Written by Alex Vella. Originally, this was going to be a 200-word post on our Facebook Group but I got a little excited. Apologies in advance to Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool fans! Feel free to highlight my mistakes.
I find Matchday 1 of any competition the greatest metaphor for sports betting. The amount of narratives that form from a sample size of one game is so interesting. Manchester United are the real deal after their 5–1 victory over Leeds, even though they lost to Villarreal on penalties in their last competitive match. Chelsea and Liverpool eased past Palace and Norwich, whilst Man City now lack a ruthless streak after winning the league by 12 points last season and winning the EPL three of the past four seasons. Don’t get me wrong, all of this could be true but I’d much rather base my opinions on more than just one game.
Even if you dive deep into one game and look to create a narrative, do it evenly. Don’t just read or listen to one article, podcast or pundit’s view, look at a variety of sources. Look at both quantitative and qualitative data. If you read just one article on each of those games I mentioned above, your opinion will be shaped by one opinion. So it might be something like this; “Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea are brilliant and Manchester City will struggle to capture another title this season.” So here’s a way I like to quantify narratives, especially short-term ones; xG! (Images courtesy of Understat).
Manchester United scored fives goals against Leeds, which was unexpected to most, especially when you take into consideration how many they were expected to score from the shots they took (1.67). Greenwood’s goal and Bruno’s second goal were respectively 0.08 & 0.07 xG chances. In other words, those goals only go in 7 or 8% of the time! Now I know Manchester United are most likely going to outperform their xG over the course of a season, due to having better quality players than your average football side, but scoring five goals from 1.67 xG every game is not maintainable over 38 games.
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