 0-0 draw with Manchester United at Anfield on 14 October, the study concluded Jurgen Klopp's side should have been awarded a penalty in the 63rd minute, and the new simulated scoreline was a 1-0 victory for the home side.

And, while Leicester gained seven points compared to Manchester United's six according to the 'Luck Index', the Red Devils' points came from fewer incidents, giving them a greater points-per-incident ratio.

Once the process was completed, the Premier League table was redrawn to reflect the new simulated results.

Premier League table 17-18'Luck Index' simulated table 17-18
Manchester City100Manchester City97
Manchester United81Liverpool87
Tottenham77Tottenham77
Liverpool75Manchester United75
Chelsea70Arsenal 71
Arsenal63Chelsea70
Burnley54Burnley 50
Everton49Newcastle 48
Leicester47Brighton46
Newcastle44Everton 44
Crystal Palace44Crystal Palace42
Bournemouth44West Ham41
West Ham42Watford 41
Watford41Leicester 40
Brighton40Southampton40
Huddersfield37Bournemouth38
Southampton36Stoke37
Swansea 33Huddersfield37
Stoke33Swansea34
West Brom31West Brom33

The research team analysed over 150 incidents and also found:

  • Leicester scored three goals after injury time overran - more than any other side.
  • Huddersfield's John Smith's Stadium saw the most deflected goals - five. Two of those worked in the Terriers' favour.
  • Matt Ritchie was the 'luckiest player'. The Newcastle winger avoided two red cards, while a handball in the box against Leicester went unnoticed.

Assistant Professor Thomas Curran from the University of Bath said each game was simulated "thousands of times to model how it should have turned out".

He said the project was "one of the most detailed pieces of research we have ever conducted".

Former referee Walton added: "The results demonstrate the impact and importance of refereeing decisions on a game.

"With the Premier League deciding not to introduce VAR for the coming season, it is interesting to see how much luck plays a part in the way the league unfolds."

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