The Premier League season has seen its fair share of strong defensive performances this season, an occurrence usually aided by poor attacks.
Sunday morning saw the perfect storm, as Southampton held Sheffield United to the fifth-worst expected goals (xG) showing of the season in a 3-0 decision at St. Mary’s.
More than halfway through 12 matchdays in the Premier League, only 14 matches have seen a team produce less than 0.30 xG.
Sheffield United is responsible for three of those, while Southampton’s defense has been on the better side of that three times.
Blades are the only team to hit the list that many times, while Saints hold the same distinction on the other end. So while we talk a lot about Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse, there’s plenty to be said about Jannik Vestergaard and Oriol Romeu (and, honestly, Saints are out-performing their xG scored).
“When you see us playing, it’s not a coincidence that we’re up in the table,” said Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl after the game, as Saints pulled into third place behind Liverpool and Spiurs. “Every part of our game has had a massive development. It’s not so easy to keep a lid on us when we can create chances.”
At times it has felt like a coincidence that Blades have not managed to get points, several of their performances expecting at least a draw in advanced stats, but their woeful chance production is no joke.
Could another manager get more out of this side than Chris Wilder? It’s hard to say, especially considering he engineered an incredible run to the top half of the table last season, Blades’ first in the top flight.
If anything, Blades were unlucky in xG produced and fortunate in xG allowed last season but the expected points table would have them 11th.
Yes, stopping the recording at 0.30 isn’t any sort of exact science (though there are more from 0.30-0.40 than the 0.10 preceding them), but this should serve to worry Blades as much as it buttresses the belief of Saints.
Worst xG performances this season (Understat)
0.10 – Crystal Palace in 4-0 loss at Chelsea, Oct. 3
0.13 – Fulham in 3-0 loss v Arsenal, Sept. 12
0.14 – Sheffield United in 2-1 loss at Arsenal, Oct. 4
0.16 – West Brom in 2-0 loss at Southampton, Oct. 4
0.22 – Sheffield United in 3-0 loss at Southampton, Dec. 13
0.22 – Chelsea in 0-0 draw at Man United, Oct. 24
0.23 – Tottenham in 0-0 draw at Chelsea, Nov. 29
0.25 – Newcastle in 1-1 draw at Wolves, Oct. 25
0.26 – West Ham in 1-1 draw v Man City, Oct. 24
0.27 – West Ham in 2-1 loss at Liverpool, Oct. 31
0.27 – Leeds in 4-3 loss at Liverpool, Sept. 12
0.29 – Sheffield United in 2-1 loss v Leicester, Dec. 6
0.29 – Fulham 2-0 loss at Man City, Dec. 5
0.29 – Everton 2-0 loss at Southampton, Oct. 25