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K League Coach: Alternative Expected Goals League Table

“The table doesn’t lie” is a phrase often heard in football. Whilst that may be true, the table does lack context and can mask a teams under performance or pile pressure on an unlucky coach. K League United's in-house man with the training cones and drill tops takes a look at how the K League 1 table would look if it was based purely on Expected Goals.


To get a clearer picture of how teams are actually performing we can look at what their results would have been based upon Expected Goals (xG). This will give an idea of the degree to which teams are dominating games and creating chances and an alternate league table based upon xG results can be produced.

For example, the Seongnam vs Jeonbuk game in May resulted in a 0-0 draw, but according to xG the game should have finished 1-0 to Jeonbuk. The exact xG scores were Jeonbuk 1.68 vs Seongnam 0.3 and so for the xG table, Jeonbuk are awarded three points. Below is a table based on whether results/points were determined by the xG of each game.

xG deals with small percentages and possible goals. If an xG score from a game was 1.63 to 1.04 this game would be defined as a 1-1 draw, each team having created good enough chances to expect to score one goal each and no more.

xG is an average rate of conversion and doesn't suggest when a goal would be scored, a key trait of successful teams is scoring goals in tense key moments to turn a loss into a draw, or even better a draw into a win. The xG table can not account for this, and xG alone is not a predictor of where teams will finish, but it can suggest how a teams form may unfold and how confident they can be about their future performances.


The table and stats are based upon games played up to 24/06/2019. Data provided by Wyscout.
Daegu climb to the top of the table, picking up nine more points if they had converted the right chances at the right time. The Sky Blues did enough to win these points in terms of chance creation and denying opponents, but didn’t do so on the day. Several teams see a significant change in their league position, but it is the performances of FC Seoul and Jeju that stand out the most.

FC Seoul’s Lucky Turnaround


Following a poor season in 2018 it would seem from the current league table that Seoul have rectified their issues and may be considered as title challengers once again. However, the xG results based table suggest that are actually the worst performing team in K League 1.

FC Seoul 2019 K League Scores vs xG Scores

Seoul 2-0 Pohang (2-0)
Seongnam 0-1 Seoul (1-0)
Seoul 0-0 Jeju (0-1)
Seoul 2-0 Sangju (1-2)
Ulsan 2-1 Seoul (1-1)
Seoul 2-1 Gyeongnam (1-2)
Gangwon 1-2 Seoul (1-1)
Seoul 0-0 Incheon  (0-0)
Jeonbuk 2-1 Seoul (1-0)
Suwon 1-1 Seoul (1-2)
Seoul 2-1 Daegu  (1-2)
Sangju 1-3 Seoul  (0-0)
Pohang 0-0 Seoul  (1-0)
Seoul 3-1 Seongnam (1-1)
Gyeongnam 1-2 Seoul (1-1)
Seoul 4-2 Suwon (1-1)
Daegu 1-2 Seoul  (3-0)

Based upon their xG FC Seoul could have found themselves winless from their last seven games. Over the course of this season the capital club have had several results which their performances and ability to create chances may not have deserved the points tally they have so far accumulated. They have done this by far outperforming the rate at which statistically they would be expected to convert chances. Below is a breakdown of their goals for, what their expected goals for is, and the rate at which they are converting as well as expected goals against.


The table also shows how they have conceded at a far lower rate than expected. From the chances opponents have had against them it would be expected that Seoul would have conceded 23 goals compared to the 14 they have so far. Seoul games have been tightly contested affairs, with fortunes in front of goal going in favour of Seoul having a huge impact on the points tally. Though championship winning teams will often perform better than the statistical average in these categories, the degree to which Seoul are currently doing it is unsustainable. Unless something changes regarding their approach to games they can not be expected to continue to pick up points at the rate they have so far this season and will see their league position slide.

This isn’t to suggest that Seoul are the worst team in the league, but they're not creating enough quality chances in each game to feel confident that their current form and way of playing will see them challenge for the title. They are currently edging tight affairs and will need to improve their play if they wish to stay near the top of the table.


Key Games

FC Seoul 2-0 Sangju Sangmu, 30th March 2019 Round 4  (1-2 xG)

Poor finishing in the box from Sangju and a freak own goal contributed to turn what may have been a Seoul defeat into three points.

FC Seoul 2-1 Daegu FC, 11th May 2019 Round 11 (1-2 xG)

A goal line clearance, Edgar's poor finishing, and two goals from free-kicks - including one an incredible strike from out wide - saw Seoul pick up three points from this performance.

Daegu FC 1-2 FC Seoul, 22nd June 2019, Round 17 (3-0 xG)

Seoul survived an opening 25 minute onslaught before scoring a long range effort and a second from a corner. They then hung on in the second half and Daegu had a very debate goal disallowed in the dying minutes.

Jeju Deserve More


Despite sitting bottom of the table, Jeju can claim to have been playing well and that they deserve to be higher in the league. On five occasions when they created enough opportunities to statically win the game on average, then failed to pick up three points. They drew two and lost three of these five games where their performances suggests that they actually deserved more.

Seoul 2019 K League Scores vs xG Scores

Incheon 1-1 Jeju (1-1)
Daegu 2-0 Jeju (1-1)
Seoul 0-0 Jeju (0-1)
Ulsan 2-1 Jeju (1-0)
Seongnam 1-1 Jeju (2-1)
Pohang 1-1 Jeju (0-1)
Jeju 0-1 Jeonbuk (0-1)
Jeju 2-4 Gangwon (3-1)
Jeju 2-3 Sangju (1-0)
Jeju 2-0 Gyeongnam (0-2)
Jeju 1-3 Suwon (0-0)
Jeonbuk 3-1 Jeju (0-0)
Gangwon 0-1 Jeju (1-1)
Jeju 1-2 Incheon (1-2)
Jeju 1-3 Ulsan (0-1)
Sangju 4-2 Jeju (1-2)
Jeju 1-2 Seongnam (0-0)

Jeju’s failure to convert chances at the average rate, compounded with their tendency to concede more than that expected saw them sink to the bottom of the table. If they continue to perform as they currently are, they should begin to score more goals and conceded less if they can get their performances and execution back to the statistical average rate. An xG goal difference of -2 compared to their actual goal difference of -14 suggests there are areas they can quickly improve to get results back on track.


Key Games

FC Seoul 0-0 Jeju United, 16th March 2019 Round 3 (0-1 xG)

Restricting Seoul to chances from outside the box earned Jeju a clean sheet, but their failure to convert the chances they created in the box, along with the referee ruling a goal out for a very soft foul, cost them the extra points.

Jeju United 2-4 Gangwon FC, 21st April 2019 Round 8 (3-1 xG)

An 8th minute Gangwon red card was a great start for Jeju, but a suspect goalkeeping performance meant Gangwon were able to convert the attempts they had to leave Jeju with nothing.

Jeju United 2-3 Sangju Sangmu, 27th April 2019 Round 9  (1-0 xG)

With neither team creating many quality chances, a deflected own goal, and a 94th minute free-kick from distance was enough for Sangju to claim all three points.

Sangju Sangju 4-2 Jeju United, 16th June 2019 Round 16 (1-2 xG)

Trailing 4-0 within 30 minutes following a corner, a penalty and allowing players free shots on the edge of the box meant it was going to be very difficult for Jeju to get anything from this game. Although though they did well to create a number of opportunities in the remainder of their game, poor defending earlier in the game meant the game was already over in terms of the outcome of the match.

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