What would the Premier League table look like based on expected goals?

Most Premier League clubs are already close to their final position by the halfway mark of a season. So far, 192 of 380 games have been played – by this stage last year, no side went up or down more than four places. Over half the league moved no more than one place.

A way of examining which teams are most likely to move is by creating a table using Opta’s expected goals model. Last season, this table suggested Southampton and Everton had overachieved most – both subsequently dropped down the table over the second half of the campaign, with Southampton taking fewer points than any side.

Chelsea ranked as one of the biggest underachievers, dominating matches enough to have secured far more points. Only Manchester City went on to take more points over the second half of the season.

Brighton and Sheffield United also had far better underlying numbers by the halfway stage. Though neither dramatically leapt up the table, both secured a healthier return of points over the following months.

So how does this season’s table look?

The ‘xG table of dominance’ rewards sides who dominate their games, by creating high-quality chances and limiting opportunities for their opponents.

Title race ramifications

In terms of the title, the slightly daunting prospect for the rest of the Premier League is that Manchester City appear even more imperious.

Pep Guardiola’s side have recorded a higher xG than their opponent in 19 of 21 matches, and have only been outscored 0.01 and 0.09 respectively in those other two games.

Liverpool and Chelsea remain a cut above every other team, but Liverpool are arguably unfortunate not to be clear of Chelsea in second.

Overachievers set to fall?

Wolves, Leicester and Manchester United stand out as sides with more points than their performances have warranted. For Wolves, much of that has been down to the form of goalkeeper Jose Sa.

The summer signing has the best save percentage of any Premier League stopper, as well as the joint-highest xG prevented return. While it’s entirely possible he maintains these standards, any reduction, even to an average return, is likely to slow his side’s European charge.

Leicester’s success has predominantly been at the other end of the pitch, where they have the Premier League’s best shot conversion but rank merely 13th for average shots per game. They have also found the target with a higher percentage of shots than any side.

This effectiveness has helped cover up the fact that only Burnley average more shots conceded per game than Leicester.

Defensive issues have also been the area of concern for Manchester United, with only the bottom five clubs and Leicester averaging more shots faced – something David de Gea’s form has helped mask.

Underachievers set to rise?

While no team comes close to Brighton’s considerable underperformance last season, Crystal Palace’s return suggests they are the side most unfortunate not to be higher up the table.

Their primary success has been at the back, where they rank as a top-five defence, in terms of xG against per game. The Eagles have also been the poorest side at set-pieces this season, conceding seven goals more than they have scored – the division’s worst differential.

If Patrick Vieira’s men can improve this, while maintaining their current performance levels, this should change over the second half of the season.


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