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Expected goals

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In association football, expected goals (xG) is a performance metric used to evaluate team and player performances.[1] It can be used to represent the probability of a scoring opportunity that may result in a goal.[2] It is also used in ice hockey.[3][4][5]


The expected goals metric is generally calculated by determining the likelihood of a shot being scored based on various factors, taken from the moment before the player shoots. These factors may vary depending on the statistical model, but include the distance to the goal, angle, quality of the shot, and other characteristics. Each shot is then given a probabilistic value, representing how many times that shot is likely to be scored based on similar shots. For example, a shot with a value of .3 goals is likely to be scored about 3 out of every 10 times.[6] The expected goals metric has become more common with the increase of data analytics in sports, as analysts based the metric on accumulated years of sports data.[7]

History and application of xG[edit]

Association football[edit]

Characteristics of the goal moment determining xG: coordinates, quality, body part, interference from the opponent (G. Kravtsov."Applied Statistics").

There is some debate about the origin of the term expected goals. Vic Barnett and his colleague Sarah Hilditch referred to "expected goals" in their 1993 paper that investigated the effects of artificial pitch (AP) surfaces on home team performance in association football in England.[8] Their paper included this observation:

Quantitatively we find for the AP group about 0.15 more goals per home match than expected and, allowing for the lower than expected goals against in home matches, an excess goal difference (for home matches) of about 0.31 goals per home match. Over a season this yields about 3 more goals for, an improved goal difference of about 6 goals.[9]

Jake Ensum, Richard Pollard and Samuel Taylor (2004) reported their study of data from 37 matches in the 2002 World Cup in which 930 shots and 93 goals were recorded.[10] Their research sought "to investigate and quantify 12 factors that might affect the success of a shot". Their logistic regression identified five factors that had a significant effect on determining the success of a kicked shot: distance from the goal; angle from the goal; whether or not the player taking the shot was at least 1 m away from the nearest defender; whether or not the shot was immediately preceded by a cross; and the number of outfield players between the shot-taker and goal.[10] They concluded "the calculation of shot probabilities allows a greater depth of analysis of shooting opportunities in comparison to recording only the number of shots".[10] In a subsequent paper (2004), Ensum, Pollard and Taylor combined data from the 1986 and 2002 World Cup competitions to identify three significant factors that determined the success of a kicked shot: distance from the goal; angle from the goal; and whether or not the player taking the shot was at least 1 m away from the nearest defender.[11] More recent studies have identified similar factors as relevant for xG metrics.[12]

Howard Hamilton (2009) proposed "a useful statistic in soccer" that "will ultimately contribute to what I call an 'expected goal value' — for any action on the field in the course of a game, the probability that said action will create a goal".[13]

Sander Itjsma (2011) discussed "a method to assign different value to different chances created during a football match" and in doing so concluded:[14]

we now have a system in place in order to estimate the overall value of the chances created by either team during the match. Knowing how many goals a team is expected to score from its chances is of much more value than just knowing how many attempts to score a goal were made. Other applications of this method of evaluation would be to distinguish a lack of quality attempts created from a finishing problem or to evaluate defensive and goalkeeping performances. And a third option would be to plot the balance of play during the match in terms of the quality of chances created in order to graphically represent how the balance of play evolved during the match.[14]

Sarah Rudd (2011) discussed probable goal scoring patterns (P(Goal)) in her use of Markov chains for tactical analysis (including the proximity of defenders) from 123 games in the 2010-2011 English Premier League season.[15] In a video presentation of her paper at the 2011 New England Symposium of Statistics in Sport, Rudd reported her use of analysis methods to compare "expected goals" with actual goals and her process of applying weightings to incremental actions for P(goal) outcomes.[16]

In April 2012, Sam Green wrote about 'expected goals' in his assessment of Premier League goalscorers.[17] He asked "So how do we quantify which areas of the pitch are the most likely to result in a goal and therefore, which shots have the highest probability of resulting in a goal?". He added:

If we can establish this metric, we can then accurately and effectively increase our chances of scoring and therefore winning matches. Similarly, we can use this data from a defensive perspective to limit the better chances by defending key areas of the pitch.[17]

Green proposed a model to determine "a shot's probability of being on target and/or scored". With this model "we can look at each player's shots and tally up the probability of each of them being a goal to give an expected goal (xG) value".[17]

Ice hockey[edit]

In 2004, Alan Ryder shared a methodology for the study of the quality of an ice hockey shot on goal. His discussion started with this sentence “Not all shots on goal are created equal”.[18] Ryder's model for the measurement of shot quality was:

