Given we are just three games into the Premier League season, and the expected goals (xG) metric is at it’s very best with a larger sample size to work from, in the first few articles of this column I will use the backend of last season as well as what we have witnessed so far to talk through hot and cold teams.
Who is HOT?
The reigning champions remain in the HOT seat, with a thrashing of Arsenal before the break their second 5-0 victory in succession.
Yes they were playing against 10-men for 65+ minutes, but Pep’s side were 2-0 up before that, and they then went onto pile on the misery, racking up a so-far Premier League season-high 4.22 xGF.
Not only do they look fluid in attack, having racked up 2.41 xGF at Spurs and 2.51 against Norwich before thrashing the Gunners, but defensively they have picked up from where they left off.
Pep’s side allowed a league low 0.87 xGA per game last season, and have allowed just 0.53 xGA per game through three games this term, meaning they remain the team to beat.
A trip to Leicester at the weekend – the team that beat them in the FA Cup and Community Shield – shouldn’t pose them too many issues. If you read on, you’ll find out why.
It was a backs-against-the-walls job at Anfield for Chelsea, but they escaped with a point having been reduced to 10-men just before half-time.
Thomas Tuchel’s side lost the xG battle quite considerably (xG: LIV 3.35 – 0.73 CHE), but they allowed just 0.99 xGA after half-time, limiting the Reds to just pot-shots from distance.
That second half defensive display was excellent, and is one of the main reasons they remain in the HOT category, as to limit such a good attacking team to next to nothing with 10-men is a real achievement – especially on the road.
A home game against Aston Villa this weekend should see them get back to winning ways, and see them pick up another clean sheet.
Who is WARM?
The Reds remain in the second tier for their failing to breakdown Chelsea in the second half of their showdown, but overall it has been a good start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
After finishing last term brilliantly, we have seen more of the same at the start of this campaign, with the Reds clicking in attack for the most part, while also looking resolute defensively with Virgil van Dijk back.
Against 11-men in the first half, Liverpool limited Chelsea to just 0.50 xG which is a huge positive, and we all know that defence wins you titles.
Four of the last seven league titles have been won by the team who allowed the least xGA, with the winners finishing in the top two in that category in two other seasons.
Sticking in Merseyside, Everton have been incredibly impressive under Rafa Benitez so far this term, winning two and drawing two.
The Toffees were greatly disappointing under Carlo Ancelotti last season, rightly finishing a long way off the top six, but the early signs are that they will be challenging or a European berth in 21/22.
Yes, their schedule hasn’t been overly taxing (vSOU, @LEE, @BHA), but they have won the xG battle convincingly in all three, averaging an impressive 1.83 xGF and 0.87 xGA per game.
They welcome Burnley to Goodison Park on Monday, and if they continue in the same manner, Everton shouldn’t have any issues in that one.
Wolves were in the ‘COOL’ section in the last column, with my main issue with them being that they racked up xG through quantity and not quality.
While they took 15 shots against Manchester United in another 1-0 defeat, they racked up three ‘big chances’ (0.35 xG+), so took strides in the right direction.
Bruno Lage’s side are pointless after three games, but they have played three of last seasons top seven already, and impressively they are yet to allow 1.0 non-pen xGA in any game.
In fact, they have averaged 0.72 non-pen xGA per game against three strong side, so despite changing coaches, it appears as though they have kept their defensive stability.
Going forward things will get easier for the Old Gold, and if they continue in the same manner, the goals will come and they will start to keep clean sheets. Watford be wary.
Who is COOL?
While results would suggest otherwise, with the Foxes having collected six points from three games, I am concerned about Leicester.
The early signs are not good, with the team who have pushed the top four over the last two years looking more like a mid-table team based on the numbers.
Brendan Rodgers side were fortunate to beat Wolves on opening weekend after mustering just 0.55 xGF, and followed that up with a poor display at West Ham.
A win at Norwich was again undeserved, as a draw would have been a fairer reflection of the chances in the game (xG: NOR 1.63 – 1.45 LEI), and that performance means that the Foxes have averaged just 0.95 xGF per game this term.
Not the kind of attacking process you want heading into a game against Manchester City.
It is a similar story for Aston Villa, who sit on four points through three matches.
There were always going to be teething issues with replacing Jack Grealish with two or three players, but what we have seen so far is that Villa are not the same attacking team as last season.
They have averaged just 0.62 non-pen xGF per game against three sides who are expected to be in and around the bottom six (@WAT, vNEW, vBRE). Not good.
Fortunately for Villa, and the reason they aren’t in the ‘COLD’ category, their defence has looked solid once again.
Allowing just 0.97 xGA per game is a solid foundation for Villa to grow as the season progresses, but as a struggling attacking unit, a trip to Chelsea is the worst possible match-up.
Who is COLD?
We are finally there. I gave Arsenal the benefit of the doubt following defeat at Chelsea, but the way in which they imploded at Manchester City (which, admittedly, is easily done), was shocking.
I thought they would have a bit more about them this season, but through three games, they prop up the xG table having accumulated just 1.5 expected points (xP).
They also prop up the xGF and xGA tables. It looks bleak. They have hit rock bottom following defeats against the champions and European champions, so the only way is up for the Gunners.
Mikel Arteta’s team host Norwich on Saturday, and that’s the biggest game of their season so far, mainly because it is the easiest on paper.
Should they fail to win that one and/or put in a poor performance based on the underlying numbers, then it really is panic stations.
I was excited about Newcastle heading into this season, mainly due to the way in which they finished last season – by playing front-foot attacking football.
However, through three games it is apparent that they haven’t kept the same balance that saw them leap to safety in 20/21, with their defence severely exposed.
Steve Bruce’s side allowed a huge 3.15 xGA against West Ham on opening weekend, before shipping 3.42 xGA against Southampton in GW3.
If they fail to tighten things up and revert to a defence-first approach in that game, they will get well-beaten.