‘xG Build up 5 passes’: adjusting (further) the value of players in each possession

Category: Player Analysis

We discover the best midfielders in possessions that generate 'expected goals' by measuring only the five passes prior to the last pass.


When advanced statistics applied to football started to become more relevant, the models were not only refined, including more variables, betting on the forefront and innovation of new metrics that could measure the game, but also more and more interesting ideas appeared with which to give merit to a greater number of specific situations and profiles and roles on the field.

The ‘xG Build up’ metric is well known within the industry, already analysed on several occasions in our blog and which measures a player’s participation in possessions that generate final xG but without taking into account the finisher and the last passer, as these, to a large extent, are always going to be wingers or forwards. A metric conceived and designed to measure the impact and relevance of full-backs, centre-backs and midfielders in valuable possessions. In possessions that determine shots and generate xG (expected goal). But we can go further.

If a team has a lot of possession it will add up to very long possessions and in many of them the first passes can have a really low influence depending on how that possession progresses. Surely, and even more so now, the ball will go backwards again during the course of that possession. So adjusting the metrics to the last five passes before the last pass is going to give us more accurate information about the players. It is especially interesting to see how players like Billy Gilmour, Aleix Garcia or Angelo Stiller play such an important role in teams far from the elite, which can indicate the high degree of influence and participation in their team’s important possessions.

Looking at Rodri’s radar, we see that the Spanish midfielder, perhaps the engine of Manchester City’s play, has a 1.15 ‘xG Build up’, i.e. he is involved in 1.15 expected goals per 90′ if we were to measure possessions without taking into account the final passer and finisher. What we do with this metric is further adjust that impact using only the last five passes prior to the last pass. And there, Rodri is unreachable, registering a 0.97 expected goals per 90′ share. Somehow, there is no player in the world with as much influence on high-value possessions as the Spaniard.

In South America, Argentinos Juniors’ Matías Vera is the best player in that metric, but the value is much lower than that of European players, evidencing how the play between continents is so different. In Brazil and Argentina everything is more direct, possessions have fewer passes and everything is less elaborate.

Founded in 2017 as a consultancy, Driblab has driven innovation through data in all aspects of professional football. Thanks to a transversal model, its database collects and models statistics in all directions. From converting matches and videos into bespoke data for training academies to developing cutting-edge technology, helping clubs, federations and representative agencies in talent scouting and transfer markets. Driblab’s smart data is used by clubs all over the world, with success stories such as Dinamo Zagreb, Real Betis and Girondins Bordeaux among others. Here you can find out more about how we work and what we offer.

Autor: Alejandro Arroyo
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