  • Collect the data and analyze goal probabilities for each shooting circumstance
  • Build a model of goal probabilities that relies on the measured circumstance
  • For each shot, determine its goal probability
  • Expected Goals: EG = the sum of the goal probabilities for each shot
  • Neutralize the variation in shots on goal by calculating Normalized Expected Goals
  • Shot Quality Against

Ryder concluded:

The model to get to expected goals given the shot quality factors is simply based on the data. There are no meaningful assumptions made. The analytic methods are the classics from statistics and actuarial science. The results are therefore very credible.[19]

In 2007,[3] Ryder issued a product recall notice for his shot quality model. He presented “a cautionary note on the calculation of shot quality” and pointed to “data quality problems with the measurement of the quality of a hockey team’s shots taken and allowed”.[3]

He reported:

I have been worried that there is a systemic bias in the data. Random errors don’t concern me. They even out over large volumes of data. But I do think that ... the scoring in certain rinks has a bias towards longer or shorter shots, the most dominant factor in a shot quality model. And I set out to investigate that possibility.[3]

The term 'expected goals' appeared in a paper about ice hockey performance presented by Brian Macdonald[4] at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2012. Macdonald's method for calculating expected goals was reported in the paper:

We used data from the last four full NHL seasons. For each team, the season was split into two halves. Since midseason trades and injuries can have an impact on a team’s performance, we did not use statistics from the first half of the season to predict goals in the second half. Instead, we split the season into odd and even games, and used statistics from odd games to predict goals in even games. Data from 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10 was used as the training data to estimate the parameters in the model, and data from the entire 2010-11 was set aside for validating the model. The model was also validated using 10-fold cross-validation. Mean squared error (MSE) of actual goals and predicted goals was our choice for measuring the performance of our models.[4]


  1. ^ "xG stats for teams and players from the TOP European leagues". understat.com.
  2. ^ "Expected goals in soccer". Eindhoven University of Technology research portal. Retrieved 2020-09-27.
  3. ^ a b c d Ryder, Alan (2007). "Product Recall Notice for 'Shot Quality'" (PDF). Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Macdonald, Brian (March 2012). "An Expected Goals Model for Evaluating NHL Teams and Players" (PDF). Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  5. ^ Goldman, Shayna. "Comparing public expected goal models: How they work and what we should take away from them". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  6. ^ Carey, Mark; Worville, Tom. "The Athletic's football analytics glossary: explaining xG, PPDA, field tilt and how to use them". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  7. ^ Kloke, Joshua. "Understanding expected goals and how they impact Toronto FC". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  8. ^ Barnett, Vic; Hilditch, S (1993). "The Effect of an Artificial Pitch Surface on Home Team Performance in Football (Soccer)". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (Statistics in Society). 156 (1): 39–50. doi:10.2307/2982859. JSTOR 2982859.
  9. ^ Barnett, Vic; Hilditch, S (1993). "The Effect of an Artificial Pitch Surface on Home Team Performance in Football (Soccer)". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (Statistics in Society). 156 (1): 47. doi:10.2307/2982859. JSTOR 2982859.
  10. ^ a b c Ensum, Jake; Pollard, Richard; Taylor, Samuel (2004). "Applications of logistic regression to shots at goal in association football: calculation of shot probabilities, quantification of factors and player/team". Journal of Sports Sciences. 22 (6): 504.
  11. ^ Pollard, Richard; Ensum, Jake; Taylor, Samuel (2004). "Estimating the probability of a shot resulting in a goal: The effects of distance, angle and space". International Journal of Soccer and Science. 2 (1): 50–55.
  12. ^ "An examination of expected goals and shot efficiency in soccer" (PDF). Universidad de Alicante.
  13. ^ Hamilton, Howard (8 January 2009). "Moneyball and soccer". Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  14. ^ a b Itjsma, Sander (13 July 2011). "A chance is a chance is a chance?". Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  15. ^ Rudd, Sarah (24 September 2011). "A Framework for Tactical Analysis and Individual Offensive Production Assessment in Soccer Using Markov Chains" (PDF). Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  16. ^ 2011 NESSIS - Talk by Sarah Rudd on YouTube
  17. ^ a b c Green, Sam (12 April 2012). "Assessing the performance of Premier League goalscorers". Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  18. ^ Ryder, Alan (January 2004). "Shot quality" (PDF). p. 2. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  19. ^ Ryder, Alan (January 2004). "Shot quality" (PDF). p. 15. Retrieved 5 January 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tippett, James (8 November 2019). The Expected Goals Philosophy: A Game-Changing Way of Analysing Football. Independently Published. ISBN 9781089883180.

External links[edit]

  • WikiEducator page presents a chronology for the discussions of expected goals in association football literature from 2013 to 2018