xG and xA: Some (really) early numbers

Oh not this again, isnt it to early for this??!

The critics of xG (expected goals) and xA (expected assists) will be so annoyed that I have brought this up so early on in the season. In fact some of the main supporters of the two metrics will probably frown upon it as well.

Personally, I like to start as early as possible in collecting the data and also to publish some early tables, I have my reasons and they are the following.

  • Have last seasons top players according to these metrics started the season as they left off in 17/18?
  • Are there any new players that have started the season well?
  • Given relegations and promotions are they any players who have performed well with their clubs?
    Transfers. Have any new signings started well with their new clubs?

The EPL

This is one reason why I like to get a look in early on.

Mo Salah has indeed it seems carried on his form from last season in to this one. Okay i hear you, and I cant push it any further than what it is and of course xG is a minor factor in performance statistics but Salah looks to have returned from an unsettling time with Egypt at the World Cup with confidence and his performances so far have backed that up. His xA numbers arent quite their but they will be, we all know it.

Another Liverpool man Andy Robertson has provided an assist so far and a question to be asked is does Jurgen Klopp want more of this type of attacking threat from the Scotsman this year?

Sergio Aguero is already exceeding his xG numbers and still looking like a world class striker season after season. It should be noted the xG stat is probably irrelevant at this stage (no player will get near .90 per 90 mins all season).

When we talk about assists in the EPL we tend to think of De Bruyne, Salah and Hazard and with KDB out for a few months it will be up to Salah and Hazard (I also expect David Silva, Lucus Moura and James Maddison to have decent numbers xA wise) to have excellent seasons in providing assists for their respective clubs.

SkyBet Championship

According to the pundits and a lot of professional people within English football, this is probably the toughest of the four leagues to get promoted from that I have written about in this piece.

Dean Smith’s Brentford side impressed many people last year and they have began this season well again. With his preferred 4-3-3 shape, with Josh McEacharan in the heart of the midfield, Brentford play a quick, free flowing brand of attacking football and with Neal Maupay at centre forward and having scored 5 goals in as many games and 3 assists to boot Brentford have a striker in form and after his 17 goal haul last term Bees fans will hope it continues.

One of the reasons I gave earlier for wanting to look at some xG numbers this early was to see if some goalscorers would adapt to their leagues after relegation. Step forward West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez. Injury hit Rodriguez looks to have come into some early form and the Championship is suited to him theres no doubt.

Former Villa and Derby striker Andy Weimann is also playing well after his transfer to Bristol City with 5 goals exceeding his xG by 2 goals.

Can Norwich get a good return out of the much travelled Jordan Rhodes? Can Marco Bielsa do the same with the strikers he has at Leeds United until he can get new faces in in January? Both cases are in the balance in my opinion.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Barry Bannan is player who has the ability to change a game in the Championship but needs to improve on his assist tally from last year (3 assists) and would do well to repeat the 8 he achieved in the 16/17 season.

Another of Bielsa’s charges at Leeds, Pablo Hernandez, is another man who is very good on the ball and has 2 assists to his name already contributing to Leeds top of the table form.

I expect Leeds United’s Samu Saiz, QPR’ s Luke Freeman and Derby County’s Tom Lawrence to top the assist and xA tables come the end of the year especially Freeman who is more than capable of beating his 12 assists from last year.

SkyBet League 1

Walsall’s Andy Cook has had some very good chances to have at least 3 more goals than the two he has so far. His xG total of 5 suggests the former Carlisle man isnt finishing as well as he should do.

On loan Nottingham Forest hitman Jason Cummings has the opposite issue he cant stop scoring. Having scored 6 goals and with an xG of 3.93 the Scotsman hasn’t had any trouble in finding the net and in doing so propelling Posh up up the table.

Shaun Whalley’s delivery from set pieces doesnt come as a surprise to some of us hence him always having pretty decent numbers when it comes to asssits and he will pick up as the season progresses.

Sunderland’s Liam Gooch looks to be finally finding some form and long may it continue. Gooch has 3 assists already this season and with an xA of 1.95 the signs are looking good for him if he can stay injury free.

SkyBet League 2

In the table above are two reasons why I like to do these tables early.

MK Dons were relegated from League 1 last year but have began the season in League 2 unbeaten but they lack serious potentcy upfront. Kieron Agard has had some very good clear cut chances to add to his 2 goals, trust me ive seen it with my own eyes, hence his xG of 5.3. But his finishing needs a lot to desired and Paul Tisdale will need to think about this area of his squad if the Dons are to mount a serious promotion push.

On the flip side newly promoted Tranmere have a promising goalscorer in James Norwood who has scored 5 times this season and exceeding his xG of 4.07.

Assist wise bottom of League 1 Notts County have Dutch winger Enzio Boldewijn. The former Utrecht and Crawley Town man looks impressive early on and although mangerless after the sacking of Kevin Nolan, County shouldn’t be in the current situation come the end of the season given the squad they have to compete in League 2.

In summary

As I have said a great deal in this article it is still very early days in the season but I hope I have given you some insight as to what you can expect from your team in the coming season.

xG and xA numbers are always open for criticism for different reasons but they are a good marker when looking at taking goalscoring chances and also the creation of chances by the main players who try to provide those opportunities.

Gareth Cooper

GC Analytics

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