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EPL Week 7 Preview

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Eddie Howe might #actually be bad.

Birmingham City v AFC Bournemouth - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Here are the latest numbers through six rounds of the 2017-18 Premier League.

Attacking

Attacking Numbers

Team xG Shots Shots/Match xG/Shot
Team xG Shots Shots/Match xG/Shot
Arsenal 9.9 95 15.83333333 0.1042105263
Bournemouth 3.7 53 8.833333333 0.06981132075
Brighton 3.6 46 7.666666667 0.07826086957
Burnley 4.1 55 9.166666667 0.07454545455
Chelsea 7.2 84 14 0.08571428571
Crystal Palace 6 78 13 0.07692307692
Everton 6.3 54 9 0.1166666667
Huddersfield 3.6 65 10.83333333 0.05538461538
Leicester 7.7 59 9.833333333 0.1305084746
Liverpool 12.1 119 19.83333333 0.1016806723
Man City 16 116 19.33333333 0.1379310345
Man United 13.2 101 16.83333333 0.1306930693
Newcastle 8.7 81 13.5 0.1074074074
Southampton 6.2 80 13.33333333 0.0775
Stoke 5.1 72 12 0.07083333333
Swansea 4.5 41 6.833333333 0.1097560976
Tottenham 10.1 120 20 0.08416666667
Watford 6.4 62 10.33333333 0.1032258065
WBA 5.2 58 9.666666667 0.08965517241
West Ham 6 71 11.83333333 0.08450704225

In chart form:

xG through round six 2017-18 epl

Defending

Defensive Numbers

Team xGA Shots Against Shots/Match xGA/Shot
Team xGA Shots Against Shots/Match xGA/Shot
Arsenal 8 65 10.83333333 0.1230769231
Bournemouth 10.2 90 15 0.1133333333
Brighton 7.8 79 13.16666667 0.09873417722
Burnley 8.4 121 20.16666667 0.0694214876
Chelsea 4.5 65 10.83333333 0.06923076923
Crystal Palace 10.7 80 13.33333333 0.13375
Everton 7.4 85 14.16666667 0.08705882353
Huddersfield 5.2 67 11.16666667 0.0776119403
Leicester 8.1 108 18 0.075
Liverpool 8.5 52 8.666666667 0.1634615385
Man City 3.3 41 6.833333333 0.08048780488
Man United 5.4 57 9.5 0.09473684211
Newcastle 5.8 63 10.5 0.09206349206
Southampton 6.9 71 11.83333333 0.09718309859
Stoke 9.3 74 12.33333333 0.1256756757
Swansea 9.5 108 18 0.08796296296
Tottenham 4.7 54 9 0.08703703704
Watford 7.8 80 13.33333333 0.0975
WBA 5.1 82 13.66666667 0.06219512195
West Ham 8.4 81 13.5 0.1037037037

In chart form:

xGA through round six 2017-18 epl

Goal Differential

Goal Differential

Team xG GF xGA GA xGD GD
Team xG GF xGA GA xGD GD
Arsenal 9.9 9 8 8 1.9 1
Bournemouth 3.7 4 10.2 11 -6.5 -7
Brighton 3.6 5 7.8 7 -4.2 -2
Burnley 4.1 6 8.4 5 -4.3 1
Chelsea 7.2 12 4.5 5 2.7 7
Crystal Palace 6 0 10.7 13 -4.7 -13
Everton 6.3 4 7.4 11 -1.1 -7
Huddersfield 3.6 5 5.2 3 -1.6 2
Leicester 7.7 9 8.1 12 -0.4 -3
Liverpool 12.1 12 8.5 11 3.6 1
Man City 16 21 3.3 2 12.7 19
Man United 13.2 17 5.4 2 7.8 15
Newcastle 8.7 6 5.8 5 2.9 1
Southampton 6.2 4 6.9 5 -0.7 -1
Stoke 5.1 5 9.3 10 -4.2 -5
Swansea 4.5 3 9.5 7 -5 -4
Tottenham 10.1 10 4.7 5 5.4 5
Watford 6.4 9 7.8 10 -1.4 -1
WBA 5.2 4 5.1 6 0.1 -2
West Ham 6 6 8.4 13 -2.4 -7

A chart showing xGD v GD. (Reminder: A negative value indicates that a team’s actual results are worse than xG would expect. A positive value indicates that team’s actual results are better than xG would expect. Values further from zero indicate more extreme deviation from xG. Values closer to zero indicate less pronounced deviation.)

