Mailbox: Liverpool xG, begrudging likes, Kane and…

Date published: Thursday 19th August 2021 8:06 - Editor F365

Roberto Firmino Liverpool

It’s a wonderful and varied mailbox taking in Liverpool, Man United and more. Send your views to


Let’s talk begrudging likes
In response to Garey Vance and his need to quell optimism of fans of my team, I was initially going to retort with a list of reasons he needed to calm himself down about Utd but instead I’m going to pick a solitary reason for each club, apart from my own, as to what I like/respect about them. Hopefully it will inspire a few others to do the same.

Arsenal: Always have nice kits.
Aston Villa: Danny Ings seems like a nice guy!
Brentford: Thomas Frank. That photo with the young Brentford fan hit me right in the feels.
Brighton: They aim to play positive attacking football.
Burnley: Sean Dyche has an excellent movie villain voice. Could easily see him go toe to toe with Arnie.
Chelsea: Tuchel wears baseball caps. Not enough managers do it, apart from Jurgen.
Crystal Palace: Their fans seem like a lively bunch!
Everton: Goodison Park has its charms.
Leeds: Bielsa sits on a bucket during matches! What else!
Leicester City: Vardy still going on Blue WKD at the age of 34.
Man City: They are undoubtedly breaking ffp rules but they have brought Aguero, David Silva and Kompany etc to the Premier League for people to marvel at.
Man Utd: Juan Mata is a lovely man.
Newcastle: Still putting up with Mike Ashley despite everything and the horrific advice from certain people. (Looking at you Rio!)
Norwich City: Cantwell is an exciting prospect that someone in the top six will surely snap up sooner rather than later.
Southampton: Gave me the joy of working out how Le Tissier scored the goals he did.
Spurs: Stadium is impressive. Apparently the pints are poured quicker here than anywhere else.
Watford: Sarr is another exciting player to watch. And their rebellious mascot!
West Ham: Bubbles!!
Wolves: Neves standing over free-kicks.

Bit of positivity lads/ladies. Its only 1 game into the season!

Miguel Sanchez, LFC, Eire (Rafa at Everton seems alien)


Fanmail for Garey Vance
Garey Vance, MUFC with an impressively poor understanding of stats in the mailbox.

Let’s imagine for a second that xG always resulted in the predicted outcome. In season one your results read:
Won 19 games 2-0
Lost 19 games 1-0
This year total xg for is 38 and your xg against is 19

In your second season your results read:
Won 30 games 1-0
Lost 8 games 3-0
This second year your xg for is 30 and your xg against is 24. You’re in decline on every measure according to Garey.

Hopefully it’s also clear that in the second season you’ve finished significantly better off in terms of points.

Liverpool may or may not be in a regression; I honestly can’t say but I think most fans are happy to write off last season as an anomaly. If any club is able this season to lose their three first-choice centre-backs by December, then their captain in February and still perform at their peak then hats off to them. Everyone has seemingly also wilfully forgotten that we were top at Christmas and top based on the form on the last ten games of the season. If anything I’d be arguing that Liverpool have now figured out multiple ways to play and win even without major key personnel and are more threatening than ever. This argument is supported by the fact we won last weekend with none of our first-choice midfielders starting the game and the best left-back in the country over the past three seasons out injured.

Any fan looking at one single data point to made a broad sweeping conclusion about this season is clearly an idiot. Especially when the stat has clearly failed to be considered or understood properly.
Minty, LFC


…Garey Vance’s mail regarding Liverpool xG mirrors our WhatsApp chat after the Liverpool Norwich game in that its exactly the opposite. Sky put up the xG comparisons as if that was meant to teach us anything. Garey says Liverpools was 1.6 and I think Norwich may have been about 1.2. So what? What does that even mean? Does it mean that Mo Salah, the deadliest goal scorer in the Premier League since he signed for Liverpool, scored a goal that he shouldn’t have or didn’t deserve to? Or does it mean that he is an above average goal scorer, an outlier, and as a result all xG stats are meaningless for world class players?

