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.
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:
- Man City, 26.8 xPTS (25 on real table)
- Liverpool, 22.7 xPTS (31)
- Manchester United, 20.48 xPTS (13)
- Chelsea, 20.41 xPTS (23)
- Everton, 17.82 xPTS (11)
- Brighton and Hove Albion, 16.31 xPTS (15)