Christian Pulisic injured for Chelsea
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The story of the Premier League season in expected goals, points

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Human error and exceptional efforts mean that production often goes unrewarded in sports. It’s “why we watch” and why they don’t hand out trophies based on theory.

According to Opta, the expected goals (xG) “measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance.”

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Plenty of goals, like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s first touch, 11-yard shot from the center of the box against Wolves, are xG. Others, like Jonjo Shelvey‘s unruly, long free kick against West Ham, are not.

Many times, the xG data shows us a game very similar to the final score line. Take Manchester City’s 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa on Oct. 26, where Villa missed a big chance but things otherwise went exactly as expected given the chances produced by Pep Guardiola‘s men (Graphics via the exceptional twitter.com/MC_of_A)

Now consider Christian Pulisic‘s hat trick game for Chelsea at Burnley, a 4-2 win for the Blues, when some moments of individual brilliance from both teams transcended the ordinary means of production. In an xG world, the Clarets win 2-1.

So it’s stands to reason that the site UnderStat shows us an xG table quite off from the Premier League table. Here are the teams producing or failing to produce outcomes befitting their created chances.

NOTE: Excuse some of the word choices here. It’s tricky to deal in what “should” or is “expected” to happen without sounding a bit absurd. No match, player, team, or season is accurately depicted by numbers, but an 11-match sample size is as good a time as any to see who’s living a charmed or cursed life in the Premier League.

Individual leaders

The top five players in xG+xA per 90 minutes (min. 400 minutes) belong to Man City (Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne) with only Tammy Abraham of Chelsea stopping Bernardo Silva from making it six of six. Mohamed Salah is eighth, while Christian Pulisic and Marcus Rashford are ninth and 10th.

Teams beating xG

Leicester City‘s early season has been remarkable, and was so well before the Foxes hung nine goals on Southampton. Brendan Rodgers‘ prolific men have scored 27 goals this season, almost 13 more than expected. On one hand, that’s pretty magical. On another, it could be foreshadowing.

Spurs have 17 goals this season, almost five more than their xG total.

Sheffield United have conceded a miserly eight goals this season, and that’s almost seven fewer than xG.

Players in xG wilderness

Given his side’s “over-performance,” it’s not a surprise to see Jamie Vardy‘s 10 goals coming in about 5.48 more than his expected 4.52

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino is living in a different world, his three goals and three assists about 2 lower than expected. Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe is expected to have scored three goals this season, but has just one.

And how about Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick, who has not scored in 565 minutes but could have 3.31 goals according to the table? West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko is expected to have 3.28 assists, not one, while Miguel Almiron hasn’t delivered to the tune of 2.34 xG+xA

xG table, in points

According to xG, it’s not a big surprise that Man City should be leading the table. The two-time reigning champs and xG darlings gave 25 points, but were expected to claim about 27.

Meanwhile, Leicester (-6.83) and Liverpool (-8.3) are flying past their xG totals, and Newcastle (-4.13) isn’t far behind. Manchester United (+7.48), Everton (+6.82) and Watford (+9.16) are scratching their heads.

Here’s how the Top Six would look in an xG world:

  1. Man City, 26.8 xPTS (25 on real table)
  2. Liverpool, 22.7 xPTS (31)
  3. Manchester United, 20.48 xPTS (13)
  4. Chelsea, 20.41 xPTS (23)
  5. Everton, 17.82 xPTS (11)
  6. Brighton and Hove Albion, 16.31 xPTS (15)

Manchester United: Solskjaer hopeful of new Paul Pogba contract

Paul Pogba contract
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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is singing a new tune, hopeful that star midfielder Paul Pogba will stick around Old Trafford for the long term.

Reports say that United has an option to extend Pogba’s contract by an extra year beyond its 2021 expiry, but Solskjaer is thinking bigger. He has been praising Pogba plenty since the World Cup winner returned to the lineup.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

It’s a bit surprising given Pogba and his super agent’s constant time in the rumor mill, with Real Madrid often linked with the Frenchman. And that agent, Mino Raiola, has not been so nice when it comes to judging Solskjaer.

But Solskjaer is reportedly hopeful that Pogba can join Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and others in building a new power.

“I can’t comment on discussions between player and the club but. of course, we want to keep the best players around the club,” Solskjaer said. “We want to build a squad for the future and Scott and Nemanja are a similar position but at different stages in their careers. One at the start, one really experienced one.”

Pogba leads United in key passes per game with 2.3, though his minutes have been severely limited by injuries this season. He had 13 goals and nine assists last season, and turned 27 in March.

The way United’s performed in recent weeks it would not be a surprise if keeping its main talents while adding another stalwart center back and wing would propel it into a more serious table discussion.

Do you buy the idea that Pogba could be with United well into the future?

Suarez goal gives Barcelona win, relegates neighbors Espanyol

Espanyol relegated
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Seventh-place one season ago, La Liga mainstays Espanyol are being relegated from Spain’s top flight.

The final decision came at the hands of their Catalan neighbors Barcelona, who got a second-half goal from Luis Suarez to relegate Espanyol.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Espanyol are 11 points back of 17th place and can only capture nine more points this season following the 1-0 loss in a match where both teams had a player sent off.

