Analysis: Under (and over) performing Premier League strikers


Tactical football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) takes a look at the forwards who are currently under (and over) performing their Expected Goals (xG) output.

Expected Goals (xG) over/underperformance in the Premier League

As Jamie Vardy fired home Leicester’s ninth goal on Friday night, he took his tally up to nine for the season. However, particularly interestingly is just how clinical the Englishman has been. For all the goals he has scored, they have come at an Expected Goals (xG) output of 4.28, and as history has shown us, it is very rare to see a striker overperform their xG so drastically over the course of a campaign.

On the other hand, if a player is massively underperforming their xG, it can suggest two things. Either they’re simply poor at finishing, or they’re just going through a bad patch. It can easily be a combination of both, and is definitely worth taking into account.

But as Joaquin Correa and Federico Chiesa showed us on Sunday night by netting for Fiorentina and Lazio, the tide often turns the other way for quality players, and if an individual constantly finds himself in good positions, they should eventually find the net.

The likes of David McGoldrick and Che Adams are finding life tough on their step up from the Championship, goalless despite their high xG, and their lack of proven record in the top-flight makes them a hard fancy to see their luck changing quickly.

So, taking this into account, here are a few of the standouts in the Premier League, using Understat’s xG model, and why there might be caution or promise moving forward.

Picking out who is underperforming or overperforming and why could be key to tapping into the goalscoring markets, and help in the search for underlying value.

Jamie Vardy

  • xG: 4.28
  • Goals: 9

As touched on earlier, Vardy has overperformed so far this season, and it is particularly interesting to see the low volume of shots he takes on, with only 2.00 per-90 relatively low for a lone striker.

However, the English striker has been a constant overperformer when it comes to xG, and it would suggest that this rich vain of form is no fluke. In three of the past four seasons, he has overperformed his xG tally, and in netting 20 in 2017/18, it came at xG of just 15.27.

His xG is particularly high throughout the course of the seasons, suggesting he is both clinical and finding himself in the right areas, and when factoring in the improved attacking talent at Leicester’s disposal this season, it would be fair to suggest he shouldn’t see a significant drop off in his numbers.

Teemu Pukki / Todd Cantwell

  • Pukki xG/Goals: 3.92/6
  • Cantwell xG /Goals: 3.39/2

Pukki set the Premier League on fire in his opening games, scoring six goals in five games. However, he has started to see the scoring slow down, and a concerning xG return of 1.23 across his last five has seen chances few and far between for the Finn.

The Canaries hitman is worth approaching with caution and, there is value in another option for Norwich, returning a similar xG.

The chances are still falling the way of young Todd Cantwell, and with two goals to his name this season, he is developing a good knack of positioning himself well in attack. When considering a Norwich goalscoring bet, Pukki’s price may often be shorter than expected given the number of chances he is afforded, and it is worth carefully selecting the games that will tactically suit him more than others.

Cantwell is impressing in his midfield role this season, and could represent a better value option moving forward when backing a Canaries scorer, and with Brighton, Everton and Arsenal on the horizon, their attacking movement and talent could provide him with opportunities against open, sides susceptible to counter attacks.

Nicolas Pepe

  • xG: 3.08
  • Goals: 1 (A Penalty)

£72 million summer signing Nicolas Pepe is still adjusting to life in the Premier League, and has struggled to find his scoring boots so far for the Gunners. His sole domestic goal for Arsenal in the EFL Cup from the penalty spot, as he continues to search for confidence in front of goal.

However, two fantastic free kicks, coupled with providing assists in the draw against Crystal Palace, will fill the Ivorian with confidence, as well as his excellent efforts in the Europa League, and when factoring in his statistics with Lille, suggest the luck should improve.

His 22 goals last season came at an xG return of 21.23, and whilst he overperformed the season before with 13 at an xG of 8.06, he has shown he has been clinical enough in front of goal.

Averaging 3.20 shots per 90 minutes this season, shows he is still not afraid to try his luck, and the eventual reinstatement of Hector Bellerin at right back will only help his cause. Callum Chambers has proved adept at full back, but the increased attacking threat of Bellerin will provide a different angle of attack for the Gunners and free up more space inside full backs, an area Pepe relishes.

If, and when, Unai Emery reverts to Bellerin at right back, both the shot and goalscoring markets will take note on Pepe, and it will be no surprise to see him finding the net soon.


Picking out just three examples above, it is always worth digging deeper into a player’s individual xG to see whether they are a flash in the pan, or whether there could be scope for improvement.

It is obviously not the only factor that should be considered when picking out a goal scorer, as quality of opposition, the Expected Assists (xA) of the team around him, and the tactics employed will all have significant bearing, however it’s another helpful pointer in the search for value.

About Author

A bit like Charlie from Charlie's Angles, the ubiquitous WeLoveBetting Editorial Team are the all-seeing eyes of the site, making sure the web monkeys keep the site running.

Leave A Reply