Statistical fact: this lot are the Premier League's worst finishers
Whether you love or loathe the stat-set known as expected Goals (xG), you can't ignore them. xG measures how many times a player can expect (y'see?) to score in relation to the chances they have during a match – taking into consideration various factors: the proximity of defenders and indeed the goalmouth, the angle of the opportunity, whether it was a one-on-one or a header, and so on.
It's certainly a more representative stat than Attempts On Target, and here we’ve used xG to assess each Premier League player (minus the defenders). Furthermore, we've ranked the 20 worst for your reading pleasure, with some surprises along the way. Stats correct as after games on Tue 8 May.
20. Dele Alli (-1.00)
The Spurs man statistically overachieved last season, scoring 18 times from an xG of 14.71. This season his nine Premier League strikes have come from an xG of a pleasingly precise 10.00. The discrepancy includes chances he might have converted against Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United – with the latter miss proving costly in a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford back in October.
That's not to say he's had a bad season – for instance, he's clocked up more assists from fewer passes, along with creating far more of what a statto would call "big chances". But that's not what we're measuring here. Sorry, Dele.
19. Alex Iwobi (-1.02)
Alex Iwobi has made 23 appearances in the Premier League this season including 19 starts, plays in an advanced position for a strong side who play on the front foot and score plenty of goals. His lack of goals suggests poor finishing, and his low xG confirms it.
Saying that, he has provided five assists this season in the Premier League, so it’s not all doom and gloom, and at only 21 years of age he has time on his side.
18. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (-1.38)
xG: 3.38Goals: 2Loftus-Cheek’s inclusion in the list is a quirk of the stats more than anything, with one failed shot with an xG value of 0.36 against Everton forcing his inclusion – an effort of his own making that was followed up and tapped in by James McArthur to open the scoring in the 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park in November. The Chelsea midfielder had an excellent first half of the season, making his England debut with a man of the match performance against Germany in the autumn and playing against Brazil for the national side before injury robbed him of almost three months of the campaign. He’s back, fit and playing well and has a real chance of a World Cup place for Gareth Southgate’s side, with the England manager saying Loftus-Cheek was ‘capable of anything’ following his international debut.
17. Shinji Okazaki (-1.49)
xG: 7.49Goals: 6Japanese international forward Okazaki has had a more productive season this year than in Leicester’s title-winning campaign – when he only managed to score five goals in 36 appearances from a total xG of 8.61. Okazaki has never been prolific in his career, either back in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse or during his four seasons in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart and Mainz, but the figures show he should be scoring more. This season 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.
16. Paul Pogba (-1.67)
While his ability is not up for debate, Pogba's six Premier League goals are a cause for disappointment this season especially coming with an xG value of 7.67. He has the ability to turn a match - as seen in the most recent Manchester derby, when he inspired a second-half comeback to win from 2-0 down, denying rivals City the chance to lift the title in front of their own supporters.
His 38 long distance efforts have resulted in just one goal, with his outstanding technique giving rise to higher expectations. He’s still on for more goals than last season, though.
15. Georginio Wijnaldum (-1.85)
xG: 2.85Goals: 1The goalscoring responsibility on Dutch international Wijnaldum changed massively when he made the move from Newcastle to Liverpool two summers ago and his numbers in front of goal have suffered as a result. That said, the former PSV and Feyenoord midfielder’s had good enough chances to add to his solitary goal in the Premier League this year. His goal tallies, season-on-season, read 11, 6 and 1 – but with Liverpool’s famed front three ahead of him and a changed role from his time in the northeast, he can be forgiven. It’s still incredible that none of his 18 league goals in England – including those for Newcastle – have come away from home.
14. Christian Atsu (-1.97)
The Newcastle midfielder has all the attributes to be a top-class footballer but seems to wilt in front of goal, whether taking on an effort himself or attempting to set one up for a team-mate. His goals and assists tallies are both considerably lower than his xG and xA (Expected Assists) this season, with just two of each recorded in 28 Premier League appearances.
The first 15 minutes of Stoke vs Newcastle on New Year’s Day seemed to consist mainly 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.
13. Andre Gray (-2.00)
For a striker who has commanded high transfer fees, Gray has never been a prolific top-flight goalscorer: five goals from 30 Premier League appearances this season, 14 in 63 across his career.
Every striker knows that football is a game of fine margins and the -2.00 xG value has very real consequences: with Watford winning 1-0 at home to Swansea, Gray hit an 85th-minute effort straight at Lukasz Fabianski when through on goal. A minute later Jordan Ayew equalised and in the 90th minute Luciano Narsingh claimed all three points for Swansea.
12. Yohan Cabaye (-2.08)
Former Newcastle midfielder Cabaye hasn’t found the net from his 36 efforts on goal in the Premier League this season, but only eight of those have been from inside the penalty area and only one – an effort blocked on the line against his former club in an almighty goalmouth scramble – was a chance that should have been taken.
Although he's contributed well in other ways, the Frenchman hasn’t scored a goal in any competition since his April 2017 strike in a 2-2 home draw with Leicester.
11. Joselu (-2.27)
Although Joselu has only scored eight goals in 50 Premier League appearances for Stoke and Newcastle, half of them have come this season as Newcastle have managed a goal per match in their Premier League trudge to safety.
Joselu’s 2017/18 nadir came against his former club the Potters in September: a hat-trick of missed goalscoring opportunities , all of which should have been converted; the Stoke Sentinel called it "Joselu's best game for Stoke City".
