The philosopher Mark Twain once observed that ‘there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’
The general gist of what he meant is that stats can be used to add weight to a weak argument and that sometimes numbers can also be used erroneously to prove a point that simply doesn’t exist.
Given that he lived most of his life in the 1800s, it’s doubtful that football betting was ever on Twain’s radar. But if it had been, he might scoff at the sheer number of stats used today to try and explain what is happening… even if the figures quoted are of limited relevance.
So how many times in sports betting do we use possession or shots at goal as some kind of guide as to who will win a football match? How often do horse racing punters quote the form of a particular trainer/owner, despite that having no bearing on the next race? Why do golf bettors lean so liberally on course form when a player might be shanking the ball left, right, and centre in the lead-up to a tournament?
Instead, it makes sense to consider online sports tips that use reasoned, insightful statistics as a base for their predictions. Possession doesn’t win football games, but creating a series of high-quality chances in the penalty area often does… and that’s why Expected Goals is perhaps the king of stats when placing your football bets.
What is Expected Goals?
In football, not all chances are created equal.
A long-range pot shot has a lower probability of resulting in a goal than a one-yard tap-in, and what Expected Goals – often known as xG – does is assign a numerical value to each shot based upon the likelihood of the ball ending up in the back of the net.
So, a goalkeeper shooting from their own penalty area may be assigned an xG of 0.01. A penalty, meanwhile, is typically awarded a rating of 0.80. a tap-in on the goal line will likely be 0.99… but not a whole 1.00 because, you know, weird stuff happens in football from time to time.
The highest xG miss ever?pic.twitter.com/2WAVIc6Kco— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) July 10, 2022
How to Use Expected Goals in Betting
Although it’s not a rule set in stone, for the most part we would expect a team creating a high frequency of quality goalscoring chances (higher xG) to defeat a side delivering very little in the way of attacking opportunities (lower xG).
And so, to that end, in-play punters can scan games for where there is a clear xG mismatch in-running, and perhaps bet accordingly after taking all of the other factors into consideration.
Longer term, it’s interesting to track teams that continually deliver high attacking xG with low defensive xG – indicating that they are effective at both ends of the pitch. During the 2021/22 Premier League season, all of the usual suspects thrived in this area, but there was one anomaly: Brighton.
Brighton at home in the league under Graham Potter:— InfogolJake ⚽️📊 (@JAKEOZZ) August 25, 2022
Played 39, won 9, 44 points collected.#BHAFC have won the xG battle in 27 of those games, racking up 71.2 xP.
41 goals scored. 65.7 xGF generated.
A 0.03% chance they score so few from the quality of chances created. pic.twitter.com/QUTlw7ELNk
The Seagulls ranked sixth for Expected Goals Difference (xGD) – which is xG for minus xG against. In the end, they only lost eleven games, which was fewer than Arsenal and Manchester United to name just two, and so this stat was evidently helpful in identifying value betting opportunities.
So, if your punting could do with an overhaul, maybe Expected Goals could be the framework that brings you success?
Check out some more online betting guides and improve your betting further.