The top of the Premier League’s individual expected goals per 90 table is full of all the usual suspects. Exactly half of the top ten (among players with at least 600 minutes on the pitch) are players you’d guess on the first try. Sergio Aguero is still better at scoring goals than everybody. Everybody knows by now that Tammy Abraham is having a star making season. Raheem Sterling, Mohammed Salah, and Sadio Mané are all elite scorers from the wing. They’re all there. But, mixed in are another five players, players who might surprise and amaze you. These are their stories.
Danny Ings: The xG paper tiger
Every year Danny Ings spends part of the season popping up as a surprisingly formidable attacking player. And seemingly every year he squanders his chances, then gets hurt then everybody forgets about him until he starts the next year off in a similarly promising fashion. Ings is once again rocking the attacking production. He’s averaging 0.53 non-penalty xG per 90 minutes. That’s third in the league. He’s doing it by averaging a bunch of shots, 2.94, the ninth highest total in the league and making sure they’re good ones, among players who hit the minutes cutoff and take at least a shot per 90 his 0.18 xG is eight. Imagine Tammy Abraham, take away roughly one shot per match, and that’s what Danny Ings’s numbers look like. As per usual with Ings there’s the caveat that while he’s played the requisite number of minutes, he’s still been used intermittently and has seen less playing time than anybody else in the top ten. That means we’re only talking about a little over 4 xG and 23 total shots. Still, though, they’re really good shots.
Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes: The dynamic duo
If you’re looking for pairs of elite scorers Manchester City has them all. Aguero and Sterling top the list. After them it’s Aguero and Bernardo Silva, followed by Aguero and David Silva. Then it’s Sterling and Silva, and Sterling and the other Silva. City have the top five pairs. Then, its Salah and Mané who combine for 0.91 xG per 90. But just behind those two. It’s who comes next that’s stunning. Burnley’s set of, apparently world beating strikers, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes clock in at a combined 0.90 are barely outscored by Liverpool's wingers. The two of them are well matched. Wood shoots less frequently, only 2.00 times per match, the third least frequent shooter of any in the top 20 of xG per 90, but his 0.23 xG per shot is extraordinary. Barnes on the other hand both shoots more, and from somewhat more varied positions, with 3.23 shots per 90 and a still respectfully robust 0.14 xG per shot. What really makes the Barnes and Wood show so incredible is that Burnley only averages 1.14 xG total per match. It’s really just the two of them holding down the attacking fort. Obviously, City, who have four different players appearing in the top five two-man combinations, aren’t nearly as narrowly reliant, and neither are Liverpool. Here’s how their top two stack up with everybody else. Unsurprisingly Liverpool’s big three are in fact a big three and they have help from the fullbacks. Burnley are a two-man attacking show, and so far this season those two men have been among the best in the league.
Neal Maupay: Making the leap at Brighton
It’s easy to miss just how strong Neal Maupay’s start to life at the Premier League level has been. Among the top twenty in xG per 90 only one other player is underperforming their xG total by as much as Maupay who is averaging 0.32 non-penalty goals per 90 against 0.46 xG (though what this means practically given the limited minutes is that he has three goals as opposed to 4.26 xG). He’s in good company though, since the other player significantly under their xG total is Salah. As Brighton’s featured attacker, Maupay shoot a lot, 3.45 times per 90 is fourth most frequent in the Premier League, and while his shot chart can get a little ugly, he keeps the xG per shot at 0.13 which is respectable enough (it is, again, right in line with Salah). Notably Maupay isn’t just a goal scorer. He’s an acceptable passer, and a defensive contributor as well. It’s still early, of course, but so far he looks like one of the most successful and impactful new signings of the Premier League season.
Callum Wilson: Bournemouth’s old reliable
And finally, there’s Callum Wilson. You don’t have to shoot much if when you do shoot, you shot from where Wilson shoots from. The man has five goals from 17 shots, and that’s exactly what xG would predict. Not too shabby.