Mark Stinchcombe: “I’m in the midst of a love / hate relationship with xG at the moment"

8 min

After two games of the season, the Premier League outright is starting to ‘harden’ and I’m constantly on the lookout for a good opportunity to enter the market, especially with six sides whose first XI’s really don’t differ too much in terms of ability.

There’s no guarantees, but this scenario should provide fluctuations in the market, giving me chances to trade. Manchester City are currently 2.48 favourites, yet Liverpool who also sit on four points, are 19.0 and 6th fancied outsiders.

Yes, Man City rate as one of the best sides on performance data, such as shot ratio and expected goals, but over 38 games the league table doesn’t always produce the best side as the winner.

Football by design is a low scoring game, with variance often playing a huge part in results.

Hornets flying high, Seagulls diving

Continuing on from last week’s piece, I thought it was interesting to see Watford and Marco Silva build on their positive result against Liverpool.

Watford’ Portuguese manager is proving his worth with some fine early season performances.

Despite changing two of the front three, they went to Bournemouth and outshot them 19-6, winning the xG 2.33 – 0.65. Silva received a lot of plaudits by nearly keeping Hull up last season and they could be dark horses for a top half finish since only six points separated 8th – 17th last season.

Brighton on the other hand are struggling at both ends of the pitch having lost both games 2-0. Scratch beneath the surface and it doesn’t make for good reading. They’ve managed just 12 shots and collectively lost the xG count 0.45 – 3.90. Coincidentally, they visit Vicarage Road this weekend and Even money Watford could be a big price.

I can’t buy a bet at the moment

Well, last week’s bets were a washout! To be honest I wasn’t surprised or shocked, as I’ve already mentioned, betting early on in leagues is not really my forte. New managers, players and tactics can all come into play and there’s often more questions than answers leading to a lot of analysis becoming guesswork.

Despite that, I’m still satisfied with last week’s selections, especially with keeping stake sizes low, they just didn’t win.

Arsenal won the xG 1.44 – 0.69 and Tottenham’s match was a close 0.7 – 0.74 to prevent a half stake return.

xG isn’t the be and end all, but it’s a good guide and can drive the markets.

Huddersfield vs Newcastle played out the way a 2.25 goal line match was to be expected, but again after one Premier League match each; it was essentially an informed guess in the quest for value.

2 games, 0 goals, and 0 points for Newcastle… Rafa needs a miracle, but I’m sure he’ll settle for a goal.

Under, Under, and Over this weekend

This weekend’s bets are again tentative selections, but with just enough of an edge to make them worthwhile.

Crystal Palace again look to be without Wilfried Zaha and with Sigurdsson gone and Llorente unlikely to be fit, Swansea look to be toothless in attack once more. Neither side has even scored a goal yet and with the offensive absentees, a low scoring one looks on the cards again. Palace have registered xG of 0.85 and 0.67 so far and Swansea’s has been even worse, just 0.27 and 0.43, having just 11 shots across the two games. With both sides struggling, under 2.5 goals looks the bet here.

Huddersfield vs Southampton looks to be a game to play out in a similar manner, with the Terriers adopting a compact approach in the debut Premier League campaign. Having recorded wins of 3-0 and 1-0 so far but only registering xG of 0.48 and 0.26 respectively, it goes to show how well they’ve done so far. The total xG in their games so far is just 1.33 and 1.01 which goes to show how tight they’re keeping things at both ends.

Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino is no stranger himself to keeping things tight, having done a fantastic job last season leading Alaves to a 9th place finish and the Spanish Cup. Alaves’ matches averaged just 2.21 goals and with both sides unbeaten so far, neither will be giving anything away cheaply.

Finally, the biggest game of the weekend sees Liverpool take on Arsenal at Anfield, and I can only see goals. In the 10 fixtures since 2013, this match has seen 41 goals at an average of 4.1 goals-per-game.

These two guys will be making Arsenal’s defence sweat.


Both sides are fantastic going forward and both vulnerable defensively, particularly Liverpool. The Reds offensive prowess has seen them average 2.38 xG over the first two games with the Gunners 1.96.

I think we’ll be in for something similar to Liverpool’s victory over Hoffenheim with six goals scored, in a game the Reds didn’t need to win. However, Klopp’s style is all out attack and I think the goal line of 2.75 is generous here.

Recommended bets:

  • Under 2.5 goals Crystal Palace v Swansea @ 1.75
  • Under 2.5 goals Huddersfield v Southampton @ 1.74
  • Over 2.75 goals Liverpool v Arsenal @ 1.79

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