The Roar
The Roar


Football’s xG statistic is the most ridiculous in all of world sport and the A-Leagues could do without it

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9th January, 2024

It is hard to think of a more pointless and less meaningful statistic in football than xG, which, disappointingly, appears to have crept its way into football commentary and punditry for good.

Even a brief analysis of a league’s xG data will uncover massive inconsistencies between the numbers, the comparable success of the teams and their current positions on the ladder.

No matter how hard the propeller heads attempt to convince us of the reliability of the metric, using measurements such as proximity and angle to goal, as well as the defensive presence and means of delivering the shot (ie either foot, head or body), makes the determined result as utterly unreliable as any statistic I have seen in world sport.

The saddest part of all is the penchant of certain A-League commentators to refer to the data in a manner which suggests the more reliable football knowledge of the professional coaches controlling the teams is insultingly of equal value to a metric based on obvious patterns even blind Freddy could observe.

When a football team has the ball often and presses forward into attacking positions, they are more likely to score than a team struggling to play out from the back and make inroads through a high press. Talk about stating the obvious.

That is what coaches talk about: moving the ball with proactive possession and getting into good areas, observing the number of occasions that occur and the frequency that wider and creative players achieve success in providing clear chances for the players likely to convert them.

That is football 101 and I doubt a coach anywhere in the world is surmising all of the above into a nonsensical xG statistic, as opposed to addressing the important and varied components that make up the new-fangled confection.


When teams head to the sheds at half time, coaches refer to speed of play, decision-making, control of the sphere, balls into the area and defensive shape when the opponent is on the front foot, amongst other things.

Ange Postecoglou, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Ange Postecoglou, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The science nerds intent on convincing us that xG is so valuable that managers like Ange Postecoglou, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are walking into change sheds at the break and saying, “Well done boys, we had an excellent 0.70 xG for goals in that first 45 and the xGA (expected goals against) was only 0.45, so I think it is clear that we are well in front in this derby”, need new jobs and new goals in life.

It is simply mind-bogglingly stupid, bereft of real substance and flies in the face of the nuances of football and the sheer beauty, unpredictability and opportunistic nature of it.

Strangely, in an age where football supporters suffer the painful interventions of VAR and many long for its removal, commentators and pundits appear hypocritical in their willingness to adopt the xG statistic and another piece of science that does little else but detract from the most wonderful of games.

I’d prefer a commentator tell me about the team that looked to have built the most pressure, created the most chances and failed to capitalise on moments, as well as the lucky mob who snatched a winner on the counter.

Rather than tell me the xG predictions were wrong, as they frequently are, and the better team may have dropped the points on a day they could potentially have dominated.


If we ever reach that day; where punditry, speculation and commentary is jettisoned for a nonsensical statistic like xG, along with the rise of VAR and its problems, football could well be emotionally dead.

When A-League commentator Robbie Thomson reverts to the xG metric soon after half-time, I wonder if he has anything at all to say.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

He would probably argue that the reference backs up the prior commentary and half-time discussion. I’d argue it is tautological if that has indeed taken place and a simplistic summary based on a broad range of factors unable to create anything near a resounding factual conclusion.

Apparently, Manchester City’s Erling Haaland possesses an xG rating of 1.15 heading into the second half of the EPL season. Good for him I say.

Whilst some might argue that number tells us a great deal about the player and the team for which he plays, I’d argue differently.

The xG metric of Haaland tells us nothing more than that the team he plays for has plenty of money, wins everything most of the time and features a squad that results in the statistical domination of other teams.


Moreover, they create plenty of chances on goal, dominate possession and rarely lose. I do not need a clumsy and unreliable metric to tell me that and neither should A-League commentators.