The abbreviation XG stands for “Expected Goals”
XG is the current metric of choice for the football stats community and has gained some wider traction with its appearance on the BBC’s Match of the Day, as well as plenty of comment from pundits and analysts who feel it’s either ruined or solved football. In fact, xG has done neither – it is a simple tool which can help our understanding of the game if correctly understood. What it cannot do, on its own, is predict results, nor does it rob football of any of its charm.
Expected Goals, put simply, is a measure, based in probability, of whether a given shot will result in a goal. Looking at a historical data set of lots of shots taken from lots of positions, and looking at which of those shots resulted in a goal, Expected Goals shows how many goals an average team would be expected to score from those shots. In other words, Expected Goals shows how good a shooting chance was, based on how likely similar chances were to result in a goal. An xG of ONE means a guaranteed goal (which doesn’t exist), while an xG of 0.7 means that if that shot were taken 10 times, you’d expect seven goals. The closer to goal a shot, the higher the xG. The wider the angle from goal, the lower the xG. Headers get a lower xG than shots.
xG does not account for who is striking the ball, which is due to the reduced accuracy of comparison that comes from introducing player identity.
It is not that good for predicting match results but xG is best used in concert with tactical and video analysis, and in trends of five to 10 matches – then it can be part of set of tools that explains why teams are blowing hot or cold.
While xG is therefore helpful, it’s not going to solve football betting.
You can’t solve football – it’s too complicated and there’s too much going on.
What xG does well is show how good a team’s chances were in a match and which strikers manage to score more than they should, or less, and both things are useful in increasing our understanding of football, which can only be a good thing.
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