Expected goals (xG) quantifies the quality of any given scoring opportunity, giving each chance a probability of being scored. The higher the probability, the better the chance. xG provides a descriptive look back at individual games or over a longer period of time, helping to give an insight into future performance.
How likely is it that teams are going to be able to repeat their current form? Is the team over-performing or under-performing? xG can help answer those tricky questions.
For a more detailed breakdown, check out our Expected Goals Introduction article.
At the top
As we have come to expect from the Premier League, the title and top four races look to be between the ‘top six’. Last season confirmed that Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal are all streets clear of the rest of the league, with Burnley the only other team to get half of Manchester City’s record points total, and that is expected to be obvious again this year.
Manchester City were by far and away the best team in the league last season, generating the most xG (88.1) and conceding the least (27.8) on their way to a staggering expected goal difference (xGD) of 60.3.
This works out to an average of 1.58 xGD per game, showing just how superior Pep Guardiola’s side were last season. Worryingly for the chasing pack, they could be stronger this year with the return of Benjamin Mendy, a settled Aymeric Laporte and the addition of Riyad Mahrez.
It is very hard to look past Guardiola’s record breakers to win the title again, but expect this season to be slightly closer in terms of points, as it is very unlikely that City will break the 100-point barrier again.
Liverpool have been tipped by many to be Manchester City’s closest challengers this season, and Infogol’s expected goals (xG) model agrees.
They were the second-best team behind Manchester City last season, generating the second highest xG (79.8) and conceding the second lowest (38.3).
Alisson Becker’s arrival from Roma means that Jurgen Klopp now has a very good goalkeeper at his disposal, while the addition of Fabinho and Naby Keita give different options in midfield and add more strength in depth.
Liverpool may go close, but it is hard to see past Manchester City. Even at a short price (8/13), there is value in backing City to win the league, with the Infogol calculating that they have a 75.6% chance of doing so (equates to odds of around 1/3).
With Liverpool clearly the best of the rest, though, the straight forecast also looks a good bet at 13/5 with Infogol calculating that Liverpool have the highest percentage chance of finishing second (52.9%) of any team in the league.
Recommended Bet: Man City/Liverpool Straight Forecast – 13/5
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United side were second last year but were very fortunate to finish as high as they did, with their process being extremely poor for the players at their disposal. They averaged just 0.35 xGD per game, the lowest of the top six by some way.
So how did they finish so high? Mainly thanks to David de Gea.
He conceded 25 non-penalty, non-own goals last season, but according to Infogol’s xG2 model (which is based on shots that require a save and uses a variety of post shot information, such as placement, power, trajectory and deflections to measure how many goals an average goalkeeper would be expected to concede from the chances faced) he should have conceded closer to 39.
If he performs to a more normal level this time around – or leaves – Manchester United could find themselves leaking a lot more goals.
Manchester United’s pre-season has been a disaster with Mourinho seemingly falling out with everyone, leading many to believe that this is the start of his ‘third season breakdown’.
Their attacking process has been extremely poor over the last few seasons, and this is expected to catch up with them this campaign – they look great value to finish outside of the top four at 23/10, given that Infogol gives them an 80.3% chance of doing so (equates to odds of 1/4).
Recommended Bet: Man United to finish outside the top 4 – 23/10
Of the three promoted clubs, only Cardiff are being mentioned with a swift return to the second tier, mainly due to the money spent by both Wolves and Fulham. The Infogol model concurs, but at 4/6 for Cardiff to go down, there is better value elsewhere.
Huddersfield surprised many by surviving in the Premier League last season, though, according to expected goals, they were very fortunate to do so.
They were the second-worst team in the league last season, with their main struggles coming in attack, where they had the lowest xG total in the division (34.6).
David Wagner doesn’t appear to have fixed this problem in the transfer market, and backing them at odds-against represents good value, with Infogol calculating that they have a 61.4% chance of going down (equates to around 8/13).
Recommended bet: Huddersfield to be relegated – 11/10
As has become apparent over recent years, apart from the top six, anyone can be relegated as there is very little between a lot of the sides.
Bournemouth have been on a downward trajectory over the last few years, but their bare results haven’t shown this.
They have overperformed their underlying stats in each of the last two seasons, and it may not be third time lucky for Eddie Howe’s side.
Last season they finished in the comfort of mid-table (12th) following a slow start, but according to performances and xPoints, they were in fact the fourth-worst team in the league.
There is work to be done for Bournemouth, and while they have made a few signings, it’s unlikely that their process will improve drastically.
The Infogol model calculates that they have around a 19.6% chance of going down (equates to around 4/1), so there is a small amount of value in backing the Cherries to be relegated.
Recommended Bet: Bournemouth to be relegated – 9/2
Handicap League Winner
In terms of a handicap bet, Crystal Palace lead the way.
They finished 11th on 44 points last season having given every team a seven-game head start thanks to some early-season problems.
Despite this, they were the seventh-best team in the league, and if they can keep their key players like Wilfried Zaha, there is no reason why they can’t kick on and finish higher this season.
After 10,000 simulations, Crystal Palace (+41 points) come out on top of the handicap table 50.7% of the time. Therefore the 14/1 about Roy Hodgson’s side looks great value.
Watford off +45 points also make some appeal, with the Hornets coming out on top 15.7% of the time. The key to their success is that they need stability for at least a full season.
Recommended Bet: Crystal Palace (+41) – 14/1
Last season’s Top Goalscorer gong went to Mohamed Salah after an extraordinary season in which he managed 32 goals – the most in Premier League history.
As we have become used to, Harry Kane was once again near the top of the scoring chart. The Tottenham front man is now one of the world’s best strikers, and he broke the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.
It is unsurprising to see these two players once again at the head of the betting given how far in front of everyone else they were last season.
Kane is the favourite, but the value play is definitely to back Salah to retain his crown. Salah had the highest xG per 90 in the league last season (0.76), and with Liverpool expected to have another goal-laden season, the Egyptian star looks a good bet.
Recommended Bet: Mohamed Salah – 11/2
- Man City/Liverpool Straight Forecast – 13/5
- Man United to finish outside the top 4 – 23/10
- Huddersfield to be relegated – 11/10
- Bournemouth to be relegated – 9/2
- Crystal Palace (+41) – 14/1
- Mohamed Salah Top Scorer – 11/2
*All odds correct at time of posting
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