Leicester's title race has involved luck, and there's nothing wrong with that
There's a slight danger that Leicester winning the Premier League, the most extraordinary English title victory since Alf Ramsey's newly promoted Ipswich did it in 1962, might become vaguely anti-climactic simply because at the moment it looks like they're going to win it fairly easily.
Saturday's 1-0 success against Crystal Palace put them in a position where they probably only need to win four of their remaining seven games. Since only Tottenham have really shown any interest in seriously challenging them, the remaining few weeks of the season could be light on tension.
Of course, this would not diminish their achievement a tiny bit even if Alan Pardew's programme notes at the weekend didn't exactly suggest a man overflowing with praise for Claudio Ranieri and his team. Pardew wrote that while Leicester "deserve unbelievable credit" for their season so far, he said the "stars have aligned" for the Foxes with "very few injuries" and "some tight games going their way." He also mentioned the number of penalties they have won this season before going on to compare their apparent luck with Palace's lack of it.
One's instinctive reaction is to bristle at anyone trying to diminish Leicester's achievements so far, and to conclude that a manager in Pardew's position is merely offering excuses as to why a team like Palace, in a much stronger position at the start of the season, haven't been able to play like Leicester have. But despite the whiff of the sourest grapes hanging over Pardew's comments like a bitter cloud of envy, he was right.
Leicester have undoubtedly been lucky this season. They've been virtually injury-free: eight of their players have missed two games or fewer, with no freak twists of the knee or leg-breaking tackles putting Riyad Mahrez or Wes Morgan out for the season. They have been awarded twice as many penalties as anyone else in the league.
Few could have predicted the established powers and winners of the past 20 league titles (Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal) being quite so useless. Games have broken their way, they only have one competition to concentrate on and they have collected a few very narrow wins.
Attributing success in sport to luck is a tricky business because what even qualifies as luck? A shot that goes narrowly wide? A refereeing decision that goes your way? Having one brilliant player who drags a whole team through a season? A clean fitness or disciplinary record?
All of those things could be classed as fortunate but they could equally be down to fine preparation and good play. Leicester's fitness could be a by-product of Ranieri's adherence to the recuperative powers of rest. They may have been given plenty of penalties, but they've still converted most of them. And as for the idea that they haven't been challenged, what is success in sport if not simply being better than everyone against whom you're competing?
But apart from any of this, while Leicester's potential title victory is quite clearly not just down to luck, for reasons that have been discussed at length elsewhere, what's wrong with being lucky?
Most good teams are lucky to one extent or another, and most big successes have included an element of fortune. Manchester City were lucky that Liverpool imploded in 2013. A number of Arsenal's draws in their unbeaten 2003-04 season included some good fortune. In the 1999 Champions League final, Bayern Munich twice hit the underside of the bar before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham popped up with late goals. We could go on.
There have been very few (if any) teams that have won anything in football without some form of what is generally classed as "luck," but it's rarely mentioned. The difference for Leicester is that some might be looking (to an extent understandably) for something to explain this extraordinary season; the reason that "they're just very good" is seemingly too implausible yet it's perfectly possible to be good and lucky at the same time.
"What we are doing here is like a pizza," said Ranieri back in October. "To do well, you have to have the right ingredients. The first ingredient is team spirit. The second is that they enjoy a training session; they know they can work hard but also enjoy it. And also, a bit of luck is important. You have to work hard, you have to do everything right but also like a salt, a little luck is good."
Leicester could be about to win the title at a canter, the reasons for which are wide and varied. One of those reasons is certainly luck... but there's nothing wrong with that.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.