Technologies in football that are developing and are used more and more are called advanced metrics. One of the most discussed and intriguing for the public metric is expected goals (xG). In short, xG is the likelihood that a shot will result in a goal based on characteristics of that shot and the events leading up to it. Some of these variables include body part, position of the taker, type of pass and attack, etc. The equations take into account each possibility of a shot and compares it to 1000 others with alike characteristics, evaluating the chance of every single one ending up in the back of the net. Based on that knowledge, statisticians are able to ‘predict’ how strikers in the top 5 leagues would do in front of goal for a certain season. In this piece of writing, we will take a look at how the 10 forwards with the highest xG did during the course of the 2019/20 campaign.
10. Mohamed Salah (20,66 xG)
The Egyptian King found his prime years wearing a Liverpool shirt, under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp. Many football experts were doubting this return to the Premier League would be beneficial to Chelsea’s flop yet his first season at Anfield left everyone speechless as he netted the staggering 32 goals in the English top-flight. Since then, he sustained his solid form and his xG was predictably always high. The 20,66 expected goals were just about right as he scored on 19 occasions this season. His performances during the last 3 campaigns also brushed aside the critics of him being a ‘one-season wonder’.
9. Romelu Lukaku (20,79 xG)
The Belgian fox in the box played his first season in the Serie A after Inter Milan secured his services in a €74M transfer. His previous spell at Manchester United was not really appreciated by ‘The Red Devils’ yet his numbers seemed decent, nonetheless- 42 goals in 96 appearances. Lukaku might be everything but his instinct in front of goal is unquestionable and he proved that in his first 12 months in Italy- his name on the scoresheet was written 23 times during the course of 36 appearances. This meant the 27-year-old exceed his initial xG by 2,21.
8. Lionel Messi (20,85 xG)
Most of you would wonder how arguably the best player and clinical finisher of the last decade is just 8th on this list. The truth is that in the last couple of years the Argentinian has adopted a more playmaking role meaning his duties have differed from ‘being the one to score goals’ to ‘supply Suarez and the other strikers with opportunities’. Nevertheless, his numbers are still spectacular- 25 goals and 20 assists in LaLiga is what most pundits describe as Messi’s ‘worst season’ since establishing himself as one of the best in the business. The Little Magician surpassed his expected goal prediction by 4,15.
7. Gabriel Jesus (21,02 xG)
The participation of the 23-year-old Brazilian in this list might come to most of you as a surprise yet most pundits and data analysts thought that this could have been his breakthrough season replacing the 32-year-old Sergio Agüero as a first-choice striker. This didn’t turn out to be the exact case because despite featuring in 34 games, his minutes on the pitch (2022) suggest that Jesus had less than 23 full games, not to mention that he has participated in only 14 games in which he stayed more than 80 minutes on the pitch. No matter what, he still had a fruitful season in front of goal but nowhere near that productive his xG suggests- scoring on 14 occasions in the Premier League (7,02 less than expected) means Gabriel still has a long way to go before cementing a first-team place in Guardiola’s side.
6. Edin Džeko (21,15 xG)
The Bosnian target man might not be at the peak of his career but still has an important role in a prestigious team like AS Roma. He didn’t enjoy a satisfying for his standards goalscoring tally last campaign (9 goals) but he bounced back stronger this season, getting the better of the goalkeepers in front of him 16 times. However, as you have probably noticed, he didn’t meet the analysts’ expectations as he netted 5,15 goals less so there is still room for improvement for the main man of AS Roma.
5. Karim Benzema (21,25 xG)
With the departure of the Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, the French goalscorer had much more freedom up front, becoming a pivotal part of ‘Los Blancos’ attacking-wise. The last season in which Ronaldo wore a Real Madrid shirt, Benzema had only 5 league goals to his game whereas the very next campaign he found the back of the net 21 times in 36 appearances. The Frenchman managed to equal the same amount of goals with 1 more match meaning the statisticians were more than accurate with their predictions.
4. Timo Werner (23,45 xG)
The former RB Leipzig attacker was not only the driving force of the 11-year-old club but is now regarded as one of the Europe’s finest attackers. This is due to his ability to adapt to almost any instructions- he could play as a deep-lying forward, creating spaces for aggressive wingers, poacher, sitting on the shoulder of the last defender, advanced forward, dictating the movement of the attacks and converting chances, pressing forward, putting pressure on the defenders and chasing them down and as a complete forward, doing most of the above-mentioned activities at once. These superlatives are backed by his numbers- in 34 matches in a RasenBallsport Leipzig kit, the German found his name on the scoresheet 28 times, 4,55 more than the predicted numbers at the start of the season. Werner switched the comfort of Leipzig with the usually rainy South West London in a €53M transfer to Chelsea FC and everyone is eagerly waiting how quickly the 24-year-old will adapt to the Premier League.
3. Ciro Immobile (28,11 xG)
The Italian striker raised the eyebrows of most football fans with his clinical finishing this season and deserves all the praise he gets currently. The Lazio frontman’s xG suggests he was amongst the Golden Boot contenders for this campaign yet most of us were stunned when the prolific goalscorer went on to win the prestigious award as Ciro put the ball into the net 36 times during the course of 37 league games. Immobile also won our award of ‘The Player who Exceed his xG the Most’ as the Juventus academy graduate was the one who surpassed his expected-goals metric by the largest amount out of all players in the top 5 leagues- he scored 7,89 more than the analysts initially thought.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (29,43 xG)
As you have already understood from this article, Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer a Real Madrid player (I guess this isn’t the first time you hear about this) but instead moved to Turin and more specifically- Juventus FC. His adaption to the Italian football didn’t take long- in his first season as a ‘Bianconeri’ footballer, he converted 16 goalscoring passes as well as 5 penalties in Serie A. In spite of being 35 years old which in most cases means that one’s form should be declining as a footballer, CR7 gets better and better- 31 goals in 33 league games cemented his status as one of the most lethal finishers currently in the game. The statisticians were once again unsurprisingly accurate in their expert equations as they predicted the Portuguese finisher would score just 1,57 less goals this 2019/20 campaign.
1. Robert Lewandowski (31,20 xG)
The Polish deadly finisher is, probably for most of you, unsurprisingly topping this chart. The Bayern Munich’s striker has been so clinical and consistent in front of goal for the last 7 years that our expectations would always be enormously high until his last games as a footballer. The only campaign in which Lewandowski scored less than 22 times was the 2014/15 one, which in all fairness was his first one in Bayern Munich’s colours so an adaptation to the new players was unavoidable… and still, imagine saying 17 goals in 31 matches are a disappointing return. The last 12 months in the Bundesliga saw the contender for the Golden Boot finding the back of the net on the astonishing 34 occasions in 31 matches. His 31,20 xG was 2,80 less than the actual goals meaning Robert is nowhere near being a finished article.
*All statistics are taken from UnderStat meaning they could differ from ones on different websites*