Brighton & Hove Albion: The Enemy of Expected Goals

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Most good things in life have a strong rival. They keep them on their toes, always at their best. Unfortunately for Brighton and Hove Albion, their enemy is good fortune. See, Brighton have the indignity of being the team with the greatest differential between expected and actual points.

Brighton: The Enemy Expected Goals

A Running Theme for Brighton

Just recently, Brighton fell to a 2-1 loss at home to Crystal Palace. In a common tale for Graham Potter’s Brighton, they had the best of the chances and possession, then they lost.

This can be seen in looking at the trends for expected goals (xG) over the 2020/21 Premier League season. Using Understat, it is estimated that Brighton have underperformed their xG by 11.85 goals. To emphasise quite how great a difference this is, keep in mind that the second biggest differential is Sheffield United with 9.6.

The strangeness of the situation increases when you look at Brighton’s performances at home. In their last five home games, they have had a greater xG than their opponent in all of them. The result? One home win. Indeed, Brighton cannot seem to turn their statistical advantage into a material one.

Potential of Damaging Consequences

If you asked a random fan what they thought of Brighton this season, they would likely say ‘looks bright, usually fails to win’. This is of course a fair assessment of what has happened. What may surprise many, is quite how much they have lost by defying statistical probability this season.

Based on xG results, Brighton would be fifth in the league. Fifth. Where are they in actuality? 16th.

At this point, many people are surely thinking that this means xG is nonsense which we should just ignore. The thing is that it really isn’t. This is not based on some weird defensiveness of statistics, but of how previous seasons have unfolded.

Take, for example, Unai Emery’s Arsenal. In the first half of 2018/19, Arsenal routinely won without creating much of note. They were massively overperforming their xG. As to be expected, they regressed to the mean in the second half of the season.

All xG does is give you an approximation of what could happen, but it’s often a pretty good one. The question is, will Brighton soon find their fortunes changed?

Visible Finishing Problems for Brighton

The thing about Brighton is that their problems are not particularly hard to identify. They embody every annoying Football Manager game ever, where chances are spurned and opposition goals are gifted.

Neal Maupay simply cannot do what Brighton require him to do. Brighton do not even need a good finisher, they quite literally just need one who is average. To fail to score in this Brighton team is a damning indictment of Maupay.

It is in this, that it would be hard to say that Brighton will one week start banging them in. XG can only tell you how likely, on average, a player is to score, it cannot account for terrible finishing. Thus, there is no guarantee that things will magically get better.

Brighton as a system do all that can be done to spoonfeed goals to their forwards, the forwards simply are not doing their job.

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