All stats are based on the law of large numbers. You have enough events happening then they will tend to average. Bookies or casinos don’t care if you win big every now and then because the law of large numbers means that the results will look like the average. In maths, another word for average is expected. If you have a person stood on a ladder, you toss a coin, heads they take a step up, tails they take a step down, after a sufficiently large enough number of coin tosses, they’ll be in the same place. xG is going to be based on thousands of shots on goal across different levels and leagues and conditions. Salah, and other world class strikers, will be outperforming the average striker. They are going to outperform the xG. When I say Salah I also mean Kane, Aguero, Lewandovski, Lukaku and seemingly Greenwood at United too.

Garey’s stats PROVED that Liverpool’s performance is in decline but the ratio of goals to xG for his three year sample was 1.20, 1.23 and 1. This means that Liverpool’s goalscoring improved vs xG before a bang average season.

For the Norwich game, an xG of 1.6, a performance vs xG rate (heard it here first) of 1.2, gives goals of 1.92. Lets call it 2. We scored 3. So in the sample size of one, we have improved on Garey’s selection.

I don’t know what xG is meant to show us when used to measure a single game. Its pretty irrelevant. You don’t get more points for winning with higher or lower xG. Its not a decider in a draw and it certainly doesn’t show a decline. They’ll be spot on the pitch where Salah’s xG will be higher than the model’s xG, and they’ll be places on the pitch when its lower. So what?

I’ve said before, this is a big season for United and Ole, and United fans would do better to stay quiet and see where this season takes them. They’ve spent more money than you can Sheikh a stick at and its time to prove that they aren’t just a sportswashing machine for capitalism and actually turn up to this league. Which they might. Its difficult to say. In the sample of one game they’ve turned a 6-1 win into 5-1. How’s that for a decline?
Alex, South London


Why teams won’t win the league
So I thought I would write an email about why each (capable) team will not win the league this year.

Let’s start with City.

City won’t sign Kane and thus will not score enough goals to win the big games. If they do sign Kane, they will be stifled by every team in the league. Teams will look to the Spurs victory and play an extremely narrow formation and hit them on the break. With Kane the only player who can head the ball, they end up not scoring enough. Media says they need a target man and next summer they cough up 100M for Joelinton.

Chelsea will be solid and push hard for the title. Their title aspirations will come to an end with some infighting over who should play and defensive mistakes. Mendy will get injured and Kepa will revert to the norm and cost them the title. Lukaku will catch Werner’s disease, a condition that limits its host to only score six goals.

Liverpool will continue to make defensive mistakes as both fullbacks will be targeted. Their midfield won’t create enough and with two injuries they will have a very British looking midfield three of Ox, Hendo and Milner. Salah will score all of the goals but the other two forks of the trident will falter. Klopp will make strange decisions and then give even stranger excuses whilst continuing to use the same system.

Man Utd will fail as Cavani won’t score enough goals to secure them the title, whilst De Gea will continue his poor form and drop them points. The Pogba situation will turn into unnecessary drama as soon as his form dips, Fernandes gets injured and the goals dry up.

Leicester will have a very strong start but will ultimately drop off near the end as they run out of steam and commit numerous defensive mistakes. Vardy will end up scoring 5 goals.

Spurs will just do what Spurs always do and not win anything. If they keep Kane…nothing changes.

Arsenal will try their best to be a Spurs but ultimately end up worse off.

Brentford only need 37 more wins and it’s theirs. I can’t argue with that logic.


Why teams will win the league
This seemed like a natural progression..

If City do not get Kane, they will revert to last season’s devastating form. Extra goals will come from the free-kicks that Grealish will inevitably win and score. If they sign Kane, he goes on to retain both the top goalscorer and top creator awards as he is on the end of most of their attacks, while continuing dropping deep and setting up the rest.

Chelsea will have a solid defence that builds on last year’s form. The back five with Kante and Jorginho guarding it will be next to impenetrable. Lighting fast counter attack and devastating movement translate to lots of goals for Lukaku, and Werner ups his game. Havertz has another great season and they end up the season as the best front three and top scorers. Chelsea coming close to beating Mourinho’s best season.

Liverpool will get their front three back on form, whilst VVD’s time off gave him time to improve his game and marshal the defence over the line. The midfield will have an Indian summer from Milner and Hendo, with Keita finally doing the business and running the midfield. Back ups such as Jota, Elliott, Konate and the Ox give the team the necessary back ups to support the squad. Klopp comes up with a plan B for the tricky games and TAA learns how to defend. Origi pulls an Ole from the bench, giving late wins to secure the title.