=9. Alexis Sanchez (-2.29)
The Chilean international has always had an eye for a thrillingly direct route goal, shooting from wherever he takes possession of the ball in and around the area. Before this season, they very often went in; not so this time around, with his 39 efforts (for Arsenal and Manchester United combined) from outside the box resulting in just one goal, and that from 20-yards out and in a central position.
Even his efforts from inside the box generally have a low probability of resulting in a goal, further skewing his xG stats: from his 39 attempts, he "should" score just over 11. On that scale, suddenly nine looks quite good...
=9. Erik Lamela (-2.29)
It's beginning to look a bit like 2012/13, when he scored 15 in 33 league games for Roma, was a statistical outlier for Lamela Otherwise, his league returns for Roma and Spurs have been (chronologically) 4 in 29, 0 in 9, 2 in 33, 5 in 34, 1 in 9 and 0 in 23.
Even if he's provided 20 assists in 106 Premier League matches, his total of just eight league goals in five years in somewhat disappointing. Goalless in 21 appearances so far this term, he's been denied at close range by Southampton, shot tamely from a great position in the North London Derby, and saw Stoke’s Jack Butland save his sliding toepoke from five yards out (xG: 0.76).
8. Alvaro Morata (-2.67)
Eleven Premier League goals in 29 appearances isn’t the worst return for a player in his debut campaign in the Premier League, but Morata has nonetheless been heavily criticised at times this term.
Much of that has to do with his hefty transfer fee – Chelsea paid Real Madrid £65m for the striker’s services last summer – but some glaring misses haven't helped. Morata, indeed, has fallen short of his xG, with a particularly profligate showing against Arsenal in January highlighting his struggles.
7. Gabriel Jesus (-2.87)
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, Jesus has scored 19 goals in his 38 Premier League appearances for City since moving to the Etihad Stadium in January 2017. Even more impressive is the fact he's only been on the losing side once in the English top flight.
The Brazilian, however, has scored only three of his 11 efforts from inside the six-yard box this season. Such close-range wastefulness, combined with two missed penalties, helps explain why Jesus has not been able to match his xG rate in 2017-18.
6. Kelechi Iheanacho (-3.32)
Iheanacho was so highly rated at Manchester City that they reportedly inserted a £50m buy-back clause into the deal that took him to Leicester last summer – twice the amount the Foxes paid for him. He’s scored just two Premier League goals in 18 appearances this season, though, with Leicester boss Claude Puel claiming the Nigeria international "needs to improve aspects of his game."
Hitting the woodwork twice in the space of four seconds as Leicester lost to Everton didn’t help, but if anything sums up Iheanacho’s wretched season it was his failure to find the net in the 1-1 draw with Swansea. His poacher's instinct has abandoned him in the East Midlands, but at 21 he still has time to put it right.
5. Dominic Solanke (-3.39)
Solanke is still awaiting his first goal in English football, although it's worth bearing in mind that 15 of his 19 Premier League appearances for Liverpool have come off the bench. He's certainly come close to scoring, flashing an exquisite volley wide against Swansea after spurning a presentable opportunity, but the English youngster still hasn't made the net ripple at senior level.
His worst miss probably came against Burnley, when the ex-Chelsea man contrived to put the ball wide from three yards. Jurgen Klopp will be pleased with the fact he's getting himself into dangerous positions, but Solanke will be desperate to break his duck as soon as possible.
4. Dwight Gayle (-3.72)
On four occasions this season, Newcastle striker Dwight Gayle has completely missed the target when taking on shots carrying an xG value of 0.33 or more. Put simply, the former Crystal Palace man has been very wasteful from excellent goalscoring positions.
Gayle has never scored more than seven goals in a Premier League season – his first in the top flight with Palace in 2012-13 – and his tallies in top-flight seasons since then read: five, three, five.
3. Tom Ince (-4.23)
Huddersfield have scored the second-fewest goals in the Premier League this season, finding the net just 28 times in 37 matches in their first season back in the big time since 1972. David Wagner's conservative approach is the primary reason for that, but some of Town's attackers haven't covered themselves in glory.
Ince’s campaign has almost been the inverse of his club's – Huddersfield posted six of their nine Premier League wins before Christmas, but Ince went 1,527 minutes (or 17 full matches) before recording his first goal or assist of the season. That goal, the opener against Stoke City in a 1-1 draw, is one of just two he’s notched from an xG value of 6.23.
2. Richarlison (-5.25)
Richarlison got his Premier League career off to a flying start as Marco Silva's Watford soared up the table. Five goals in his opening 12 matches led to talk of a first Brazil call-up, but the winger has failed to find the net since then.
His struggles in front of goal aren't for the want of trying: only Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Sergio Aguero have attempted more shots all season. Missing two sitters against Chelsea last October hasn't stopped Richarlison being linked with the Blues, though.
1. Christian Benteke (-8.13)
It’s been an awful season for Benteke, who's managed a measly return of just three goals from an xG value of 11.13. His profligacy against Liverpool, Southampton, Manchester City, Burnley and Newcastle is part of the reason why Palace's season has been more nervy than it should have been, while his missed penalty against Bournemouth - after taking the opportunity away from regular taker Luka Milivojevic - led to fierce criticism.
Benteke has recently been dropped from Roy Hodgson's starting line-up, with wingers Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend preferred up front. The Belgian will be desperate to consign 2017-18 to the history books.
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