xGD v GD

Expected Points

One more new toy this week: With major help from the CFC writers room, I’ve created a fairly basic formula to calculate expected points based on expected goal differential. This is the formula I’m using: (52/38*6)+(2/3*xGD)

52 is a rough average number of points won in a typical 38 game season across the entire division. There’s some variation in that from year-to-year, of course, but it’s a basically acceptable number. (As I said, this is a fairly basic formula.) 52/38 gives us an average point value per match. We multiply by six because there have been six fixtures so far. 2/3*xGD is the value suggested by multiple people in the writer’s room. When I ran the numbers, it seemed to hold up pretty well.

Here is the expected points table:

Expected Points

Team xG xGA xGD Expected Points Actual Points
Team xG xGA xGD Expected Points Actual Points
Man City 16 3.3 12.7 16.67719298 16
Man United 13.2 5.4 7.8 13.41052632 16
Tottenham 10.1 4.7 5.4 11.81052632 11
Liverpool 12.1 8.5 3.6 10.61052632 11
Newcastle 8.7 5.8 2.9 10.14385965 9
Chelsea 7.2 4.5 2.7 10.01052632 13
Arsenal 9.9 8 1.9 9.477192982 10
WBA 5.2 5.1 0.1 8.277192982 8
Leicester 7.7 8.1 -0.4 7.943859649 4
Southampton 6.2 6.9 -0.7 7.743859649 8
Everton 6.3 7.4 -1.1 7.477192982 7
Watford 6.4 7.8 -1.4 7.277192982 11
Huddersfield 3.6 5.2 -1.6 7.143859649 9
West Ham 6 8.4 -2.4 6.610526316 4
Brighton 3.6 7.8 -4.2 5.410526316 7
Stoke 5.1 9.3 -4.2 5.410526316 5
Burnley 4.1 8.4 -4.3 5.343859649 9
Crystal Palace 6 10.7 -4.7 5.077192982 0
Swansea 4.5 9.5 -5 4.877192982 5
Bournemouth 3.7 10.2 -6.5 3.877192982 3

I have also created a table that shows difference between a team’s position in the table according to expected points versus a team’s actual position in the table. The teams are listed in order of their position in the actual league table.

Negative values indicate a team’s actual position is below their expected position. Positive values indicate a team’s actual position is above their expected position. So, for example, both Spurs and Liverpool are one place lower in the table than they would be expected to be using the formula above. At the foot of the table, Palace is two places lower than you’d expect based on xG while Bournemouth is actually one place above where xG would expect them to be.

xp table v actual table round 6 2017-18 epl

Highlights from the Data

I’m going to just make a couple quick observations before looking at this weekend’s fixtures.

First, don’t look now, but Bournemouth may be in trouble. Their transfer business the past two seasons has been bad and it may be starting to catch up with them. Eddie Howe’s men are currently 19th in the league and xG says even that is over-valuing them. Last year they brought in Lewis Cook and Jordon Ibe, both of whom are yet to make an impression, while selling Matt Ritchie, a serviceable wide man now back in the Premier League at Newcastle who already has four assists this season.

This past summer wasn’t any better. They spent £30m on Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic while signing Jermain Defoe on a free and promptly inking him to a three-year contract paying him £130,000 a week. They didn’t sell any players of note, fortunately, but splashing out that sort of cash on a past-his-prime striker, an average utility defender, and a goalkeeper who hasn’t been a starter for several seasons is... questionable, to say the least.

Presumably Huddersfield and Brighton will both begin to dip a bit given how bad their attacks are. But, then again, Bournemouth’s attacking numbers are just about as bad and their defensive numbers are far worse than either newly promoted side. Crystal Palace has dug themselves a big hole, but their underlying numbers are far stronger than Bournemouth’s. Even hapless Swansea looks roughly comparable to the Cherries.

To be sure, it’s still early days. And Bournemouth has had a more difficult schedule so far, having already hosted Manchester City and traveled to Arsenal and Everton. Even so, there is plenty to be worried about if you’re a Bournemouth supporter.

Second, this may be the best Newcastle team since the 2011-12 squad that finished fifth in the league. This team likely won’t be as much fun to watch as that squad was, given that they don’t have an in-his-prime Yohan Cabaye running things in midfield and are not getting back-to-back career year performances from Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse up top. But the xG numbers really like Rafa Benitez’s side. They defend extremely well, only four teams give up fewer shots per match than Newcastle, and the average quality of the shots they concede is comparable to Spurs or Manchester United.

