Footballers don’t have it easy. Unlike other professions, just about anyone with an internet connection can find out how well footballers should be doing their jobs. Imagine if those who work in admin were subject to the same scrutiny. Suddenly poor Jonathan who works on reception is being hauled into the office because he’s underperforming on his xWordsPerMinute and xTeasMade.
Though it might make life harder for the footballer, it’s a blessing for the FPL manager. Using underlying stats, we can get a much more accurate idea of which players are punching above their weight and which are overdue a decent FPL haul.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what’s happened in the underlying department so far this season to deduce what may happen in upcoming gameweeks.
Spare a thought for the underperformer
Contrary to popular belief, the aim of looking at underlying stats isn’t to bask in the glory of those players overperforming their numbers. It’s actually to spot the ones who are underperforming and act accordingly.
Based on this criteria, Marcus Rashford and Sebastien Haller are worth discussing. The pair are the only two players in the top 10 for xG who actually could be doing better.
In Rashford’s case, much of that can be explained by the fact he missed a penalty in Gameweek 3. Haller, however, is a more intriguing case. West Ham’s marquee signing has a better xG than the likes of Pukki, Firmino and Kane. The forward has had a tough run of fixtures, but could profit from a kinder run in the next few gameweeks.
The year of the fullbacks?
Remember when premium defenders were popular? That was a simpler time.
One of them still is: Trent Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool’s right-back has 4 attacking returns in 6 games so far this season; a fact reflected by his impressive xA.
The others, however? Not so much. Indeed, there’s only one other fullback on the xA table: César Azpilacueta. No Robertson, no Lucas Digne, no Chilwell, no Doherty. It’s a sorry sight for anyone who gambled on the popular “big-at-the-back” approach.
Mane vs Salah
Forget Brexit or proroguing parliament; the most intensive debate gripping the nation at the moment is undoubtedly whether Mane or Salah is the best FPL asset.
The pair both have 4 goals after 6 games this season, and yet Sadio Mane is nowhere to be found on the xG table. Go on – have another look.
The Senegalese does scrape into the xA table: a feat that his Egyptian colleague hasn’t managed yet, but his poor underlying stats don’t bode well for his FPL ownership.
At just £1.0m more, Salah’s superior underlying form might just settle the debate for the time being.
Man City will never lose again
For those of you who were expecting Liverpool to run away with the title this season, I’m afraid I’ve got news for you: Manchester City are never going to lose again. I’m sorry, but according to the underlying stats, it’s true.
The only thing more ridiculous than City’s average xG per game (3.50) is the fact that, so far, they’ve actually overperformed it, scoring 4 goals per game on average. Their average xGA is also amongst the best in the league, bested only by Leicester and Manchester United.
Guardiola and his men travel to Everton, who’s average xGA of 1.14 is certainly respectable. Such is City’s firepower, however, that even the most impressive xGAs seem to pale into insignificance.
Their defeat against Norwich was miraculous but, based on these underlying stats, it was also a once-in-a-season freak of nature.
Time to invest in Leicester defenders
Leicester fans were fearful when Harry Maguire left the club in the summer. The large-headed centre back was an important cog in a defensive machine that saw huge improvement after Brendan Rodgers took over at the King Power.
And yet, despite the initial fears, Leicester’s resolute defensive form has continued. They’ve conceded the joint-least in the league and have the second best xGA to show for it. It’s almost as though Maguire might not be worth the £80 million they sold him for.
It gets better for Leicester too, because this gameweek they host Newcastle. Can you see that red box next to Newcastle? For the non-statisticians among you, that basically means they’re doomed. The lowest xG travels to the second best xGA. Surely a clean sheet is on the cards?
Man United favourites ahead of Arsenal clash
United have been a little unlucky this season. They have the best xGA in the league. Their xG is better than the likes of Bournemouth, Arsenal and Spurs. Despite all of that, they find themselves 3 points behind their Gameweek 7 opponents.
All the data is pointing to a win for Solskjaer’s side. There is one small caveat: the fact that all of his goalscorers are probably injured.
Who Solskjaer has available to him on Monday evening is difficult to forecast, but according to these underlying stats, the two great rivals should be level on points by Tuesday morning.