With the Premier League back after the international break, Infogol's Steven Railston uses expected goals (xG) to predict the likely winners and scorelines of each match in Gameweek 9...
"Critics that questioned Jose Mourinho’s suitability to Tottenham have been silenced this season, with Spurs recording exceptional underlying numbers (2.2 xGF, 1.2 xGA pg), consistently securing strong results."
Chelsea can win up North
Newcastle vs Chelsea
Newcastle once again looked toothless against Southampton (xG: SOU 1.0 - 0.3 NEW) before the international break, which wasn't surprising as the Magpies have averaged just 1.2 xGF per game this term. They seem to really struggle against stronger opposition, wilfully surrendering possession, and against Tottenham and Manchester United this season, they've created an average of just 0.6 non-penalty xGF. This represents a woeful return, and Chelsea (1.7 xGF pg) will be seeking to take advantage here, with the Blues arriving in great form, most recently dismantling Sheffield United (xG: CHE 2.8 - 0.9 SHU). Frank Lampard's side have lost just once this season in the Premier League, against champions Liverpool, and the Infogol model calculates a 59% chance Chelsea will return to London with the three points. However, the model also calculates a 53% chance that both teams will score. Chelsea winning but failing to keep a clean sheet seems likely.
Seagulls to swoop at Villa Park
Aston Villa vs Brighton
Aston Villa have made a fantastic start to the new season, taking 15 points from seven games, impressively beating Arsenal before the break (xG: ARS 1.7 - 1.9 AVL). While that scoreline was flattering, Villa have continued their upward curve under Dean Smith, and their defensive record (1.4 xGA pg) catches the eye for all the right reasons. Jack Grealish (0.8 xGI/avg) shone for England in the break, and expect him to be heavily involved here, always instrumental in orchestrating Villa's passages of play. Brighton's underlying numbers suggest they're unfortunate to have just six points (1.5 xGF, 1.2 xGA pg), and they failed to break the deadlock against Burnley at the Amex most recently (xG: BRI 1.6 - 0.5 BUR). The Seagulls have shown attacking promise this campaign, and they can test Villa here. The Infogol model predicts goals (50% O.25), calculating there isn't much between these sides, although it's surely only a matter of time before Brighton (34%) secure a result their performances deserve.
Tottenham to hold City to a draw
Tottenham vs Man City
Critics that questioned Jose Mourinho's suitability to Tottenham have been silenced this season, with Spurs recording exceptional underlying numbers (2.2 xGF, 1.2 xGA pg), consistently securing strong results. While their most recent win against West Brom was workmanlike (xG: WBA 1.0 - 1.9 TOT), Tottenham still found a way to make a breakthrough. Harry Kane (1.3 xGI/avg match) scored the matchwinner at the Hawthorns, with the talisman further enhancing his credentials as one of the world's best strikers, and Manchester City will be wary of his sensational form heading into this clash. Unlike Spurs, City have uncharacteristically looked shy in front of goal this season (1.5 xGF pg), possessing the worst attacking process since Pep Guardiola took over the reins at the Etihad. They are looking more assured in defence, though, conceding just 14 non-penalty shots totalling 0.91 xG in their last three matches, with the partnership of Rúben Dias and Aymeric Laporte beginning to blossom. Backing Spurs to avoid defeat is the choice based on the Infogol model, but we also calculate a 66% chance there will be three or more goals.
Manchester United to dominate struggling Baggies
Manchester United vs West Brom
Once again, the dark clouds are gathering over Old Trafford, with Manchester United having won just 10 points from seven games. However, their most recent win against Everton was a big step in the right direction and a much-needed confidence boost (xG: EVE 0.5 - 1.8 MUN). Despite this, it's worth noting United have looked poor when playing at home this season (0.9 xGF, 1.7 xGA pg), although they have the perfect opportunity here to rid themselves of that poor start. West Brom have recorded just 4.8 xGF in their eight matches (0.6 xGF pg), and worryingly, they've looked as equally disastrous in defence (2.0 xGA pg). Their underlying numbers are truly abysmal, and they've secured just one point on the road this term, with their chances appearing extremely slim here. The Infogol model calculates a huge 75% chance the hosts can prevail in this fixture, while also predicting one side, most likely West Brom, will fail to find the back of the net (64% BTTS 'No').
Toffees to come unstuck at Craven Cottage
Fulham vs Everton
Fulham have struggled since returning to the Premier League, taking just four points from eight games (1.2 xGF, 1.7 xGA pg), although they've squandered a few penalties tha have proven costly, most recently Adamola Lookman's panenka attempt. Scott Parker made it no secret he was eager to improve Fulham's defensive options in the summer, and the Cottagers have kept just one clean sheet so far (-3.6 xGD), which came against fellow promotees West Brom. After a blistering start, Everton have lost three consecutive games, and their numbers from that winless run don't make for pleasant reading (0.7 xGF, 1.8 xGA pg). Furthermore, only four teams have conceded more than the Toffees this campaign, but whether Fulham have the quality to exploit their back line remains to be seen. We calculate a 56% chance that the hosts can avoid defeat, but the model also predicts a low scoring game (53% U2.5).
