When every tackle ends up with the opponent


Notorious Youtuber NepentheZ published the clip below showing something apparently odd and hence suspicious: Four consecutive tackles, and every time it ended up with the opponent, who ended up scoring. Bad luck of scripting? We did the maths.

The video clip in question can be seen below:

As expected, the clip is accompanied by a variety of conspiracy theories in the Reddit thread that followed after the clip was posted:

“Pretty much confirms our worst fears of handicap still existing this year.”

“scripting at its best, well done EA”

(– various redditors)

As usual, we decided to take the rational approach rather than jump to the most convenient conclusion.

What probability theory tells us

What we see in the clip is a sequence of four tackles, which for some reason end up with the white team. For the sake of simplicity, we could start out by looking at each tackle as a 50/50 situation, as it can have two possible outcomes: Either you win or lose the ball. Hence, the sequence of tackles in the clip becomes comparable to tossing a coin four times and flipping a head every time. The probability of flipping four heads in a row is calculated as:

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/16

Presuming that NepentheZ’ chance of winning each tackle was 50 %, the probability of losing four tackles in a row is 1/16. According to our latest match history sample, the average FUT 16 seasons match contains 28 tackles. If we assume that tackles are 50 / 50 situations on average, approximately 88 % of all FUT seasons matches will contain sequences of four consecutive tackles being won by the same player.

Hence, the situation portrayed in NepentheZ’ video is no where near as unusual as he thinks himself. And that conclusion only becomes clearer if we look at the actual circumstances of those four tackles.

The reality is a bit more complex than 50/50

Needless to say, the reality is a bit more complex, and the odds really aren’t 50 / 50 every time. In practice, the outcome of a tackle depends on how the players are positioned, their strength, their timing and so on.

If we focus on positioning, it’s worth noting that all the tackling situations take place in a defensive situation, where NepentheZ is tackling “out of his box” and away from hos own goal. Since he is defending, his team is positioned inside the box, meaning that he is tackling away from the majority of his players. This is particularly prevalent for the first two tackles. With regards to the first tackle at 08:02, we see NepentheZ having 6 players plus his keeper behind the ball, while two players are positioned too far to the right to take part in the events. Although the odds are more favorable to NepentheZ on tackle #3 and #4, I see no obvious irregularities in either of those situations. And, needless to say, you may get unlucky twice in a row. For reference, see the screen dump section further down.

Conclusions – foul play or not?

As seen above, four tackles going the same way is far from as unusual that people tend to think at a glance. In particular when your are tackling “out of your own box” while defending, chances of getting hold of the ball just aren’t very good.