How the PL’s big six compare in xG stats: City top, United fourth overall

Quick Reads

We’re nine games into the Premier League season and the table is beginning to take shape, with Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea the usual suspects around the top six.

A bit further down the table, Tottenham Hotspur (seventh) and Manchester United (unthinkably 14th) could be set for a season of struggles.

But even nearly a quarter of the way through, the table can paint a false picture. It’s often the underlying statistics – such as shots faced, chances created, expected goals (xG) – that are a better barometer of how a team’s performing than points on the board. Here’s how the top flight’s traditional ‘big six’ are performing so far.

Shots 

Unsurprisingly, it’s the champions Man City that lead the way. But the startling thing is how much more they shoot than anyone else.

They’ve taken 190 shots so far this season; that’s 41 more shots than the next-most Chelsea with 149, with Liverpool not far behind the Blues with 141 shots taken.

A fair bit behind them – and behind Aston Villa, Everton and Southampton – are Arsenal on 121 shots, while Manchester United and Spurs have registered 117 apiece.

It’s a similar story for shots on target. City are well out in front with 70, followed by Chelsea (58), Liverpool (53), Arsenal (42), Spurs (38) and finally United (35) with half as many as their city rivals.

Uncannily, the top scorers, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and City’s Sergio Aguero (eight goals each) are also tied with the most shots – 30.

Woodwork

City are well out in front in terms of goals. Their total of 29 is eight more than the next highest scorers, Liverpool, but it might have been even more were it not for a matter of inches.

They’ve hit the woodwork nine times – four more than the next most, Brighton & Hove Albion. Chelsea and Liverpool have hit the frame of the goal four times, while Spurs, United and Arsenal have hit it twice.

Big chances missed

Pep Guardiola’s City certainly have no problem creating goalscoring opportunities. As well as their many, many goals already, they’ve missed the most big chances in the top flight, per the Premier League’s official stats. 

They’ve missed 24 big chances, Chelsea have missed 22, Liverpool have missed 20, while Arsenal have missed 12.

Manchester United have missed 10. Spurs have missed the joint-fewest in the league, with six, alongside high-flying Crystal Palace.

Top scorer Abraham is the guiltiest player in this regard. He’s missed seven big chances, more than any other player in the league, but on the plus side it shows he’s great at getting into good goalscoring positions.

Shots faced

There was a point, seven games into the season, that Unai Emery’s Gunners implausibly faced more shots than any other team in the Premier League.

They’ve now, at least, faced fewer shots than promoted sides Aston Villa and Norwich City, but still more than any other team with 144 shots against. North London rivals Spurs have only faced eight fewer (136).

This is one area in which Manchester United are performing quite well, only facing 88 shots – the fifth-lowest in the league. Liverpool (84), Everton (81) and Chelsea (77) have faced fewer.

But this is yet another area in which City come out on top, and again by a distance. They’ve only faced 62 shots this season – less than half as many as Arsenal.

League leaders Liverpool have faced the fewest shots on target though, leaving stand-in goalkeeper Adrian with little to do. They’ve only faced 21 shots on target – ahead of Chelsea (26), City (33), United (34), Arsenal (45) and Spurs (52).

Expected Goals

Albeit with more sophisticated algorithms and shot data, it’s no surprise that the xG table largely tallies with the statistics above.

Man City and Chelsea are more-or-less scoring at the rate xG suggests, while Liverpool are overperforming a little. The data doesn’t make good reading for Spurs, either, who are quite dramatically overperforming their xG numbers, suggesting they’re struggling to create good chances this season.

According to Understat’s xG figures, Manchester United are doing well defensively with the lowest xGA (expected goals against) numbers in the league 7.21, followed by Liverpool (8.17), Chelsea (10.06), City (10.28), and – way back, behind six other teams – Spurs (12.75) and Arsenal (13.78).

On their expected points table – taking into account expected goals for and against – City are on top (21.33 points), followed by Liverpool (18.22), Chelsea (18.03) and Manchester United (17.12) with Spurs down in eighth (12.75) and Arsenal 10th (12.14), just behind the side who are actually bottom of the table, Watford.


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