If you are so inclined, you can run a search in the bar atop our site and find places from last season where I talked about how our results were better than our performances. This was a concern for me, because eventually bad performances catch up to you. I believe the same thing about good performances. Play well over the course of 38 matches and you’ll wind up where you are supposed to, and that is why yesterday’s draw with Huesca leaves me unflinchingly optimistic about Villarreal’s outlook for the season.
Expected goals is a metric that get used to the point where it is almost as common to talk about as the final score. I know there are still plenty of scoffers about xG out there, but basically what it does is evaluate the quality of your chances and the quality of the chances you give up. Last season in La Liga, Real Madrid led the league in xG difference per 90, and the results followed. For our own part, we had an xG difference of +12.4, and on the year we finished with a goal difference of +14. Over the course of a long season, the matches where you fortunately score above your xG and the ones where you unluckily concede more than you should tend to average out.
Against Huesca, our chances generated 1.8 xG, per understat. This of course does not count the two goals we had called back (one of them very marginally offside), though it does included 0.73xG for a penalty. That 1.8xG per 90 over the course of an entire season would give us 68.4xG, which would have been best in the league last season. We gave up 0.5 xG against Huesca, which over the course of an entire year also would have been the best in the league last year.
So, we faced opposition relatively poor on talent and we created chances at a decent level from open play (and won a penalty) and did not give up much at all defensively. That’s more or less what we should do. We likely won’t average the sort of xG and xGA we saw yesterday all season but bottom line we put in a strong performance on a day when every single one of us knows the team did not play as well as it possibly could. We also seem to have reinforcements on the way in the form of Pervis Estupinan that will make our left flank more dangerous.
Regardless of the points in the standings, I would be much more concerned today if we had given up 2 xG yesterday and more than doubled our own goal expectation (like Valencia did) or if we had gotten two goals out of only 0.3 xG created (like Granada did). Those sorts of performances won’t consistently get good results in a long league campaign. The type of performance Villarreal had yesterday will.
All told, last season we held opponents to 0.5 xG or less seven times. In five of those matches we kept clean sheets. About half of Huesca’s xG came on the chance they scored on, that means the rest of the match we basically gave them no room to breath.
We can play better than we did against Huesca and we will, but overall we gave what I consider an encouraging performance, and I’m just as high on our chances today as I was before the season kicked off.
Update: Allen asked for an inclusion of our passmap from yesterday. Basically, how this piece of visualization works is the thicker the line between two players, the more times they connected on passes. Pedraza and Moi had very little to do with one another and Paco was very isolated.