A Europa League charge is probably too much to ask, but if Everton and Southampton continue to struggle and if the Premier League gets three Europa places, perhaps Newcastle could sneak in. We should also expect that bigger clubs will begin courting Rafa Benitez again, especially if club owner Mike Ashley continues to not provide the Spaniard with the resources he wants in the transfer market.

Third, Arsenal have, somewhat quietly, appeared to stabilize. The looming departure of Alexis and quite possibly Mesut Ozil as well is still a major cause for concern, but the Gunners are currently sitting seventh in the table and boast a strong attack, probably the fifth best in the top flight. Defense still needs sorting out, of course, but this week’s win against West Bromwich Albion was solid and given the quality of Alexis we should expect Arsenal to probably win a few matches that xG does not expect them to win. So if they can slide into a solid sixth-best spot per xG and then get a little lucky, they may be able to fight their way into the battle for Champions League football.

Week Seven Preview

It’s going to get even worse for Crystal Palace.

After an absolute belting from league leaders Man City, the Eagles are now headed to Old Trafford. If they lose, they would match the 2009-10 Portsmouth team that got relegated at season’s end for the worst start in league history. And here’s the scary thing if you’re an Eagles supporter: After the trip to Old Trafford, they host Chelsea at Selhurst Park on October 14. After that, they travel to Newcastle on the 21st. So after facing title chasers United, they host the defending champions and solid pick for top four before traveling to play what may be the best team in the division outside the traditional big six. It is entirely possible that they will begin the season with nine consecutive defeats.

Match day 10 has them hosting West Ham on October 28, which is a fixture they can probably win. But after that, they travel to Wembley to play Spurs on November 5, another very difficult fixture.

In other words, it is not at all difficult to imagine a scenario where Palace head into the November international break with three points from their first eleven fixtures. It’s hard to see a way back from a deficit like that.

Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object

The weekend’s signature tie is Chelsea hosting Manchester City in the late kickoff on Saturday. The big question is how City’s league-best attack will handle Chelsea’s elite defense. Here are the numbers: City is third in the league in shots taken per match, but their average shot quality is far superior to both of their rivals in shot volume, Liverpool and Tottenham. City takes 19.33 shots per match. Liverpool take 19.83, and Spurs take 20. But while Liverpool averages .1016 xG/shot, and Spurs average .0841, City averages an insane .1379 xG/shot, which is best in the league.

Chelsea, on the other end, concede only 10.833 shots per match with an average xG value of .0692 per shot, which is basically level with Burnley and West Bromwich Albion as best in the division. So which side will crack? When we compare Chelsea’s attack (good but not great) with City’s defense (amongst the league’s best) the odds would seem to favor Pep Guardiola’s side. But Antonio Conte is one of the world’s best managers and he knows how to protect his goal. There may not be many goals this weekend, but there should be plenty of intrigue at Stamford Bridge.

Is Newcastle actually good?

The numbers so far suggest that Rafa Benitez’s side may be the best team in the league outside the traditional big six. That said, those numbers are slightly inflated by a very weak schedule so far. Besides the opening week match with Spurs, Newcastle have so far traveled to Huddersfield, hosted West Ham, visited Swansea, hosted Stoke, and faced Brighton on the road. It’s not exactly murderer’s row. Indeed, three of the five teams they’ve faced since match day one may be in relegation trouble at season’s end.

So this makes Sunday’s home tie with Liverpool an interesting one. For the third week in a row, the Reds are facing a team that is excellent at limiting quality looks at goal. But, unlike Burnley (who they drew against) and Leicester (who they beat despite losing on xG), Newcastle is also good at living shot quantity. So Jurgen Klopp’s side are facing another defensive challenge that should ask some questions of their elite attack.

Going the other way, you have to like Newcastle’s chances of manufacturing chances against a ropey Liverpool defense.

One more angle: A big weekend for Tottenham

Spurs kick off the weekend’s slate of games with a visit to newly promoted Huddersfield. With Chelsea or City certain to drop points and with Liverpool having a tricky fixture to navigate on Sunday, this could be a big weekend for Spurs to pick up some points on their fellow Champions League contenders. And, of course, a draw or defeat would be a major set back.