Man Utd finally learned how to beat a low block and continue their amazing counter attacks, ripping teams to shreds. Cavani breaks the 15 goal mark as does Fernandes, Rashford, Greenwood and Martial (who is back). Varane and Maguire combine with the rejuvenated De Gea to give Utd the tidiest defence in the league. Sancho, Shaw, Fernandes and Pogba all turn out 10+ assists, while the McFred partnership turns into the league’s most hard working duo. Utd becomes the first team to go two seasons unbeaten away from home. Ole repeats the late winners and finally puts other teams to bed early. Fergie 2.0 has arrived.

Leicester repeat their 2016 will, with another outstanding year from Vardy, who ends up as the league’s top scorer. Ndidi goes full blown Kante, while Sangare does a Drinkwater. Fofana, Evans and Schmeichel end up as the league’s best defence and win the league on the last day, clinching the title by a point, beating Southampton 5-0 to send them to the Championship. Rodgers is then brought back to Liverpool to replace the German bound Klopp who finished 7th. Sterling is signed from City and its 2015 all over again.

Spurs retain the services of Kane, who has his most Shearer season yet. Son finally breaks the 20 goal mark. They counter attack their way to the title. The new additions turn out to be amazing, with Romero considered the new ‘Vidic’. Only kidding, the best they could do would be a second place for most of the season only to end up 5th on the last day of the season, with Kane flopping and going to City next season for 50M. #LevyOut

Arsenal. There is honestly no scenario in which I could see them winning it. Even if Aubamyang and Lacazette had their best years, they’d still have a defence of Leno, White and Mari trying to keep goals out and let’s face it, that is not going to happen. Literally if every player in their squad could replicate their best ever season, together, they still wouldn’t be good enough and they would still have Arteta as boss. #WengerIn

Brentford only need 37 more wins and it’s theirs. I can’t argue with that logic.


Objecting to the Kane bloodlust
I haven’t written in for a while, but as a Spurs fan, just wanted to make a few comments about the media’s, and in particular, Sky’s, bloodlust for big money transfers and the saturation coverage of Kane – The Reality Show.

I appreciate this isn’t an original view but the 24-hour coverage of whenever Harry Kane farts, running Breaking News every time he does anything, even a mostly black banner when he turned up for work, is bordering on psychotic. Watching Kaveh Solhekol’s jaw exaggerate every syllable and dragging out every sentence is just painful to listen to. Watching Dharmesh Sheth squeeze every sinew out of any piece of breaking news is cringeworthy and desperate.

For me, there’s not enough proper journalism:

Where is the money coming from? If they buy Kane it’s a quarter of a billion spent in less than a month. How is that self sustainable? Question it.

Why is it even news when there aren’t even bids being made?

Why are they not challenging Kane’s behaviour? I know this rankles some of Sky’s own pundits, but he’s a player who sees himself on the same level as Lewandowski but seems to think he should be released from his contract for the same price as Jack Grealish. Why isn’t he being criticised for not turning up to training? I know some have, but I’m hearing about this ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ more than anything else. What about the gentlemen’s agreement that also has a signature of the chairman and the player? It that somehow less important.

For me, if he doesn’t leave, I would accept an apology for his conduct and to knuckle down, such has been his immense positive impact on the club over the last eight years, but he doesn’t have carte blanche to do as he wants and isn’t bigger than the club.

On an unrelated note, I’ really disappointed with Gary Rowett’s comments regarding taking the knee. There should be no pandering to racists. No pasaran. It’s complete nonsense to expect ‘total unity’ when fighting racism. There’s one particular demographic that will never unite with the rest of us. Racists. Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to racism and Millwall. If some Bermondsey Bonehead still thinks multi millionaire footballers are somehow Marxist or support looting stores in Portland, Oregon, it’s safe to say they’ll never be on board and will always find a reason to oppose the fight against racism. Football needs to keep its head cool and plough on. The majority of people are with the players.
Ross H


Is Kane any good anymore?
I agree with Garey Vance, it’s boring to write in and say “great to see varane! what a goal from greenwood! brunoooooo!!!1” but I do love writing in with a negative observation.

