What is xG and why should you care about it?

It’s nigh on impossible to pinpoint the moment a significant percentage of people stopped trusting experts in particular fields, and information on the whole for that matter.

Of course, that kind of mentality has worked out spectacularly for all of us, hasn't it?

Things are going absolutely great. Brexit has worked out perfectly and is a huge success. The process of getting through the recent global pandemic went entirely smoothly. The government has everything under control and our day-to-day lives are made easier thanks to them. Oh no, wait.

A small percentage of those people have always existed, but it seems as if there are now a lot more people threatened by gaining information.

Rejecting information willingly is surely a willingness to put yourself in a position of weakness. Which brings us to the topic at hand — data usage in football.

Most notably, the boogeyman that is xG.

What is xG?

A scary subject to some football fans, the admittedly poorly-named expected goals (xG) stat is just that — a stat.

Here’s Opta’s definition of it:

  • Expected Goals (xG) measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance.

A simple stat that quantifies the quality of chances created, something every football fan does week in, week out, only systemised for consistency as opposed to the armchair analysis we all attempt.

Granted, it’s not always good to use it as a tool to make your point, but the same can be said for every other stat. It is simply an extra piece of information to take into account and use to your advantage when used correctly.

Why should I care about xG?

It is worth caring about about xG because the industries that matter in this area care about it.

It is highly likely that the football team you support uses data to make better decisions in a number of departments. From recruitment to preparation to analysis, data is playing a bigger part in the beautiful game every season.

Perhaps most importantly for the purposes of xG figures being displayed on this website, though, data is used by bookmakers to build models for predictive purposes.

We can argue about how much of an actual edge can be gained by the bettor now, especially by using data, but having some knowledge of the way bookmakers form markets and reach prices can only help the cause.

So, don't be scared of big, bad data. Although it has long permeated football and changed the game forever, it is just another tool we can put in our bag.

After all, we are often condemned to use the same tools the enemy uses to defeat them.

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