The Blades can get off the mark
Sheffield United vs West Ham
Sheffield United have lost three consecutive games heading into this fixture, and while those defeats came against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea (xG: CHE 2.8 - 0.9 SHU), they've secured just one point all season. The Blades have averaged 1.7 xGA per game, a downturn on last campaign's defensive numbers (1.4 xGA pg), although they have been tasked with one of the hardest schedules in the league. Things should start to get better for Chris Wilder's side, but they need to overcome West Ham first, who have looked menacing going forward this term (1.5 xGF pg). Despite this, the Irons needed injury time to score against Fulham, and they were ultimately fortunate to win that game. They've lacked fluency in recent weeks, and while the Infogol model calculates that it is more likely than not that both teams score (51% BTTS), we make Sheffield United favourites to win this game (40%).
Points to be shared at Elland Road
Leeds vs Arsenal
Leeds have adapted to the demands of the top-flight better than their fellow promoted sides, and their games have often been entertaining at both ends of the pitch (1.6 xGF, 1.8 xGA pg). However, their poor defensive record has been overlooked, as their ability to create chances grabs attention, but on five occasions this campaign they've actually scored one goal or fewer, slumping to a heavy defeat to Crystal Palace before the break (xG: CRY 1.2 - 1.0 LEE). Conceding four goals from 1.2 xG is rare, though, and Leeds' game against Manchester City could offer clues to as this game will develop, with Mikel Arteta's Arsenal visiting West Yorkshire. The Gunners were also on the wrong end of an unfortunate defeat recently, losing 3-0 to Aston Villa (xG: ARS 1.7 - 1.9 AVL), and will feel aggrieved they lost in that manner. Prior to that game, Arsenal had conceded the fewest amount of goals (7) in the division, and their back line has certainly improved under Arteta (1.3 xGA pg). The Infogol model calculates a 53% chance of under 2.5 goals here, and this could definitely develop into a tightly contested affair.
Champions can win despite injury crisis
Liverpool vs Leicester
Liverpool have been rocked with an injury crisis, with all of Jurgen Klopp's entire first choice back four now missing and side-lined. The champions have already looked weaker in defence this term (1.4 xGA pg), and now their record at the back will likely worsen further. While they started brightly against Man City (xG: MCI 1.5 - 1.2 LIV), they couldn't sustain that pace, and created just 0.4 non-penalty xG. Mohamed Salah converted from the spot to score for the Reds at the Etihad on that occasion, and the Egyptian is another player that has been ruled out of this game, after testing positive for COVID-19. With Klopp left with no choice but to select a makeshift defence, the game seems to be shaping up well for Jamie Vardy. The 33-year-old (0.45 non-pen xG/avg match) is proving age is just a number this season, and his electric pace can allow the Foxes to get in behind Liverpool here. However, while Leicester have averaged 1.8 xGF per game, a staggering 44% of their xG has come via penalties and this is grossly unsustainable. Without those efforts from the spot, Leicester haven't looked overly threatening (1.0 non-pen xGF pg), which is just what a depleted Liverpool side will be desperate to hear. The hosts can win here (63%), though don't be surprised to see this be low scoring.
Burnley to restrict the Eagles
Burnley vs Crystal Palace
Burnley have really yet to find their stride this season, struggling to put the pieces together in attack (0.8 xGF pg), although to their credit, they've maintained a strong defensive record (1.2 xGA pg). Crystal Palace haven't exactly convinced in attack, which is a good omen for Burnley, with two notably poor Palace performances, creating 0.1 xG away at Chelsea and 0.0 non-penalty xG against Brighton, instantly coming to mind. Burnley should be able to limit their opportunities in front of goal and the Infogol model fancies the Clarets to win this game (46%), while also suggesting it will be likely one side won't score (52% BTTS 'No').
Wolves to keep another clean sheet
Wolves vs Southampton
Wolves have established themselves as one of the league's most astute defensive sides, and after an underwhelming start, they've looked strong, conceding an average of 0.8 non-pen xGA per game in their last five. Before their Leicester defeat (xG: LEI 2.1 - 0.7 WOL), Wolves had kept four consecutive clean sheets and they'll be eager to keep another. Southampton's results have flattered them in recent weeks, with the Saints scoring eight goals across their last three games, despite averaging 0.9 xGF pg in that time. With Danny Ings still injured (0.4 xG/avg match), there are doubts surrounding where their goals will come from. We make Wolves favourites to win (53%), while the model also suggests someone can keep a clean sheet (54% BTTS 'No').
Infogol's Correct Score P+L
Newcastle vs Chelsea: Back the 1-3 @ 13.5
Aston Villa vs Brighton: Back the 1-2 @ 12.5
Tottenham vs Manchester City: Back the 2-2 @ 15.014/1
Manchester United vs West Brom: Back the 3-0 @ 10.09/1
Fulham vs Everton: Back the 1-1 @ 8.415/2
Sheffield United vs West Ham: Back the 2-1 @ 12.5
Leeds vs Arsenal: Back the 1-1 @ 8.07/1
Liverpool vs Leicester: Back the 1-0 @ 12.011/1
Burnley v Crystal Palace: Back the 1-0 @ 8.07/1
Wolves vs Southampton: Back the 1-0 @ 8.07/1