Lists

Ranked! The 20 WORST finishers in the Premier League... according to Expected Goals (xG)

Christian Benteke

Huw Davies gets out his calculator, plots some graphs (OK, he doesn't) and lists the ugliest finishers in the Premier League this season

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This is the list you don't want to be on. Expected Goals, for which there's a plain English explanation here, measures a player's efficiency, assigning a rating to the chances which fall to him. It's what we used to compile this list of the 20 best finishers in the Premier League this season.

Anyway, here's the roll of shame - and no defenders were allowed, because it’d be harsh to include Lewis Dunk in a list of players who should do better in front of goal... right? 

20. Shinji Okazaki (-1.49)

xG: 7.49
Goals: 6

The 32-year-old has actually scored more than he did in Leicester’s title-winning season when, strangely enough, nobody noticed that the hard-running forward was also quite profligate (five goals scored, across 36 appearances, from a total xG of 8.61).

In 2017/18, too, Okazaki has got into excellent positions with startling regularity – he’s taken 17 of his 28 shots from central positions between the penalty spot and the goal – but all too often failed to take advantage, including with opportunities against Chelsea, Spurs and Bournemouth.

19. Georginio Wijnaldum (-1.50)

xG: 2.5
Goals: 1

Wijnaldum’s Premier League goal tallies, season-on-season, read 11, 6, 1 – although it’s important to remember that he has less responsibility to attack now, playing behind Liverpool’s famous front three. It’s still incredible that none of his 18 league goals in England – including those for Newcastle – have come away from home.

18. Dele Alli (-1.52)

xG: 9.52
Goals: 8

A reversion to the norm was to be expected after Alli’s phenomenal figures last season, when an xG value of 14.71 ended up producing 18 goals.

Even so, he failed to even hit the target when he really should have scored in games against Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United – with the latter miss proving costly.

17. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (-1.58)

xG: 2.58
Goals: 1

There’s not too much to worry about here. One failed shot with an xG of 0.36 (i.e. a chance he seemingly could or should be taking) was actually an opportunity of Loftus-Cheek’s own making in the first minute against Everton, and his subsequent effort forced a good save that let James McArthur tap in a rebound.

16. Paul Pogba (-1.71)

xG: 6.71
Goals: 5

The Frenchman isn’t alone in reaping precious little reward from a number of ambitious attempts (his 38 long-distance shots have resulted in one goal), but his ability and technique do give rise to higher expectations. And it doesn’t help when you’re also having shots saved from this sort of range...

15. Alex Iwobi (-1.83)

xG: 3.83
Goals: 2

Not only is Iwobi’s xG score higher than his goal count, it’s not even that high an xG score when you consider that he's made 18 Premier League starts and four substitute appearances, in attacking midfield, for a top-six side that plays on the front foot. His decision-making and shooting both need work – but at 21, he has time.

14. Andre Gray (-1.85)

xG: 5.85
Goals: 4

Gray sets himself high standards on the pitch: after scoring in Watford’s 3-0 win at Newcastle last November, he said they’d managed to “grind it out and win ugly”, adding: “I should’ve walked off with the match ball, because I missed two good chances.”

Hence his pained expression late on in the home defeat to Swansea a month later. Watford led 1-0 with 85 minutes gone when Gray was put through on goal, but his shot hit Lukasz Fabianski. A minute later it was 1-1; a few minutes after that, Swansea snatched a winner. Football can be an unforgiving game.

=12. Christian Atsu (-1.97)

xG: 3.97
Goals: 2

Atsu’s finishing must improve. The first 15 minutes of Stoke vs Newcastle on New Year’s Day seemed to consist entirely of the 26-year-old making a hash of decent chances, and he also scuffed an excellent opportunity on the rebound against Burnley, after debutant Kenedy had hit the post.

=12. Alexis Sanchez (-1.97)

xG: 10.97
Goals: 9

Things are starting to look up for Sanchez at Manchester United, but 2017/18 has been a year to forget.

It’s always been the case that he’ll shoot from anywhere. This season, however, he won’t necessarily score from anywhere. Some 39 efforts from outside the area (for Arsenal and United) have produced only one goal, and that was from a central position 20 yards out. The Chilean is taking plenty of low-probability shots inside the box, too, so it’s natural that his xG differential should suffer.

11. Yohan Cabaye (-2.06)

xG: 2.06
Goals: 0

Apart from a blocked shot in a goalmouth scramble against his old club, Newcastle, this is largely another case of accumulation: Cabaye has fired off 36 shots and only eight were from inside the penalty area.