February 7, 2023

Jose Guardiola
Manchester City tops the list of expected goals with an expected goal difference of 17

With the Premier League poised to return, the table is easier to read for some clubs than others, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of how teams are doing so far.

While results are of course most important, form can be temporary and luck can be fickle in football, so looking under the hood at a team’s expected goals scored shows just how much permanent class they’ve shown to date and how the rest of their season could turn out.

Expected goals by Premier League teams for a counter image

Not surprising, Manchester City the most dominant team in the Premier League this season. That said, the champions weren’t as dominant as last season – their projected goal difference has fallen from 1.9 per game to 1.2 – and relied more on Erling Haaland’s excellent efficiency.

This could be good news for Arsenalwho are not only ahead of the league champions, but also within arm’s reach of them in terms of expected goals, showing that the Gunners are not only in good form at the start of the season, but actually have the foundations for a potential title challenge.

Newcastle’s impressive rise under Eddie Howe has also been built on solid ground, with the North East club deservedly in the top four alongside Tottenhamwho have themselves made a strong start to the season despite their unease about their style of play.

While Liverpool still having one of the best offenses, their defense was relatively poor for a team of their calibre. While their defense relied on giving up few high-quality chances to the opposition last season, the Reds have averaged the highest chances in the league so far this season.

Eddie Hoe
Eddie Howe’s Newcastle are rightfully in the top four after an impressive start to the season

Roberto de Zerbi’s failure to get the ball off the green in his first few games made it appear that Roberto de Zerbi had come to a complete standstill Brighton‘s fantastic start to the season under Graham Potter, but the Seagulls remain a good team under new management.

Western Ham have been better than the table suggests as they still have one of the best defenses in the league. While their attack was pretty average, they should have scored more with the chances they’ve had, so expect them to get up the table once they find their shooting boots.

While Manchester United have improved steadily after their poor start to the season, stealing games rather than dominating them so far. That’s not the most reliable way to win games in the long run, so they’ll need to keep improving if they want to compete for the top four.

A string of bad results put a lot of pressure on Jesse March a few months ago, but Lead have actually performed as a mid-table team under him this season.

Brentford have never really been in any significant danger of relapsing in their first season in the Premier League and so far it looks like it will be a similar story this time around.

Goal difference of Premier League teams vs expected goal difference

While better teams tend to exceed their expected targets and worse teams underperform, there’s only so far they can get away before xG pulls them out

Aston Villa were actually pretty average this season under Steven Gerrard, but a poor streak in front of goal and high expectations eventually cost him his job, with Unai Emery inheriting a better team than the results suggested.

With the focus on Manchester United’s abysmal start and Liverpool’s leaky defence, it has gone under the radar just how badly Chelsea have been, under both Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter. While it is too early in Potter’s reign to draw any conclusions, this will be a ‘transition season’ for the Blues with no significant improvement.

After a truly terrible start, Leicester improved their performance to get away from the bottom of the table, though the turnaround may not have been as remarkable as the results have shown.

Despite one sitting in the middle of the table and the others in the bottom two, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Southampton were quite similar in terms of overall performance, with limited attacks but relatively solid defenses. Wolves should be scoring more and Southampton conceding less as the season progresses, but there is little room for error.

FulhamThe brutal survival strategy of the hope that their Aleksandar Mitrovic-led attack can make up for their poor defense is working so far. While they don’t give away the most chances in the league, only Liverpool give away better chances. It goes without saying that Mitrovic has to stay fit.

Though they deserve to be at the bottom of the table, Nottingham Forest have been better than their worst goal difference of -19 suggests.

Jordan Pickford’s good form disguises how poor he is Everton have been defensive this season so the Toffees need to improve or hope the England number one maintains his form all season. A consistent series of games for Dominic Calvert-Lewin could also improve things on the other side.

Although Bournemouth were the worst side in terms of expected goals, their performance under Gary O’Neil has steadily improved. Whether fully deserved or not, the Cherries have 16 points in the bank and with new owners there may now also be money in them to improve the squad in January.

The table sometimes lies

The actual Premier League table is all that really matters, of course, but an alternate table based on expected goals could show where it might be lying to us a bit. Awarding a win to teams that outscored their opponents by a third of an expected goal allows us to see a realistic-looking table of results…

Pos Team P W D L xGD Ptn
1 Man City 14 10 3 1 17 33
2 Arsenal 14 10 3 1 15 33
3 Newcastle 15 9 2 4 10 29
4 Tottenham 15 9 2 4 8 29
5 Brighton 14 8 4 2 6 28
6 Liverpool 14 6 6 2 5 24
7 Brentford 15 7 3 5 0 24
8 Aston Villa 15 7 3 5 -2 24
9 Western Ham 15 6 5 4 4 23
10 Man Utd 14 5 7 2 2 22
11 Lead 14 5 5 4 0 20
12 Southampton 15 4 5 6 -6 17
13 Fulham 15 5 2 8 -9 17
14 Leicester 15 4 4 7 -5 16
15 Chelsea 14 4 3 7 -4 15
16 Crystal Palace 14 3 3 8 -5 12
17 Wolves 15 3 2 10 -4 11
18 Nott’m Forest 15 2 5 8 -9 11
19 Everton 15 2 2 11 -10 8
20 Bournemouth 15 1 3 11 -13 6

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