Speaking of which, rather than asking who likes Harry Kane, I want to know if we should still rate Harry Kane?

He gets a yearly ankle injury which is bound to add up at some point. He was poor at the Euros after being rushed back to fitness and spent most of his time on the halfway line passing rather than running forward and being a striker.

Hmmmm – sound familiar? Rooney mails with that exact same comment were my bread and butter in this mailbox from 2009.

Kane looks ancient. He can’t run. He wants to pass because it’s easier to let other people move and do the work. He plays like he is 38 not 28.

Granted, he’ll score some headers and have brilliant moments where the ball falls right for him around the box. But is that enough? Or will he keep dropping too deep and not have the pace to get up to join the attack?

It will be interesting to see. I hope City buy him (especially if it gives United a clear run at Haaland) – if Aguero didn’t have the work rate for Pep I don’t know how Kane will fit in.
Silvio (twice in the last 5 years I’ve said Messi doesn’t run and is on the decline. twice I’ve been made to look silly) Dante


Yes. Yes he is
Would Spurs be better off with 3 £50m signings instead of Harry Kane? I hear Soldado is available! It is incredibly difficult to replace a world-class striker. If I were a Spurs fan I’d be crossing all the fingers I have hoping Harry stays. He will be playing for his move next season and for the World Cup so he’s not going to shirk. The last few months when we had Lukaku and he’d stopped even celebrating when he scored, let alone looking like he actually wanted to be there, he was still banging them in better than anyone we have managed to get since. Anyway you never know you might win the Champions League next year then all will be forgiven and forgotten.
James EFC


Kane the goth heel
If Harry Kane must join Manchester City, can he at least show up to the first match with a goth haircut and heavy eyeliner? He should just lean into being a full on panto-baddie, rather than worry about leaving on good terms with the Spurs faithful.
Dan, NYC


Liverpool and world-class players
I remember a long time ago reading an interview with Peter Shilton before Italia 90 saying that in order to win a major trophy in football you needed four world-class players. I know, I know we’ve done the world class thing to death! What is it, who qualifies etc.

For me a world-class player is one who could play in any team in the world and be at least as good or better than the current incumbents in that team, or in simpler terms be guaranteed a starting place every week.

Liverpool have six world-class players that I can see: Allison, VVD, TAA, Robbo, Fabinho and Mo. Any team in the world would be improved by their presence in my opinion.

Below that level I would have elite level players, players at the top of their game, top-class Premier League and international level players but just a level below world class. At Liverpool I would count: Matip, Gomez, Hendo, Thiago, Mane Jota and Firmino in that category, maybe Milner also.

That puts Liverpool’s first team and first few subs at world class/elite level. After that some holes show up vs City/Chelsea/United. Full back cover is a bit shaky, midfielders a bit injury prone and we’re light an elite level back up forward especially for the African cup of nations.

However going by Shilton’s theory we have the players to have a shot at the big ones this year (premier and champions league) but would need to be luckier in terms of injuries vs our main competitors who can afford greater elite level squad depth. Feel free to do this analysis on your own squad and share your results, would be interesting to compare and I’m too busy!

For me last year was an anomaly for this Liverpool team with a raft of long term catastrophic injuries to our key world class and elite level players (although how resilient are that front three?!) If the same happens again we won’t win anything but if not and we are reasonably fortunate I think we are a match for anyone. This team is at its peak with a point to prove after last year, a world class manager and rabid fans back on the terraces.

I for one am excited to see what the season brings.


How many £100m players?
Before the transfer happened, I wrote in with my view that Grealish was a great player but certainly not a £100 million one. I haven’t changed my mind, but it did get me thinking. How many £100 million players are there in the PL right now?

Off the top of my head, I’d say Van Dijk, Kante and De Bruyne. After that I’m struggling.

Kane? No because of his age and injury issues. Lukaku? Time will tell. Pogba? Definitely not.

Does anybody want to name a player from their team who’s worth £100 mill? With the reasoning obvs.

On an entirely unrelated note, City unveiled their official ‘third’ strip today.

Dear oh dear oh dear.
Mark (Barry Fox: Before you even attempt to start typing be assured that, actually, not every single Spurs player is worth £100 Million. Just saying). MCFC

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