Sheffield United haven’t been anywhere near as bad as the Premier League table suggests – at least not according to xG.
Once reserved only for the football nerds of advanced analytics, the stat is now commonly seen throughout the sport’s coverage.
Rather than simply looking at shots in a game, it instead assigns a number to how likely an effort is to resulting in a goal.
This is determined by comparing them to similar attempts in the past.
With most teams having played 11 matches in England’s top flight this season, there is now enough data to start making some concrete conclusions.
Which unfortunately for the Blades, shows they should have been scoring more than they have.
As The Athletic outlines.
The xG for Sheffield United in 2020/21
While the likes of leaders Tottenham Hotspur and high-flying Southampton have scored far more goals than is expected with their shots, United are at the other end of the scale.
By some distance as well.
With the chances they have created, xG suggests Chris Wilder’s side should have scored seven more goals than the five they have actually converted.
This is more than double the next worst side, with Burnley having scored 3.1 fewer goals than they should have.
Their recent 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion is the perfect case in point. According to xG, that was the sixth best attacking performance in the division this term. But the Blades didn’t score once.
That’s despite the fact xG says they should have netted more than three times and won the game.
George Baldock, Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset all wasted great scoring opportunities at the Hawthorns.
While a particularly galling example, that game isn’t a one-off.
Therefore talk of United being “worked out” are probably wide as the mark. As Wilder was quick to say when they were put to him.
Instead, his team are not scoring the chances they should be.
Therefore, despite making the worst start in Premier League history with just one point from their first 11 games, they aren’t actually that far from getting it right.