diamond geezer

 Monday, January 27, 2003

The Luck of the Draw?

Number twelve - Manchester United ...will play... Number eleven - Arsenal

That's probably the most exciting match the FA Cup fifth round draw could possibly have thrown up. All of which just goes to show that, when you let chance play a part, something improbable always happens. But, in a random draw of 16 teams, exactly how improbable would that be?

14 to 1 against: Arsenal to play Manchester United
29 to 1 against: Arsenal to play Manchester United away from home
239 to 1 against: Arsenal to play Manchester United away from home in the first match to be drawn
5 to 1 against: 3rd Division Rochdale to have been sure of a plum tie at home against Premiership opposition (didn't happen)
2 million to 1 against (near enough): this particular draw of 16 balls coming out of the bag in that order

Most football pundits have no idea at all about the laws of probability. This is why they'll have spent the ten minutes after this lunchtime's draw saying "How remarkable is that?", and why they'll spend the two hours before the fifth round matches trying to prove who's going to win on the basis that in past cup matches between these two teams the side wearing the red away shirt has always won by two clear goals whenever there's been an R in the month.

All that is certain is that, before May is over, 19 out of the 20 teams still in the FA Cup will have had all their hopes of glory cruelly dashed. Just one team will remain to pick up the silverware, and following today's draw it's a little less likely that'll be Arsenal. However, come February 15th, 1-5 would be perfect. And please not 6-0.

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