Tuesday, 28 May 2024

The Rise of Expected Goals in Football

Football has undergone massive changes in recent years. In addition to the tactical developments on the pitch, such as gegenpressing and zonal marking, the sport’s coverage has also evolved dramatically. One of the biggest changes in football is the increased importance of data. When we watch football matches on TV, we can see statistics and visuals that provide a whole new dimension to the game. However, one aspect of the data revolution has been quite controversial – Expected Goals (xG).

What is xG?

Expected Goals (xG) is a metric that measures the probability of a shot resulting in a goal. It rates the quality of a goal-scoring opportunity and provides a statistical framework to determine the likelihood of a goal being scored. But how is the quality of chances determined statistically? The xG model uses historical data on similar chances and shots to estimate the probability of a goal. This metric is calculated on a scale between 0 and 1, with 0 indicating a low likelihood of scoring and 1 indicating a high likelihood.

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Expected Goals

How does Expected Goals work?

To calculate xG, historical information from thousands of shots with similar characteristics is analyzed. This data helps estimate the likelihood of a shot being converted into a goal. Different xG models can be used, but they all consider factors like distance to goal, angle to goal, body part used for the shot, and type of assist or prior action. By using this data, a mathematical value is assigned to each chance, reflecting the player’s expected probability of scoring.

The Benefits of Expected Goals

Expected Goals has gained widespread acceptance in the world of football due to its numerous benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  • Emphasizing the importance of shot quality and highlighting the low chance of scoring from disadvantaged positions.
  • Identifying players with exceptional finishing skills.
  • Highlighting the ineffectiveness of crosses as a goal-scoring method.
  • Providing a stronger understanding of a team’s underlying quality and predicting future performance.
  • Assisting in scouting and recruitment processes by accurately assessing players’ finishing skills.

The Weaknesses of Expected Goals

Although Expected Goals can be a valuable tool, it also has some limitations. These weaknesses include:

  • The limited usefulness of xG in relation to a single game, as individual matches can be influenced by unpredictable events.
  • The descriptive rather than predictive nature of xG when used as a standalone metric.
  • Limitations in data availability, such as the lack of information on the exact state of play during a shot.

It’s important to note that these weaknesses primarily relate to the implementation of the xG model rather than the metric itself. As the use of xG in football continues to evolve, a better understanding of its effective application will develop over time.

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Football Analytics

Data in Football

The role of data in football is expanding rapidly, with clubs using analytics to enhance recruitment and improve overall performance. It is highly likely that new metrics for measuring chance creation, set piece efficiency, defensive performance, and other aspects of the game will emerge. As data continues to play a crucial role in the sport, football parlance and tactics will continue to evolve.

If you’re interested in the world of football data, check out our article on 7 easy steps to get started in football data and analytics. You can also learn about how clubs like the Red Bull franchise utilize the power of data in our deep dive into the Red Bull Philosophy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Expected Goals (xG)?
A: Expected Goals (xG) is a metric that measures the probability of a shot resulting in a goal, providing a statistical framework to assess the quality of goal-scoring opportunities.

Q: How is xG calculated?
A: xG is calculated by analyzing historical data from thousands of shots with similar characteristics. Factors such as distance to goal, angle, body part used, and type of assist are considered to estimate the probability of scoring.

Q: What are the benefits of Expected Goals?
A: Expected Goals highlights the importance of shot quality, helps identify exceptional finishers, provides context for team analysis, and assists in predicting future performance.

Q: Are there any weaknesses of Expected Goals?
A: Using xG for individual games can be misleading, and limitations in data availability can impact accuracy. Additionally, xG is more effective when used as part of broader analysis rather than as a standalone metric.


Expected Goals has transformed the way we understand and analyze football. By measuring the probability of goals from various chances, it provides valuable insights for coaches, analysts, players, and teams. While xG has its limitations, its benefits are evident in enhancing performance analysis, scouting, and overall understanding of the game. As data continues to shape football, we can expect further advancements in measuring and analyzing different aspects of the sport.

About the Author: Fred Garratt-Stanley is a freelance football writer, Norwich City fan, and amateur footballer for South London side AFC Oldsmiths. He has written for various publications, including British GQ, VICE, FanSided, and Football League World.