After his side had been comprehensively beaten 3-1 and outplayed by Manchester City in October, notoriously good in defeat Arsene Wenger explained that “If you look at the expected goals, it was 0.7 for them and 0.6 for us”. Wenger’s bizarre justification for his team’s defeat was typical of a man searching for an excuse apart from his team’s poor performance, however also highlighted the level of influence ‘expected goals’ (ExG) is having at the highest level of football.
If the metric is a valid statistic for the manager of Arsenal, and many other clubs around Europe, then surely it can be useful for FPL bosses looking for those marginal gains.
After analysing around 300,000 shots, OPTA has managed to assign a numerical value to the likelihood of every shot in the Premier League going in. Some factors when calculating the ExG include the shot’s distance from goal, angle of the strike, whether it was a one on one or a header etc. ExG is a good way of seeing if a team’s performance matches up with the actual scoreline.
It’s use for Fantasy managers may not be in seeing which of your players are outperforming their ExG and should subsequently be transferred out, yet instead looking at the underlying statistics to see which player is due a big gameweek haul. As the metric doesn’t take into account who is shooting, your top goalscorers like Kane (14.5 ExG), Salah (14.1 ExG), and Sterling (8.5 ExG) will always overperform, as their scoring ability and shooting accuracy are better than most. Therefore just because they’re significantly outperforming their ExG, doesn’t mean they’re due a barren run and you should look to flog.
Therefore the value can come when analysing those players who have been underperforming in front of goal all season…
Richarlison (6.4), is owned by 16% of players and after his explosive start where he chalked up 5 goals in 12 games, he hasn’t scored since November 19th. However, after watching him seemingly miss a sitter every week on Match of the Day, his ExG is unsurprisingly valued at 9.3. This means there is a four-goal discrepancy between the number of goals he has scored, and the amount he should have scored. Added to this, the 20 year-old is averaging 3 shots per game – which is the 7th highest in the league. The midfielder is surely due a big points haul in the coming weeks as there is only so long a professional footballer can go on missing chances most Sunday League footballers would be embarrassed by.
Big things were expected of Arsenal’s marquee summer signing Alexandre Lacazette, however, the forward has struggled to adapt to the pace of the division. His underlying statistics suggest that his 8 goals scored this campaign are a touch shy of his ExG which currently stands at 9.5. The problem for the Frenchman is he just not getting enough shots away. 2.2 shots per game for a number nine at a club like Arsenal is simply not enough when compared to Harry Kane (5.9 spg) and Sergio Aguero (3.9 spg). I think it’s a case of his teammates playing to his strengths and getting the ball to his feet more often. Therefore expect Lacazette’s goal per game to improve as the season progresses.
Tom Ince (5.5) has surprising started 21 games this season, despite the 25 year-old having had an extremely quiet Premier League campaign so far scoring his first goal two weeks ago against Stoke. Although not an appealing option so far, Ince’s ExG is actually at 4.4, with him averaging 2.2 shots per game, which puts him above players like Eden Hazard, Dele Alli and Sadio Mane. With West Ham (H) and a ropey looking Stoke (A) side coming up in Huddersfield’s next two games, Ince could be an interesting differential as he is only owned by an extremely low 0.5%.
The use of ExG is not going to revolutionise your decision making however it adds another interesting component when making those difficult transfers. For me, the statistic holds more value than the overly complicated creativity, threat and influence index that the official game included last year. It will be intriguing to see if there is a relationship between expected goals and Fantasy Football in the near future as this new statistic infiltrates its way into common football lingo.