Premier League 20-21 Season Preview
Infogol’s Jake Osgathorpe uses expected goals (xG) data to assess what we are likely to see in the upcoming Premier League season.
At the Top
Liverpool won the 19/20 title by a wide margin, though based on the underlying numbers they were fortunate to do so, ranking a distant second behind Manchester City in our xG table.
City boasted an astounding underlying process last season (2.67 xGF, 1.05 xGA per game), and are strongly fancied to win the title back from Liverpool, with the model expecting it to be a two-horse race again.
percent chance of winning the Premier League title (graphic)
Manchester United finished last season in third after a late rally following the signing of Bruno Fernandes.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side picked up the most points (32) of any side after Fernandes arrived (31st Jan, 14 games), going unbeaten in the league in that time.
They finished the season sat fourth in Infogol’s xG table, and look strong again in the upcoming campaign. If they maintain their same level of process, United will again secure a top four spot.
Chelsea nearly blew their opportunity to secure a Champions League berth, but ultimately finished fourth, and a top-four finish was the least they deserved according to expected goals.
percent chance of top four finish in 20/21 Premier League (graphic)
Frank Lampard’s side posted impressive underlying numbers (2.06 xGF, 1.21 xGA per game) as a team, but a lack of clinical finishing (69 goals, 78.3 xGF) and a leaky defence (54 goals conceded, 45.9 xGA) meant the Blues were left to sweat.
Bringing in Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell will help strengthen their defence ahead of the upcoming campaign, while the additions of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz will make their attacking line-up even stronger.
Wolves were again impressive in 19/20, finishing the campaign fifth in Infogol’s xG table, boasting the Premier League’s second-best defence according to xGA (1.08 per game).
They also finished fifth in the xG table in 18/19, so have shown tremendous levels of consistency since arriving back in the top flight, performing at a level that means they are one of the league’s elite sides. Nuno’s side should push hard again for a European spot.
Based on results, both Arsenal and Tottenham were trending in the right direction towards the back end of the season, but their underlying numbers remained poor.
percent chance of top six finish in 20/21 Premier League (graphic)
Tottenham under Mourinho ranked as the 10th best team according to xG, and need to improve drastically. The same applies for Arsenal, who ranked as the 13th best team based on xG since Mikel Arteta took over.
They were better on the eye post-break, and did pick up some eye-catching results, but major improvements are needed from a process standpoint.
At the Bottom
The Infogol model makes newly-promoted Fulham favourites for the drop in the upcoming campaign, after Scott Parker’s side were fortunate to make the play-offs last season, ranking as the seventh best team in the second tier.
They posted an expected goal difference of +6.1, which was considerably lower than West Brom’s (+22.6 xGD) over the season.
Infogol don’t see too much between those two sides heading into this season but expect both to be in a relegation scrap.
percent chance of Relegation from Premier League 20/21 (graphic)
Aston Villa, who survived on the final day last season, are Infogol’s third favourites to drop, but showed marked improvements post-break defensively which ultimately saved their season.
Dean Smith’s side had allowed a league high 2.4 xGA per game pre-break, while post-break they allowed just 1.0 xGA per game. If they maintain that level of defensive process, then they should again stay up.
Newcastle have real cause for concern. Many pundits praised Steve Bruce for the job he did last season but, based on the underlying numbers, they were extremely fortunate to steer clear of a relegation battle, sitting rock bottom of Infogol’s xG table.
Premier League 19/20 xG table – sorted by expected position (graphic)
Unless anything changes, you can expect their results this season to regress to a level that their performances deserve. We calculate that Newcastle have a 36.7 percent chance of going down this season.
Crystal Palace also have reason to be concerned as, although they coasted to a comfortable 14th-place finish, they sat 17th in the xG table, posting the second-worst attacking numbers (1.03 xGF per game).
Brighton were impressive based on xG last season and should steer clear of trouble if they maintain the same level, while Sheffield United, who were exceptional last season, are expected to drop into the bottom half this term.
Newly promoted Leeds won the Championship with similar authority and dominance to Wolves in 17/18, and the model expects them to survive - Marcelo Bielsa’s side are given just an 18.1 percent chance of going down.
You can checkout Infogol’s forecast table for the upcoming Premier League season here.