Suarez’s goal was a nice one after Antoine Griezmann’s back heel pass to Lionel Messi saw the Argentine’s shot deflect onto the path of the Uruguayan finisher.

Espanyol had been in the top flight since 1994 and has only spent four single seasons outside La Liga since 1929. Leganes and Mallorca may join them soon.

Barcelona moves a point back of Real Madrid. Real has four matches left to Barca’s three and holds the tiebreaker.

Klopp reacts to Liverpool wins, says Henderson injury ‘not nothing’

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Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion was a bit more what we’re used to from the Premier League champions.

But that wasn’t the focus of the post-match despite a highlight-reel show from Mohamed Salah, as Reds boss Jurgen Klopp sounded an ominous note when asked about Jordan Henderson leaving the match with injury.

“I don’t know exactly but it was something with the knee I think. We know it’s not nothing.”

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Henderson’s not exactly a player to hit the deck unless he’s feeling pain, and Klopp removed him for James Milner with 10 minutes to play.

That’s about the only bad news from the win, as Liverpool became the first team this season to breach the 90-point mark and saw Salah’s brace move him within three goals of the Golden Boot lead.

Salah would only say, “Let’s take it game-by-game,” but it’s clearly on his mind.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says the Egyptian is hungry to get a share of a third-straight Golden Boot.

From the BBC:

“He has his targets, he’s around the Golden Boot and it’s something he wants to retain,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s a world class player who scores so many goals for us and we try to get him on the board as much as possible.”

As for the match, Brighton almost as missed some big chances as Liverpool before the game was out of reach. Klopp admits that it was a challenge.

“We started really well,” Klopp said. “We had to adapt a little bit as we knew what they wanted to do but it was a little bit hard to defend. We left one or two players in a position where if we won the ball we had players in the counter-attack position. We got the first two goals with super balls but we could have scored more. I said to the boys at half-time they could have been 2-2 too. It was a nice game to watch.”

The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.

Liverpool march continues with 3-1 win at Brighton

Brighton - Liverpool recap
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Mohamed Salah had two goals and an assist in the first eight minutes of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday.

Salah is now three goals behind league leader Jamie Vardy, and Liverpool’s 92 points are 23 more than Man City. Jordan Henderson also scored for the Reds.

BRIGHTON – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

Leandro Trossard scored for Brighton, whose 36 points are nine clear of the bottom three with four matches to play (The 18th and 19th place sides do have a match each in hand).

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Liverpool’s 30 wins through 34 outings is a Premier League record and Jurgen Klopp’s men are chasing several PL records. The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.


Three things we learned

1. Salah somehow under the radar: Look, the Egyptian star’s 32-goal league season was an outlier. Not a lot of guys consistently hit 25, let alone the 30 mark in the Premier League. But Salah has rather quietly put together another amazing season with 19 goals and nine assists in PL play plus another four and three in cup competitions. Salah is one assist of joining the a small group of players to get double digit league goals and assists in a top five European league this season.

While it’s become sexy to praise Sadio Mane as the Reds’ top winger, Salah has been just as good. He could’ve had another goal in the 53rd but Mat Ryan made a fine intervention at close range. If Salah is under the radar, it’s because Liverpool has spread the wealth this season and had so many heroes in close matches. But boy, oh boy, is he their best weapon.

2. Lamptey shows glimpses, then youth: The sample size is very small, but 19-year-old Chelsea outcast Tariq Lamptey has played well at right back in most of his outings for Brighton since the return from the coronavirus pause. Lamptey was at blame for Liverpool’s third goal in both the chance conceded and actual finish from Salah, but the $4 million January buy looked well worth the price tag in a terrific first half at the Amex.

3. Seagulls still missing final ball: Brighton produced four big chances in the game to Liverpool’s two, but only put one in the back of the net (SofaScore). That’s sadly been par for the course this season, as Brighton’s style has been worthy of a top half place. Brighton entered the day with seven fewer goals than its expected goals total. Only Everton, Watford, and Norwich have been less fortunate.

Man of the Match:

Salah.


Brighton – Liverpool recap

Salah had a goal and an assist within 500 seconds of kickoff.

The Egyptian took a feed from Naby Keita to score off a Davy Propper giveaway and then set up Henderson’s second to have the Seagulls’ heads spinning early.

Brighton found a chance in the 19th but Neco Williams recovered with a slide to block Leandro Trossard from slotting a point-blank goal.

The Seagulls pulled within one just before halftime when in-form youngster Tariq Lamptey swept a cross into the mix for Trossard to punch home.

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Salah could’ve had it 3-1 at one end but Brighton’s Dan Burn asked the Egyptian to hold his drink with a butchered wide-open shot at the back post in the 60th minute.

Jurgen Klopp didn’t like the close score, and brought on Fabinho, Andy Robertson, and Sadio Mane in the second half. One of the players he removed, Naby Keita, had a strong hour before departing the contest.

Henderson almost produced a third Liverpool goal after a rare Lamptey error spring a chance that took a wicked turn off Dale Stephens.

The Reds made it 3-1 off the ensuing corner, Salah’s clinical header in front of Lamptey. Henderson limped off for Liverpool late in the contest.

Ryan denied Salah a hat trick in stoppage time and the Egyptian headed over the bar at the final whistle. He could’ve had five.