The old saying ‘the table never lies’ tends, on the most part, to be untrue – and our friends at Infogol reckon they can prove it!
Infogol is a revolutionary football product powered by sophisticated expected goals (xG) models, and their xG Premier League table, which considers the quality of chances created by each team in each match, suggests some teams are in false positions.
Infogol use the expected goals created in a match to calculate expected points (xPoints), which are then used to determine a team’s expected position.
So, who should REALLY be top of the pile, and who deserves to be at the bottom. Let’s find out…
1. Liverpool (actual position 3rd)
Jurgen Klopp’s men set the pace in our early xG table, boasting the best underlying process in the league through eight matches (2.3 xGF, 1.4 xGA per game). They have been second best only twice this season according to expected goals, away at Aston Villa (xG: AVL 3.4 – 1.8 LIV), and at the Etihad this past Sunday (xG: MCI 1.5 – 1.2 LIV).
2. Tottenham (2nd)
Jose Mourinho has overseen a drastic transformation this season, as last term Spurs finished the campaign 13th in our xG table with a negative expected goal difference (-6.8 xGD), so their upturn should be lauded.
Only Liverpool have been better in attack than Spurs this season, with Harry Kane rightly stealing the headlines. If they continue performing at the same level, Spurs could really threaten a Premier League title, though their next six PL games will be crucial with trips to Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Liverpool and home games against Man City, Arsenal and Leicester.
3. Chelsea (5th)
It has taken a while, but Chelsea are beginning to look like as good as many expected they would this season, with their new signings beginning to gel. There was plenty of promise from an Infogol perspective surrounding Chelsea following the underlying numbers posted last season, and they are now trending towards those same levels. One of the big differences for Frank Lampard this season has been clinical finishing, netting 20 goals from chances equating to 13.8 xGF.
4. Leicester (1st)
They couldn’t do it again could they? While there are talks of a potential title challenge, pushing the top four will again be more likely this season, which I’m sure many Leicester fans would have taken at the start of the campaign. Brendan Rodgers’ side are higher than expected after eight games, but while their process is solid (1.8 xGF, 1.2 xGA per game), it is worth remembering that they have received eight penalties that have accounted for 44% of their xG total.
Averaging a penalty per game is surely unsustainable over the course of the season, isn’t it?
5. Brighton (16th)
Now comes the biggest shock in our xG table so far, as relegation candidates Brighton have performed like a top-six team through eight matches.
The Seagulls have been the most unfortunate team with results so far, with performances warranting more than the six points they have mustered. Their process of 1.5 xGF and 1.2 xGA per game would see them comfortably survive again this season if it is maintained.
It is also worth mentioning that Graham Potter’s side have also posted those impressive numbers having played Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham already.
6. Arsenal (11th)
It has been a turbulent opening eight games for Arsenal, who have won four and lost four – evenly split across home and away games.
They sit sixth based on xPoints, but their underlying process is of huge concern, with their xGD of +0.1 ranking 11th in the Premier League. The Gunners have serious issues in attack that need sorting if they are to push for a European spot again (1.3 xGF per game).
7. Aston Villa (6th)
Aston Villa’s start to the season has been ridiculously impressive after a relegation near-miss last term, and they sit seventh on xPoints despite having played a game fewer than 16 other teams, just highlighting how good their performances have been.
Dean Smith’s side continue their improvement from the back end of last season, and their process of 1.7 xGF and 1.2 xGA per game is that of a top-half team, so don’t be surprised to see them take a few more scalps this season, and perhaps secure a spot in the top 10.
8. Southampton (4th)
Southampton have been on a tear since losing their opening two matches, picking up 16 points from a possible 18 which is some run of form in the Premier League. Their results though have come via fine margins as opposed to impressive displays, which is why their xPoints aren’t perhaps higher so far, perfectly highlighted by their process (1.3 xGF, 1.2 xGA per game).
9. West Ham (12th)
In my opinion, West Ham have been one of the more impressive teams in the Premier League this season, and their expected position of ninth is exceptional given their schedule. David Moyes’ side have already played Arsenal, Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool – six of last season’s top eight – yet they are nowhere near the relegation zone.
Their process is that of a mid-table to top-half team (1.5 xGF, 1.3 xGA per game), for which Moyes deserves a tonne of credit.
10. Everton (7th)
Everton’s season can be broken down into before and after the last international break. They won their first four, then the break unsettled them, failing to win any of their following four, losing three.
Their process through four matches was worthy of them topping the league, but through eight matches, it has them around mid-table (1.6 xGF, 1.5 xGA per game). The Toffees need to improve drastically if they are to threaten a European berth.
11. Manchester City (10th)
Yep, you read that right. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have picked up the 11th most xPoints this season, and while they have played a game fewer, the underlying number juggernaut haven’t hit their heights yet.
