<
>
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
Get ESPN+

Messi, Kane to rebound, Real Madrid to decline: Soccer's notable under-performers and over-performers

play
Why Dusan Vlahovic is unlikely to join Arsenal in January (1:30)

Julien Laurens explains why he doubts Arsenal will sign Fiorentina's goal-scoring sensation Dusan Vlahovic. (1:30)

Like it or not, soccer is a game of chance. Don't believe me? Take it from Juanma Lillo, Pep Guardiola's latest right-hand man at Manchester City. "What a coach does is attempt to increase the index of probability when it comes to winning a match," he told ESPN contributor Sid Lowe back in 2011. "As a coach, all you can [do] is deny fortune as much of its role as you possibly can."

He went on: "[Journalism] analyzes everything via success and as a result, journalism always wins. The analysis, the reports, are carried out via success, so they're always right. No one is looking at the process except through the prism of a result. That's hugely opportunist. And wrong."

So, uh, how 'bout we try to right that wrong?

- ESPN+ viewers guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more
- Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
- Don't have ESPN? Get instant access

Expected goals (xG) serve as a rough proxy for Lillo's prized process: the total and quality of the chances created, combined together. And a team's or player's deviation from that number represents a version of the fortune that Lillo thinks a coach must try to limit. Over time, most players and teams tend to converge toward their expected goal totals. A select few will out- or under-perform expected goals over the long run, but any deviation over half of a season is much more likely to be noise than repeatable skill.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the teams and players across the Big Five leagues who are most likely to see their luck turn around in the second half of the current campaign.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are from domestic play only and are courtesy of Stats Perform

Jump to: Teams likely to decline | Teams likely to improve | Players likely to decline | Players likely to improve