Stats bear out West Brom boss Valerien Ismael’s demand for killer instinct

Following three successive draws, Valerien Ismael has told Albion’s players they need a ruthless streak in the final third.

Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion (AMA)
Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion (AMA)

The boss has admitted in the games against Millwall, Derby and Preston North End his team hasn’t been good enough on the ball.

Ismael knows his side needs to move the ball better and play with more composure.

But while some fans have grown frustrated with the Frenchman’s direct style of play, statistics suggest it’s only a matter of time before the Baggies return to winning ways. Expected goals data – known as xG – measures the quality of chances you create in a game and the likelihood of them being scored.

For example, if your striker is sent through on goal three times in a game – but hits the post each time – you can’t really accuse the manager of setting up the team wrong if you go on and draw 0-0.

Fascinatingly, Albion have won the xG battle in all eight of their Championship games this season.

That isn’t a surprise looking at the first five games – with an opening day draw at Bournemouth followed by four straight wins.

But it is interesting to see how dominant xG stats have the Baggies in their last three outings.

Against Millwall – a match that finished 1-1 – it is very close.

The Baggies posted an xG score of 1.48 with the Lions posting 1.45.

But the data shows Ismael’s side should have gone on to beat Derby comprehensively.

The match ended goalless. But Albion’s xG score was 2.87 while the Rams’ was 0.79.

At Preston, Albion again came out on top with their chances created leading to an xG score of 2.0, while the hosts’ was 1.50. With just a touch more quality, Albion would have easily taken more than the three points they obtained from those matches.

And when you look at their xG from the season as a whole, it bodes well for the future.

On average, Albion’s xG per 90 minutes is 1.93. Fulham – with 1.98 – are the only team with a higher score. Just looking at games at home, the Baggies are again second in the table with 1.91 compared with Fulham’s 2.04.

But away from home, the Baggies top the table with the number of chances created – with their score 1.94. Fulham are unsurprisingly second with 1.93.

Expected goals data also assess the quality of chances being created against you.

And here Albion once again have the best record in the division with a score of 0.76.

Fulham are next on 0.93 and Sheffield United third on 0.97.

There is no doubt Albion haven’t been at their best in their last three games. They do need to move the ball better and they do need to play with more composure.

But the bottom line is they are still creating more chances than their opponents while also defending superbly. Ismael’s side remains a work in progress. But the data suggests an upturn is not far away.

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