The level shown by City is hugely concerning, as while their defensive process has been improving, their attacking numbers are really worrying, averaging just 1.5 xGF per game this season.
For perspective, in 19/20 City averaged 2.7 xGF per game, in 18/19 it was 2.4 xGF per game and their centurion season saw them rack up 2.3 xGF per game. They have so far fallen well short of their usual standards.
12. Leeds (15th)
Marcelo Bielsa’s side have been a breath of fresh air this season, with Leeds’ chaotic, gung-ho style meaning they are an entertaining team to follow.
They can create plenty of opportunities against any opponent (1.6 xGF per game), but boy are Leeds vulnerable defensively against every team too, ranking as the second worse defensive team in the league so far (1.8 xGA per game).
They should be fine in terms of relegation, but they will continue to be involved in high-scoring games.
13. Wolves (9th)
It’s been efficient as opposed to explosive from Wolves so far, as has been their way since arriving back in the Premier League, with them being fortunate to be in the top half at this stage.
Only West Brom and Burnley have been worse in attack this season than Wolves (1.1 xGF per game), and their defence hasn’t so far been as good as what we saw last season, allowing 1.4 xGA per game.
If they continue in the same manner, Wolves should struggle to replicate their back-to-back seventh-placed finishes.
14. Fulham (17th)
Perhaps another surprise is how high Fulham sit in the xG table, having looked dreadful on the eye-test so far this season. It is worth noting that most of their xPoints this season came in their win over West Brom though…
Process wise they have one thing going for them that their relegation rivals currently don’t, and that is that their attacking numbers show signs of promise (1.3 xGF per game). Nonetheless, their defensive process suggests it will still be a long season for the Cottagers (1.7 xGA per game).
15. Crystal Palace (8th)
It may come as no surprise to anyone who watches Crystal Palace that they sit low down in our xG table, as their defensive-minded approach means they don’t create much in the way of chances (1.2 xGF per game).
Their overall process is marginally worst than Fulham’s, which is slightly worrying as the season progresses, but that can be explained by the fact that when they win the xG battle, it is a narrow victory, and when they lose the xG battle they get blown out.
16. Newcastle (13th)
Steve Bruce’s side are also in the same ballpark as Palace and Fulham in terms of underlying numbers (1.2 xGF, 1.6 xGA per game), despite a few eye-catching results.
But among those decent results are plenty of poor performances yet fortunate results, notably at Tottenham (xG: TOT 3.5 – 1.1 NEW) and Wolves (xG: WOL 0.8 – 0.3 NEW), the kind of things that aren’t sustainable over the course of the season.
17. Manchester United (14th)
Based on performances so far this season, Manchester United should be even lower than the 14th position they currently occupy, though again, they have played a game fewer than 16 teams.
While they were extremely impressive at Goodison Park, overall Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have struggled to find a rhythm this season, perfectly shown by their negative xG process (1.4 xGF, 1.6 xGA per game).
Improvements are needed at United, but I still think they will come good, and the Infogol model does too, forecasting them to finish fourth.
18. Sheffield United (20th)
The current bottom three are all rightly there according to our xG table, but just in a different order.
Bottom side Sheffield United have struggled to find their mojo this season after a stellar first campaign, really struggling at both ends of the pitch (1.1 xGF, 1.7 xGA per game).
They have missed Dean Henderson, who over-performed massively for them last term, and they are lacking clinical finishing too, netting just four times from chances equating to 8.7 xGF. It is worth remembering that Chris Wilder’s side have had a tough schedule, but it will be a tough campaign nonetheless.
19. Burnley (19th)
Sean Dyche’s Burnley rightly occupy 19th spot, but like Manchester United they would likely sit a spot or two higher in our xG table if they had played an equal number of games.
The Clarets have been one of the best defensive teams in the league so far this season (1.2 xGA per game), but their issues have come at the other end of the pitch, averaging a measly 0.8 xGF per game.
Goals win games, and at the moment, Burnley aren’t creating enough to warrant winning many.
20. West Brom (18th)
West Brom have been exceptionally fortunate to have picked up three points so far this season, losing the xG battle in all eight matches, which is why they sit rock bottom of our xG table.
The Baggies have racked up more than 1.0 xGF just once this season, as they are on pace to set a new record for the worst attacking team, based on xG, since Infogol started collecting data in 2014. Slavan Bilic’s side are averaging just 0.6 xGF per game, which would see them smash the current record of 0.8 xGF per game set by Aston Villa in 2015/16.
Things aren’t much better at the other end of the pitch either, with West Brom holding the worst defensive process in the league (2.0 xGA per game), so they are rightly odds-on favourites to succumb to relegation.
- Some teams have played a game fewer, which explains why they are so low in both the actual and expected table.