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How Villarreal creates their Expected Threat (xT)

Where is Villarreal the most dangerous?

Villarreal CF v Real Betis - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Miguel Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The always good (even for a Real Madrid fan) @Odriozolite on Twitter was kind enough to mock up for us a detailed account of Villarreal’s expected threat (xT) this season. If you’re finally getting used to expected goals and wondering why on earth us analytics pagans made up another term with ‘expected’ in it, don’t worry, this one is very simple.

xT tells us how likely a team is to score from a given position on the field, and it measures that danger regardless of whether a shot occurs. So, basically, it tells you something about the danger created by a side in a more big picture sense than expected goals does.

Not all teams are equally dangerous from all places on the field. Take, for instance, Villarreal last season versus this season. Last season, if we passed the ball over to the left flank on the edge of the attacking third, were we very likely to score? No, not really. Moi Gomez just isn’t much of a goal or chance creating threat and he’s usually who was in that position. Now, we have Arnaut Danjuma in that role so when we get the ball on the left in the attacking third we are incredibly dangerous.

Going back two seasons, a lot of our attacking threat came from set pieces, becaus we had Santi Cazorla taking them and he’s a wizard. xT measures the kind of dangerous impact different locations on the pitch have for a particular team and can even be specified to show what kind of actions create the threat in those areas. Here are our results so far this season.

Given Gerard’s injury issues so far this season, the bright yellow on the left side of the penalty area where Danjuma plays is no surprise, and the lack of threat in directly in front of goal reflects our struggles at the striker position. The other details that Yash included in the graphic tell us other things that (accurately I might add) describe our style of play.

We are in the bottom three in La Liga in xT generated from crosses. But of course we are. We don’t have a really dangerous target man at striker and Emery doesn’t like putting in crosses anyway. We are first in La Liga in threat generated from ball carries, and given how dangerous Yeremi and Danjuma have been off the dribble plus Dani Parejo’s ball carrying ability, that makes total sense as well.

I like this metric. It’s not the most freely accessible thing in the world, but if I were trying to build a scouting report on an opponent I was unfamiliar with it is the exact kind of thing I would want to have my hands on. For further interest, here are the xT maps for the entirety of La Liga from the same source: