Tactical Snapshot: Wolves Woes, Hugo Lloris and Trent Alexander-Arnold
Our data analysts dive into Stats Perform’s advanced metrics to pull out the key tactical snapshots from the latest Premier League action. Data visualizations, AI models and the occasional Arsenal bias can all be guaranteed, as Jonny Whitmore and the team dive into the numbers each week.
New Wolves boss Bruno Lage has had an unfortunate start to his Premier League managerial career. Three games into the season and Wolves find themselves in the bottom three with three 1-0 defeats in a row. They join Arsenal as the only teams yet to score in the Premier League this season.
However, there is still optimism in the air in the West Midlands. Wolves have faced three tough opponents in Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester United but have still looked impressive.
As with all takes at this stage of season, there are other factors at play, but impressively only three teams have been better defensively than Wolves, according to expected goals. They have conceded chances worth only 2.5 xG. Only Brentford (2.4), West Ham (2.3) and Manchester City’s (1.4) opponents had chances where they were expected to score fewer goals.
Even more frustratingly for Bruno Lage’s team is that they’ve created the quality of chances that a team would have been expected to score more than 5 goals from (5.4 xG) and have still failed to find the back of the net.
In fact, no other team in the top five European leagues this season has underperformed their goal scoring expectation by this much. If one of these goals had gone in, these games might have played out very differently, but the underlying numbers do point to a change in fortunes for the season ahead.
Before firing another blank against Manchester United this weekend, Lage said “we need to create chances and I’m sure the goals will come”. I think they will come too, Bruno.
We’ve heard a lot about offensive players and their performances this season but there has been one goalkeeper quietly going about his business to great effect this season. Hugo Lloris.
The Tottenham captain has kept three clean sheets in three games in the Premier League so far this season. Of the 105 goalkeepers in the top five European leagues this season to have faced a shot on target, Hugo Lloris is one of only three goalkeepers yet to concede. Nice’s Walter Benítez and Sevilla’s Marko Dmitrovic complete the trio.
Using Stats Perform’s expected goals on target (xGOT) model, we can isolate his individual performances by looking at the quality of the chances and the placement of the shots he has faced this season.
It can be seen in the graphic above, that from the 12 on-target shots that he faced, he was expected to concede more than two goals (2.4 xGOT conceded). Given that he was able to prevent them, we can attribute Hugo Lloris with preventing 2.4 goals with his saves.
No other goalkeeper this season has prevented as many goals this season. David de Gea is his closest rival following his heroics over the weekend against Wolves with 2.2 goals prevented.
To complete the expected trio this week, we’ll also look at expected assists (xA). Last week I spoke about Liverpool’s ability to get teammates into the box during their crosses. This is also matched by the quality of their deliveries.
To nobody’s surprise, the most impressive of these are from Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold who tops the rankings in the Premier League this season for both expected assists (1.73) and chances created (15). You can see in the plot of his chances created this season how Trent targets the back post, both from corners and his trademark crosses from deep.
While chances created are a great indicator of creativity, the benefit of also looking at a player’s expected assists is that they are not dependent on the receiving player taking a shot.
For example, we can see that one of the Trent’s chances created was a short pass to Fabinho who took a shot from 33 metres out. This is valued the same as a defence splitting balls behind the opponent’s backline that leads to a shot.
We can example of one of these passes below. The xA graphic shows Trent’s open play passes where the probability of his teammate scoring upon reception was greater than 10% (xA > 0.1). If you compare these high value passes to the chances created graphic, you can see that one of these to the right of the penalty spot didn’t created a chance.
The pass in question was received by Sadio Mane late on in the game against Chelsea at the weekend. Mane miscontrolled the ball under pressure from Thiago Silva and wasn’t able to get a shot away, despite being in a great position to do so. Trent doesn’t create a chance here in the traditional metrics but, he is still rewarded by the xA model.
With expected assists, we can still measure these underlying contributions. With such an impressive start to the season, we will see whether Trent Alexander-Arnold can take the top spot for xA contribution in the Premier League this season. He has been the second most creative player in this metric in both of the last two seasons, beaten only by Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
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