Expected goals (xG), essentially, accounts for how likely a given attempt at goal is to go in. Adding the accumulated xG of individual chances throughout the game gives you a rough estimate of how deserving each team was of the goals they scored. Generally, this stat can tell you if a team is deserving of the results they are getting or not. All xG numbers referenced here are from Understat.com unless otherwise noted.
Last season, from the beginning of March on, Everton had more than 1.0 xG in a game only four times in ten games. This was the epitome of Allardyce ball - trying to ugly things up and praying that we were the ones that game out with the fortunate goal. By contrast, under Marco Silva, Everton has had more than 1 xG nine times in the last ten games. We are playing real football now.
A microcosm of the difference in play can be found in two separate 3-1 losses for the Toffees against Manchester City. On March 31st, we lost the xG battle 1.91-0.86. This year, we lost 1.80-1.68, and the improvement in our play was noticeable to anyone who watched both games. (Not every xG model is exactly the same. Some models actually had Everton winning the xG battle against City, and simply falling victim to better finishing.)
If every league game of Everton’s this season went exactly according to the xG prediction, with variances of less than 0.25 xG counted as draws, we would have 21 points. The reason for this is that despite our far improved offense, expected goals against (xGA) continues to suffer, making the differential between our xG and xGA extremely unimpressive.
The main culprit for this issue seems to be corners, where we have 1.94 xG and 4.31 xGA on the season. This of course brings to mind discussions about zonal marking and the issues with it all season. Everton is too able and athletic at the center back position to have this problem, yet here we are.
From open play, general set pieces, and direct free kicks, we outperform our opposition. The only other blip on the radar is that we are 1.28 xG below our expected return from the penalty spot, but those issues have already been discussed here at RBM.
On an individual basis, of players with at least 500 league minutes, it is Cenk Tosun who leads the team in expected goals per 90 minutes (xG/90) with Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson at second and third, Lucas Digne leads in expected assists per 90 minutes (xG/90) followed by Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bernard. (Without a minutes filter, Ademola Lookman leads this stat by a healthy margin. He is at 295 league minutes on the year.)
One other creative stat that I think is worth noting is xA per key pass. Key passes are essentially another term for chances created but what they don’t tell us by themselves is the quality of the chance. xA per key pass can tell us whether a player accumulates their xA numbers through sheer volume or by actually creating good chances. Lucas Digne is providing 0.13 xA/KP, Gylfi Sigurdsson is at 0.08 xA/KP, and Bernard is at 0.09 xA/KP.
Digne’s creativity has shocked me all year, because he was not nearly this creative at Barcelona, and I’m impressed once again by his lead here. For some perspective, David Silva of Manchester City averages 0.15 xA/KP and Mesut Ozil averages 0.10 xA/KP so Digne is falling in between excellent company, especially since generally speaking through balls from a central position produce higher xA than crosses from a fullback position do.
If we do something similar with xG per shot, Cenk Tosun comes out at 0.14 xG/shot, Richarlison produces 0.16 xG/shot, and Gylfi Sigurdsson is at 0.14 xG/shot. For reference, Mohamed Salah is at 0.17 xG/shot, and Pierre Emerick-Aubamayang is at an incredible 0.22 xG/shot.
This is all a focused look at only one aspect of the game. It isn’t intended to tell a full story, though it does give us some indicators as to the progress of this Everton project. Everton is currently 8th in xG produced, up from 11th last season. We are still only 10th in xGA, but considering we finished last season 16th in that stat we should probably accept progress where we can get it. (We’re actually giving up only 0.02 xGA less per game than we were last season, but the league as a whole has had higher xG this season so relative to our competition we have improved.)
Under Marco Silva, we’re moving in the right direction, and continued investment and improvement will have us back in Europe before too long according to our current trend.