We now know the Premier League will kick-off again on 17th June after what feels like an eternity. Newcastle have 9 games left to play in the league and we’re currently sat 13th just 5 points short of the magical 40-point mark… so there’s still a little bit of work left to do!
In terms of point accumulation, Bruce has outperformed many fans expectations so far this season, even if the team’s performances haven’t. This is backed up by the performance stats which show Newcastle as being in and around the relegation zone for most metrics other than total points.
We’re actually bottom of the table when it comes to expected goals (xG). For those that don’t know what xG means, put simply it’s the number of goals a player or team should have scored when considering the number and type of chances they had in a match.
Newcastle’s xG so far this season is 25.92 goals and we’ve scored 25, so the calculation is bang on the money. Only Norwich (who’ve scored 24) have less goals than us this season – according to the xG model they ‘should’ have 32.32 goals.
Newcastle have a real problem creating good quality chances which is a symptom of our overall play – we have the lowest possession (40.8%) in the whole league, and you can’t create chances without the ball. We’re also second bottom when it comes to passes into the opposition penalty area, with only Burnley completing less.
So why aren’t we bottom of the league table?
Well, like xG there’s also xGA which means expected goals against - the number of goals a team is expected to have conceded based on the quality and quantity of shots they have given away.
So far Newcastle have conceded 11.33 less goals than the xGA model predicted, an amount which is only bettered by Crystal Palace and Sheffield United. We can put this down to a mixture of great goalkeeping from Martin Dubravka and poor finishing from our opposition.
If we drill down, Dubravka has saved us from conceding an extra 9 goals this season and he’s joint top of the league for this with Crystal Palace’s Vincente Guaita.
When you consider that eight out of our nine wins have been by a margin of only one goal, then it’s easy to see that we’d be in serious trouble without the performances of our number 1.
You’d be forgiven for thinking “so what!?” because all that really matters is, we’ve got the points on the board and we’re 13th in the table.
That’s true, but we’ve only been a Martin Dubravka injury or drop of form away from gaining significantly less points this season and, if nothing changes, then our luck will eventually run out.
To be fair to Bruce he had changed things in our last three games. He changed to a back four against Burnley, West Brom (FA Cup) and Southampton which earned us four points and a FA Cup Quarter Final – I expect him to stick with this in the remaining games.
So where will we finish then?
Well, according to the guys at FiveThirtyEight our highest probability is 14th, followed by 13th and then 15th… but there’s still a 6% chance of us finishing in 18th and being relegated.
So, with eight league games left, let’s hope Bruce’s luck continues and we secure our Premier League status as soon as possible.
All data from: Stats Bomb, FBRef and Understat