Which players and clubs were the most effective in front of goal during the first half of the 2021/22 season? Expected Goals (xG) is a statistic which explains the rate of efficiency in front of goal, and thanks to the Bundesliga's official data partner AWS, we can see some surprising results from the first half of the campaign…
And here is straight up the first big surprise: Robert Lewandowski, who with 19 goals is already well on his way to beating his own league record of 41 from last season, has not actually been as clinical in front of goal this term as he was on 2020/21. According to xG, the Bayern Munich forward has practically scored just the number of goals that would have been expected from him, given the chances he had: his xG is 18.6. The Pole therefore ranks only 77th in the classification of the most effective players in front of goal, given his difference (of actual goals scored compared to xG) of +0.4.
Who was particularly deadly in front of goal, on the other hand, was Bayer Leverkusen hot-shot Patrik Schick. The Czech Republic international scored 16 goals from an xG of 10.6. With a difference of +5.4, that makes him the most effective goalscorer in the first half of the season. Just behind him, Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland has lived up to his own glowing reputation with a difference of +4.9 over xG, with both strikers streets ahead of the rest.
Behind them, Bayern's Serge Gnabry, with an xG of 5.5 and nine goals, and Dortmund's Julian Brandt, with an xG of 1.9 and five goals, take third and fourth place respectively with differences just over +3; nobody else exceeded their xG by more than three. VfB Stuttgart's central defender – and top scorer – Konstantinos Mavropanos is just shy of that mark with +2.9, thanks in no small way to his league-leading goals from long range, which unsurprisingly carry a lower goal probability.
What is interesting is how Leverkusen, with Schick and Moussa Diaby, and Dortmund, with Haaland, Brandt, Raphael Guerreiro and Steffen Tigges, provide precisely half of the top ten most efficient goalscorers, and this ruthlessness is reflected in their overall team performances: Leverkusen were the most efficient with 40 goals – over ten more than their xG of 29.9 – while Dortmund rank second with +7.2 over their xG of 33.8 goals (41 scored). And what about Bayern? The record champions take bronze, but they actually created almost as many gilt-edged chances as their record-breaking haul of 56 goals required, with an xG of 52.4.
Watch: Hinrunde highlights - the best of 2021/22 so far
So that is that for the top performers, but what about the rest? Compared to last season, the majority of Bundesliga teams were not as effective in taking their chances. What stands out the most is how the three clubs with the biggest negative difference on xG – Wolfsburg (-10.4), RB Leipzig (-9.1) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (-7.5) – would not probably be lagging so far behind their expectations had they taken their chances better. Their coaches will therefore know exactly what they need to work on during the second half of the season.
Another interesting statistic is xG Against (xGA), which rates the teams' defensive performance. To get this figure, the goals teams would have been expected to concede in view of the opportunities they allowed to their opponents is compared with the actual number of goals conceded, and here it is hardly surprising to see Greuther Fürth propping up the table. With an xGA of 38.5, not only did the Bavarians concede the most goalscoring opportunities, their actual total of 49 goals conceded means they even exceeded it by 10.5 – the biggest negative difference across the entire league.
To end on a positive note, though, Arminia Bielefeld and Freiburg are two clubs who conceded more than ten goals fewer than would have been expected from their xGA. Bielefeld, who end the year in 17th place, were able to balance out a relatively blunt attack (just 14 goals scored) while Freiburg owe a lot to having the best defence in the league – together with Bayern – to the fact they end 2021 in a vertiginous third place, fuelling serious ambitions of playing UEFA Champions League football at their new Europa-Park Stadion.