Liam Kelly looks at xG trends outside the 'big six'
Liam Kelly looks at xG trends outside the 'big six'

Premier League: Expected goals (xG) trends from the 'other 14' clubs

Around-the-clock coverage of the so-called 'big six' clubs means we are inundated with information about those teams. The constant thirst for fresh, 'hot takes' is tedious, though.

In reality, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are, generally, who we thought they were entering the 2021/22 campaign.

Yes, Arsenal are bottom, but there are valid excuses for that, including schedule strength, injuries and COVID issues, while North London rivals Tottenham top the table — somewhat unjustifiably based on underlying numbers.

However, there is plenty going on from a data perspective in the shadow of the 'big six', traits that are interesting, informing and could help with our betting going forward.

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Let's start with a team that have shown up a fair few 'big six' teams in recent seasons...

Leicester struggling to create chances

Sitting on six points from their first three Premier League games, you could be forgiven for thinking all is well with the Foxes, but they deserve some scrutiny as to how they've started the season.

Brendan Rodgers' side have created an underwhelming total of 2.86 expected goals for (xGF) in fixtures against Wolves, West Ham and Norwich.

Granted, they were down to ten-men for the majority of the game against the Hammers, but Leicester hardly threatened at full strength, taking only two shots equating to 0.13 xG in 40 minutes.


Although they struggled in the same area in some periods during the 2020/21 season, there are no personnel concerns this time around, at least at that end of the pitch, with Harvey Barnes and James Maddison seemingly back to full fitness, and the squad left relatively untouched in the transfer window.

Leicester's injury problems are solely concentrated on the defensive side of the ball, so it will be interesting to see if attacking issues continue when bodies return to the backline. Perhaps Rodgers is looking to protect his shorthanded defence at the moment.

Brentford's strong defence translating to PL level

It's often difficult to predict how Championship teams will translate their form to the top-tier. However, the idea that Brentford could be defensively resolute at Premier League level was not farfetched.

Thomas Frank’s side conceded an average of 0.89 expected goals against (xGA) per game over the course of their promotion campaign. It would be near impossible for Brentford to repeat such incredible metrics this season, no matter how well they do, but they've given it a good go already.

Admittedly, three matches is a very small sample size, but the Bees will be buzzing with their defensive performances against Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.

Least expected goals against (xGA) | Premier League

Brentford have allowed chances equating to 2.65 expected goals against (xGA) across their first three Premier League games, a total only bettered by Manchester City and Everton.

Their upcoming schedule is difficult, but Frank's side will be very competitive based on early underlying numbers.

Penalties masking Aston Villa's issues

The obvious question hanging over Aston Villa prior to the new season was how they would deal with the loss of £100m man Jack Grealish to Manchester City.

Villa held a +7.0 xGD and averaged 1.75 points per game with Grealish in the starting line-up in 2020/21. Without their captain and talisman, they posted a -2.5 xGD and averaged 0.93 points per game.

The recruitment of Emi Buendía, Danny Ings and Leon Bailey to help fill the significant void was met with almost wholesale praise, but Dean Smith's men have found it hard to carve out scoring opportunities, especially if we exclude the two spot-kicks dispatched.

Aston Villa's non-penalty shot map | Premier League 2021/22

Villa have created only 0.62 non-penalty xG per game on average, despite facing a relatively easy duo of Watford and Newcastle, and the aforementioned Brentford. In fact, from the 26 non-penalty shots Villa have taken in those matches, the top three chances in terms of xG have come from set-piece situations.

They face Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United and Tottenham in their next four fixtures, hardly a slate you would select if you want to improve a poor attacking process.

When will Wolves score?

Wolves are a team of great interest across the football analytics community. Bruno Lage's side sit in the relegation zone after losing every game by a goal to nil, despite impressing in all three.

They've allowed an average of 0.99 xGA per game, but their shocking finishing is the standout stat of the season so far, failing to score from chances equating to 6.03 xG.

Highlighting the unlikelihood of Wolves’ barren spell, Infogol's model indicates that the probability of the average team scoring zero goals from 6.03 xG is a tiny 0.24%.

Wolves' goal probability from 6.03 xG

As a matter of fact, our calculations suggest that the Old Gold notching 14 goals would have been almost as likely (0.23%) as them scoring none.

Based on the forecast finishing position of Wolves' opposition in the next six fixtures, they encounter the easiest upcoming schedule of any team in the Premier League.

That should represent a perfect opportunity for Wolves to finally score a goal and vault themselves up to a more deserving position (currently third on Infogol's expected points table).


Honorable mentions

Crystal Palace are a team to keep an eye on under Patrick Vieira. They've performed well defensively, averaging 1.17 xGA per game, and Vieira's plan to add more attacking flair to their game was on display in their most recent 2-2 draw at West Ham, creating 1.71 xG.

Norwich could hardly have been handed a tougher start to the season, facing Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester in their opening three matches, predictably losing each game. The -9 goal difference is harsh, though, posting a -2.4 xGD in those games. With a few winnable fixtures on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how the Canaries fare.

Sean Dyche may have a problem on his hands. Burnley started slowly last season, too, but the Clarets are in big trouble if their defensive numbers continue on the same trajectory. Dyche's side have conceded 2.00 xGA per game on average this season, often the strength of his limited squad.

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