Infogol’s Jake Osgathorpe uses Expected Goals (xG) to analyze the Premier League campaign so far, assessing the teams at the top of the league, the early relegation battle and what we can expect for the rest of the season .
Key trends in the Premier League
Has Manchester City taken a step back in attack?
Manchester City have so far struggled to produce a fluid attacking football that has made them a threat for the past four years.
After seven games last season, City had scored 27 goals. This period, only six Premier League teams have scored less than their total of ten. It’s not the kind of shape they might have hoped for as they seek to claim the league title.
However, it is not just a lack of clinical finish. Infogol data shows that they are not creating opportunities at the same rate either. Their expected goals return this season is only 10.7 xGF and they are averaging only 1.53 xGF per game. This is his worst attack process since Guardiola took office. To put that in perspective, in their first season, they averaged 2.14 xGF per set and it was smooth sailing for the next three seasons. They really seem to have taken a step back.
Manchester City xGF per game per season with Pep Guardiola
After finishing 18 points behind Liverpool but scoring 102 goals, Guardiola highlighted his defense as the area to improve. In an attempt to toughen up defensively, it may have had a negative impact on his attacking threat.
The City players also had a shorter preseason than some of their title rivals due to Champions League matches at the end of last season. Manchester United’s neighbors also had an extended 2019/20 campaign due to European football commitments and have yet to find their rhythm.
When there is a shortage of goals you have to look at the forwards and, to be fair to City, they have been without Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesús for most of this season’s games. This has also resulted in a change in system and tactics. While Jesús scored in his last appearance against Liverpool, Aguero should be available to face Tottenham Hotspur, so if City can start creating opportunities, he should be able to really start his season.
Brighton should trust the process
Brighton & Hove Albion have started the season similar to how they finished the last and have struggled to win.
With just one win in eight games, they are three points above the relegation zone, and unless they find some way, many are tipping them as relegation candidates.
However, the xG data suggests that they should have accumulated more points and won the xG battle in five of his eight league games.
Brighton 2020/21 Premier League Results
Based on the expected points (xPoints), they should be in fifth place. They are sixth in terms of expected goal difference (+2,4 xGD) and they have an underlying process from a team that we would expect to see in the upper half (1.50 xGF, 1.20 xGA per set).
If the club can keep faith in Graham Potter and they continue to produce this level of performance, they should finish in the middle of the table rather than find themselves in a fight for relegation.
Don’t get carried away by Tottenham’s improvement
José Mourinho’s team is second in the league and fans have been discussing a possible title challenge.
Tottenham Hotspur’s form in the second half of last season did not suggest that they could challenge Liverpool with an underlying process of 1.41 xGF and 1.54 xGA per set in 2019/20 after Mourinho took office, but they are second based on xG data this season.
Tottenham Rolling xG average 2019/20 to present
Mourinho is leading them in the right direction and now they are averaging 2.15 xGF and 1.23 xGA per set.
However, it might still be too early to call them serious contenders. Tottenham have had the easiest opening streak of matches in the Premier League.
Average Prediction Position of Faced Opponents – Premier League 20/21
Fans will be happy with the improvements, but those underlying numbers could have been inflated by the quality of the opponents they have faced. We’ll get a better idea of the level Spurs really are at after the next six games.
The average forecast position of your next six opponents is 5.5.
They play against Manchester City (h), Chelsea (a), Arsenal (h), Crystal Palace (a) and Liverpool (a) before hosting Leicester City. They also have Europa League matches in the top four of those matches.
Infogol calculates that they should collect 7.4 xPoints in the next six games, while Liverpool are expected to accumulate 12.5 xPoints, Manchester City 12.9, Chelsea 11.2, Manchester United 11.3 and Arsenal 8.7. The league table could look very different for Spurs after those games.
Premier League Relegation Mini-League
There has yet to be a standout team in the title race, but, at the other end of the table, the battle for relegation is already beginning to take shape.
Of the last four clubs, only Fulham have managed a win so far this season, although they have also lost six of eight games. Sheffield United, Burnley and West Brom currently occupy the relegation places and they will need to find some way to score goals if they want to climb the table as they are also the three worst attacking teams in the league.
Only West Ham had a tougher eight-game start than Sheffield United, so you can see why the bookies are backing them to stay on top.
Burnley has played one game less than the other teams around him and if they win that, they will come out of the bottom three. Sean Dyche’s team is still determined on defense (1.2 xGA per game) but is really struggling in attack (0.80 xGF per game) and ranks 19th on the Infogol. mesa xG.
Fulham has been the best performer based on xPoints for the past four current, ranking fifth from the bottom in the xG table, but Scott Parker’s team has had the third-easiest match streak in the league, while his the following six rank as the second hardest program.
West Bromwich Albion have been the worst team in the Premier League this season and by far. They have a ridiculous attack process (0.60 xGF per set) and possess the worst defensive process in the league (1.98 xGA per game). Only once did the Slaven Bilic team create more than 1.0 xGF in a single game. They seem to be in big trouble.
West Brom 20/21 Premier League results
These four sides occupy the bottom four positions in our forecast table; it is it’s going to be a long season for all of them.
Leicester and Southampton prepare to stop
While the Big Six have lost unexpected points so far, Leicester and Southampton have looked clinical and are knocking down two of the Champions League places, with the Foxes at the top of the league and Southampton in fourth.
Brendan Rodgers’ team got off to a good start last season and were promoted as surprise title challengers until Christmas.
At first glance, your process is good. (1.81 xGF, 1.24 xGA per set), but they have been awarded eight penalties so far, greatly increasing their xGF.
% xGF from penalties in 20/21 Premier League
That means 44% of Leicester’s total xGF this season came from penalties, a colossal amount compared to the rest of the league. Sheffield United is in second place with 28%.
They are averaging only 1.01 xGF without stylus per set and they will not be awarded penalties at the same rate throughout the entire season.
Southampton they have managed to get ahead in some tight matches that have accumulated sixteen points.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s team ranks eighth by xPoints, with his xGD only +0.4 which places them tenth in the Premier League. They are flattered to be fourth, and the process perfectly demonstrates how their matches tend to be tough affairs (1.25 xGF, 1.18 xGA per game).
Expect both Leicester and Southampton to drop the chart and break out of the top four unless they improve on their underlying process.