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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)

Stats, schedule say Pogba injury would sting

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Paul Pogba may not play Sunday against Swansea City after suffering a thigh injury in Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Fenerbahce in the UEFA Europa League.

This stings in a big way, regardless of how you feel Pogba has played at Old Trafford (more on that later).

United has a brutal run of matches ahead, and badly needs to find its form — with Pogba — on Sunday at Swans.

[ MOURINHO: United played like “summer friendly” ]

The Red Devils have one win in its last four matches, the EFL Cup win over Man City. They dominated Burnley on Saturday but couldn’t find a winner, and really needed six points between that match and Swansea to position itself for a Top Four spot.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Manchester City 10 7 2 1 24 9 15 3-2-0 4-0-1 23
 Arsenal 10 7 2 1 23 10 13 3-1-1 4-1-0 23
 Liverpool 10 7 2 1 24 13 11 3-1-0 4-1-1 23
 Chelsea 10 7 1 2 21 9 12 4-0-1 3-1-1 22
 Tottenham Hotspur 10 5 5 0 14 5 9 3-2-0 2-3-0 20
 Everton 10 5 3 2 15 8 7 3-2-0 2-1-2 18
 Watford 10 4 3 3 14 13 1 2-1-2 2-2-1 15
 Manchester United 10 4 3 3 13 12 1 2-2-1 2-1-2 15

United is 7 points off fourth and five off fifth in the Premier League, and its only other recourse to return to the UEFA Champions League would be winning the Europa League.

Of course a team with United’s talent can overcome either deficit, but look at the run the Red Devils face after Sunday’s match at the Liberty Stadium.

Nov. 19 – vs. Arsenal (PL)
Nov. 24 – vs. Feyenoord (UEL)
Nov. 27 – vs. West Ham (PL)
Nov. 30 – vs. West Ham (EFL Cup)
Dec. 4 – at Everton (PL)
Dec. 8 – at Zorya Luhansk (UEL)
Dec. 11 – vs. Spurs (PL)

It gets a lot easier after that, but will it matter if, say, Jose Mourinho can’t deliver at least 10 points in the Premier League through Swansea, Arsenal, West Ham, Everton, and Spurs (three at home)?

Which brings us to Pogba. The 23-year-old French star was expected to revolutionize United’s play, and still probably will, only to find himself the constant target of scorn every time he doesn’t deliver a match-winning play.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Paul Pogba of Manchester United warms up prior to the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on October 29, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)

When a player’s transfer fee sets a world record, that’s understandable, but Pogba has in fact been quite a good contributor already. As he readapts to the Premier League, Pogba has the following numbers to his credit (PL only):

— He’s completed 525 passes, almost 100 more than his closest competitor (Ander Herrera). He’s also tops in completed passes per game and second in completed passes per 90 (Herrera again).

His 18 key passes are the most on United. That’s tied for 13th in the league with Eden Hazard and Dele Alli.

— The extremely-active Pogba has been involved in the fourth-most duels (79) in the PL.

— He’s played the fifth-most successful through balls in the PL, behind only Alexis Sanchez, David Silva, Philippe Coutinho, and Mesut Ozil.

— Despite constant attention, Pogba is second to only Zlatan Ibrahimovic in shot attempts.

— He also has the fifth-best home passer rating in the Premier League, according to advanced stats site Who Scored.

Positionially, Who Scored has some other encouraging metrics. Pogba’s stats improve the deeper he lies in the midfield, and he’s significantly better at home than on the road in PL play (where United plays three of its next five).

Of course, the eye test matters and Pogba has yet to really dominate a match, but that’s coming. And as longtime United midfielder Bryan Robson pointed out earlier this week, it takes time for any player to adjust to being a big money arrival in a new league. And Pogba has not been awful.

“I think he’s doing okay. But it’s just okay at the moment — we know there is better to come from Paul. He’s a real talented lad and I’m sure when the team start getting a consistent run of good results then his confidence will come on and he will enjoy his football.”

There’s two ways to look at Pogba’s possible absence on Sunday. For one, getting a week of rest could mean two weeks thanks to the international break. And Pogba not pulled out of Thursday’s game with injury after 30 minutes, he may’ve found himself going 90 for the fourth time in 11 days (Ease up, Jose).

But having the chance to sync up with his teammates against a struggling Swansea City could set the table for a terrific and challenging month, and leave little risk of spending two weeks as low as 10th. United has 15 points and a plus-1 goal differential, with Southampton (at Hull) and Bournemouth (vs. Sunderland) capable of joining them on 15 points.

Plus, with Chelsea facing Everton and Spurs taking on Arsenal, three points puts United right back in the mix. That’s achievable without Pogba, but don’t let this slow start to Old Trafford superstardom let you imagine the Red Devils don’t suffer when he’s not available.

Odds say U.S. should progress despite late draw with Portugal

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Numbers are just numbers and even advanced statisticians know that projections are just likelihood. They can’t account for every single mishap or moment of brilliance — find me the Opta projection for Netherlands 5, Spain 1 — but they give a nice indication of what could go down in any given event.

Earlier, our Richard Farley provided a brilliant and extensive breakdown of each scenario that could come from Group G’s final act on Thursday, so we know everything that can happen.

But what do the betting services, advanced stats and others say?

FiveThirtyEight.com, the respected Nate Silver site, says the USMNT has a 76 percent of advancement… and uses further reasoning to say that number may be low. Of course, it must be noted that the same site gave the US a mere 36 percent chance of advancing from Group G before the tournament started.

So how about the bettors? Well, consider this Tweet:

As for the others, I’ll go with the whole gut instinct thing. Walking away from the match with my friends, I kept saying I’d be surprised if the US doesn’t go through. Maybe this is a by-product of me being the only PST writer to predict a US advancement from Group G (back-pat), but my gut says yes.