What the xG Analytics Say about Stoke City

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Interior view of the stadium prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Stoke City and Swansea City at bet365 Stadium on August 31, 2022 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Interior view of the stadium prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Stoke City and Swansea City at bet365 Stadium on August 31, 2022 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images) /

There are many ways you can judge or rate a team. One of those methods is the always popular eye test. There’s also the pure stats method of looking at how many goals a team has scored or conceded. Then there’s one of the more trendy methods of looking at the expected goals data for a respective club.

The eye test and actual stats behind a team’s season is definitely still an important measuring stick. After all, how a team is looking tactically and what they’ve physically done stats-wise is a massive indicator of who a team is. In the words of the great Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.”

So far through the international break, Stoke City have measured up decently in both measurements. Manager Alex Neil has had the team tactically prepared for opposing teams up to this point. The Potters have also ranked well with goals for and conceded. Stoke City comes in bottom ten in the Championship for goals conceded with eleven. They’ve also scored eleven goals which puts them midtable in that regard.

Now the final indicator, what does analytics say about The Potters this season so far? Specifically, what do the xG (expected goals) and xGA (expected goals against) say about Stoke City and where they rank going into October? Let’s dive deeper:

Stoke City Analytical Data Through September

According to footystats.org, Stoke City rank top ten at #8 overall in the Championship so far this season with 1.52 xG per game. QPR currently sits right behind The Potters at #9 with 1.5 xG per game and Coventry City sits just ahead of Stoke City at #7 with 1.58 xG per game.

As for xGA, Stoke City ranks bottom ten in the league at #10 with 1.43 xGA per game. The top ten teams in the league for xGA per game start at 1.38 xGA and go all the way to West Brom with the best xGA in the Championship at 1.1.

To sum it up, Stoke City on average should score roughly at least one goal, maybe two, a game. Defensively, they should on average give up at least a goal, maybe even two a game. At first glance, that appears to make Stoke City a mid-table team through this part of the season. Which is generally where they have sat on the table.

So where does Neil need to improve Stoke City to improve those numbers even further? If you cut open those numbers of Stoke City’s xG and xGA, there’s an even clearer picture.

Open Play and Set Plays xG/xGA

Goals For Open Play/Set Plays

Per theanalyst.com, Stoke City are the 6th worst team in the league with 6.78 xG this season in open play. As for xG on set plays, Stoke City is elite thus far. The Potters have a 4.71 xG from the goals they’ve scored on set pieces this season. That’s good for number one in the Championship.

Goals Against For Open Play/Set Plays

So far this year, the Potters defensively have a 9.64 xGA in open play and 3.35 xGA on set plays. This puts Stoke City at fourth worst in the league and bottom ten in the league in respect to open play and set play expected goals against.

Again to sum things up from that data, Stoke City have not been good enough offensively from open play and have been elite with set pieces. Defensively the team has been putrid from open play and shaky on set pieces.

What this Stoke City Data Means

If those numbers stay the same all season, Stoke City will finish between 15th-10th on the table. Safe from relegation most likely, but not good enough for promotion. This is where you have to speculate a bit now.

A lot of those stats occurred during Michael O’Neill’s time with the team and in the early period of Alex Neil’s tenure with the team. Meaning, the hope is the elite stats carry through with those poor categories being improved upon by Neil. Which is something we’ve seen in the last two games with three goals scored and none conceded.

Going even further back, since Neil has been in charge, Stoke City has only given up one open play goal. Which is their worst defensive xGA category.

Regression will happen for sure in some of the good categories as well for Stoke City, such as set piece goals for. But Alex Neil will be hoping his effect on the team will impact the team’s ability to be better in open play on both sides of the ball.

If Neil can impact those big weaknesses, The Potters can definitely finish as a top eight team. Or dare I say, a top four team. It really comes down to open play for Stoke City after the break and beyond this season to improve their xG and xGA.