Analyzing Expected Goals (xG) for the 2019/20 Premier League Season
We’re almost 70% of the way through the Premier League season and it’s been quite a ride so far. Sheffield United are turning into the neutral’s favourite team right now as they occupy a European spot (and perhaps might even challenge Chelsea for a Champions League place).
But it’s Liverpool who have run roughshod over the league – they’ve accumulated a remarkable 73 points out of an available 75.
To put that feat into context, here’s a list of the teams that have won 24 out of their opening 25 games:
- Liverpool 2019/20
Yep, that’s it, that’s the list. It’s never been done before in the history of English football! We are in unchartered and unprecedented territory right now.
And Liverpool’s expected goals (xG) numbers are off the charts as well, as we’ll soon see. Jurgen Klopp has transformed the club in 5 years from potential challengers to invincible would-be champions.
But I have seen a lot of folks complaining that Liverpool have been lucky this season.
While their dominance is supreme and shouldn’t really be questioned in my opinion, it’s still worth looking at a few numbers like xG to understand whether Lady Luck has played any part in Liverpool’s dominion over the rest of the Premier League.
So in this new xG series, I will aim to answer a few pressing questions about the Premier League 2019/20 season using the xG metric. Here’s a taste of what we’ll cover:
- How does Liverpool’s xG compare to Manchester City’s xG numbers?
- What about the rest of the league?
- Where should Manchester United stand in the xG table?
- Which player has the best xG in the league?
And so on. In this article, I will be looking at the team xG. The rest of the articles in this series will be a deep dive into player xG (and trust me, there are a lot of surprises there).
If you’re new to football analytics and are not sure what Expected Goals (xG) are, I recommend going through my introductory guide first:
You can also go through my analysis of Harry Kane’s recent form (using xG and other analytics metrics, of course):
Premier League 2019/20: A Look at the xG Table for all 20 Teams
First, let’s look at the xG for each team. We’ll divide this section into expected goals scored (xG) and expected goals against (xGA). This gives us a decent idea of both the attacking and the defensive context for each team.
Expected Goals (xG) Scored Table
As always, there are a few surprises in here. Here’s something I want you to keep in mind while looking at the below table. If your team’s xG is significantly lower than the number of goals scored (G), then there might a regression to the mean coming soon. Manchester United fans will relate to this I’m sure.
Their xG numbers were quite low last season when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was still under temporary charge. While the team banged in the goals, the xG numbers suggested they would come back down significantly. And they did, as soon as he became the permanent manager. So xG isn’t just an academic metric – it does have significance in determining a team’s LONG-TERM form.
Here’s the xG table for 2019/20:
The first column, Points Rank, is the current position of that team in the Premier League table. It’s a good indicator to understand the difference between where they are against where xG puts them.
So, any standouts? Here’s a few I can see:
- Liverpool have definitely outperformed their Expected Goals estimate. And by a good margin. I still feel their xG will catch up to them this season but they’re so far ahead of everyone else that it really won’t matter at this point. Worth keeping an eye on though, if you’re into analytics and stats
- Manchester United‘s xG is significantly higher than the goals they’ve scored. But given that Marcus Rashford is out till at least April, we shouldn’t see any uptick in their numbers. Selling Lukaku is biting them badly. Still – hope for United fans next season?
- Chelsea have also scored less than the xG predicted (by a full 6 goals). Michy Batshuayi, Pedro, Ross Barkley and Mason Mount are primarily responsible for missing presentable chances this season
- Here’s a real outlier – Leicester City. xG tells us they should have scored around 42-43 goals so far. They’ve actually scored 54! That’s an eye popping difference that I haven’t seen in a while. We have recently started to see their form go downhill and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up falling down a position or two by May
- This makes for excellent reading if you’re a Watford fan. They’ve scored far less than they were expected to. And with Nigel Pearson making inroads since he replaced Sanchez Flores, there is a good chance Watford will avoid relegation this season
Expected Goals (xG) Against Table
Conversely, what do the xGA numbers tell us? Is Liverpool’s attack ably supported by their seemingly watertight defence? Which teams should be in the top 4 and which 3 should be languishing in the relegation zone?
Here we go!
There are some surprises here as well! And I’m sure you’ve already noticed the correlation with the xG table we covered in the previous section. Let’s break down the xGA table:
- Liverpool, man. They’ve done it again. The team that’s the most analytically advanced in the Premier League is beating the xGA metric as well. They’ve conceded just 15 goals this season when xGA suggests they should’ve shipped in at least 8 more. Couple that with their xG score and they might not be as far ahead as they are. Jurgen Klopp’s men really are creating history here!
- Manchester United are third in the xGA table (and 4th in the xG one). They’ve shipped in 29 goals, over 3 more than what the numbers suggest. It’s the other side of the equation, scoring goals, that’s causing them to slip down the table
- Here’s a surprise – Chelsea‘s defence has actually been better than what we’ve seen. Frank Lampard’s men have conceded 34 when xGA hints it should have been far less (~28). These numbers don’t make pretty reading if you’re Kepa Arrizabalaga (no surprise he’s no longer first choice)
- Leicester City again. Their xG numbers made for concerning reading and that carries over to xGA as well. They’ve conceded far less than they should have. Both xG and xGA are pointing to a heavy regression to the mean and a drop in performance soon
- Crystal Palace and Newcastle United – that’s tough reading. They’ve conceded almost 9 goals less than what xGA says. With a tough schedule remaining and their form tumbling recently, both sets of supporters should start being wary
- Sheffield United, the darlings of the Premier League this season, are far better off than what the underlying numbers tell us. A large part of that is down to their excellent goalkeeper, Dean Henderson, who has been exemplary throughout the campaign (barring a couple of howlers)
The Premier League 2019/20 xG Points Table
Given what we know so far, where does each team rank if we just looked at the Expected Goals (both xG and xGA)? Here’s the final table:
- Newcastle United – ouch. 13 games left – I would mentally start fearing the drop at this point!
- Liverpool are 20.5 points ahead of where xG puts them. That’s insane! I haven’t seen this big a difference in my entire time working with xG numbers. What an extraordinary achievement and well done Jurgen Klopp
- Manchester City should be top by this account
- Manchester United are more than 10 points worse off than their xG numbers. I don’t see this getting better anytime soon given the state of the team and the club
- Norwich City have fallen off a cliff since their decent start to the season but they might be in for a rebound soon
- Arsenal are exactly where xG puts them. Nothing much has changed since Mikel Arteta took over (though we’ll see that again by the end of the season)
xG is not a one-size-fits-all metric. Do not take this as THE one metric to judge teams and players.
But it does give us an approximate idea about how a team is performing, both up front and at the back. I mentioned this in the article – regression to the mean does happen quite a lot. I’ll be keeping my eye on Leicester City and Watford for the remaining quarter of the season.
The next article in this season will be about positional xG analysis. We’ll break down the Expected Goals by position (who is the best goalscoring defender by xG, which striker misses the most glaring chances, etc.).