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Fiorentina and xG

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A match made in heave... probably hell, actually.

AC Chievo Verona v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images

Statistical aficionados amongst us will know already that Football in 2017 has taken a big leap in terms of bringing match data to the masses. BBC's 'Match of the Day', a British institution, has ushered into the mainstream a statistic born from the incredible amount of match coverage and technology readily available to anyone who seeks it. Much to the disdain of some sections of the older, dismissive football community, xG is nothing more than a product of the utterly bonkers world we live in. Football is a game where two teams try to kick a ball in the opposing teams goal, and thats that, right? Wrong, and xG is now paving the way for a more well educated, statistical approach to football coverage in UK.

xG, in layman’s terms, is the chance than any given shot has of going into the goal. To work out a team's “expected goals” (xG) for a match, every shot must be analysed and given an "Expected goal value" (EGV). EGV is the probability that the ball will go into the net, simple enough. EGV is calculated using a variety of factors, for example, where the defending players were positioned, how far the shot was from goal, at what angle it was struck, and whether the shot was from a direct free-kick or a penalty, to name a few variables. It really is smart, and sets itself out from the quagmire of redundant, contextless stats bounded around online such as pass percentages and more primitive ones like shots per game.

One way in which xG can be seen in its full glory is when looking at Crystal Palace's xG. Palace are a team who have notoriously failed to score a single goal all season, however have the leagues 12th best xG at 7.16. This indicates that although Palace are avoiding hitting the back of the net like the Plague, they are creating good chances.

Now how does this apply to Fiorentina I hear you ask. Fiorentina currently have the 11th best xG in Serie A, at 8.17. Whilst still being in 12th position, this probably gives a fair indication that Fiorentina are thoroughly mid-table, which comes as a surprise to none of us. Napoli's monstrous xG of 18.72 is in line with what you'd expect from Sarri's side. Benevento's xG is 7.18, a single notch below Fiorentina's. This really isn't great news as Benevento have been ridiculously poor so far. When you consider the difference between the best xG of 18.72 and the worst xG of 4.80 (Crotone), a one point difference between La Viola and Benevento is a cause for a bit of concern. Guys, I wish I could be positive about this but, you know, its probably everything you came to expect.

Furthermore, Fiorentina's expected xG against them (xGA) is the 6th highest in the league... gulp. Pioli's side register a 10.66 on the metaphorical xGA chart, while Napoli (sorry to keep citing them but they're just really, really, really good) have an xGA of 3.25. It takes no Einstein to work out that is a really big, slightly cavernous gap.

In simple terms, xG is not Fiorentina's friend. Pioli’s team are neither creating great chances nor stopping opposing teams from giving their fans frequent heart palpitations. Of course, it is early on in the season, and we should expect to see the rating even out, but for now, buckle in folks, it looks like its gonna be a long season.