Bounce back candidates for 2020/21

The Premier League and Ligue 1 seasons are already underway, but the Bundesliga, Serie A, and La Liga are all due to start this weekend. With that in mind, I thought I’d have a look at the players who underperformed their expected metrics by the biggest margin last season and are therefore primed for a comeback this time round.

I’m not going to do too much analysis on this — the point is more to flag up some players who are poised to change the narrative in 2020/21 so we can revisit these names this time next year and see how they got on.


  • Gregoritsch, Szalai, and Burgstaller have all had two consecutive seasons of being under expectation by >2xG after being roughly 2 over expectation in 17/18. What goes around, comes around.
  • Simon Terodde struggled with the step up in standard after being a prolific low tier centre forward (29 goals in 28 2.Bundesliga starts) last year.
  • Kamada and Mateta are the ones most likely to have a positive swing, I’d say. Mateta missed the first half of the season with a knee injury, so his performances were encouraging as he recovered from that set back. He could easily kick on from here.
  • Cunha somehow managed to rack up 2.2 xG’s worth of chances in the equivalent of 3 full 90s for RB Leipzig earlier this season without scoring. It was enough for Hertha to take a punt on him and it’s paid off so far — he’s scored 6 goals from 3.3 xG and put himself back in the positive for the season as a whole.
  • Antwi-Adjei and Kownacki are a couple of players from relegated sides who could be snapped up by the vultures.
  • Aarón Martín can count himself very fortunate to finish last season without an assist to his name. Two Mainz strikers appear on the list above, which begins to explain why he didn’t.
  • Nadiem Amiri had a really solid first season at Leverkusen according to the numbers. If he continues to create at the same standard, it’ll help soften the blow of losing Havertz this summer.
  • Robert Lewandowski would’ve had an even more ridiculous level of goal contribution if he had the benefit of creating shots for a finisher like himself.

Serie A

  • Lorenzo Insigne scored 6 goals fewer than expected — the biggest xG underperformance of any player in Europe’s big 5 leagues. Does he turn this around? Or is this the beginning of a post-peak nose dive?
  • Defenders Omar Colley and Amir Rrahmani both clocked up ~3 xG each but neither actually found the back of the net.
  • Krzysztof Piątek came crashing back down to earth after a couple of hot seasons and got shipped out to Hertha in January. That’s two big xG underperformers signed by Hertha recently (they also brought in Dodi Lukebakio last summer, who was about 2 goals under expectation in 18/19 for Düsseldorf). Is this something their recruitment team is actively looking for?
  • Dušan Vlahović scored a very encouraging 6 goals in roughly 17 full 90s at the age of 19 for Fiorentina and his xG numbers suggest that he actually performed slightly better than that. One to watch for the future.
  • Another elite striker who underperformed xA by virtue of creating chances for worse finishers than himself pops up. Lukaku really is the whole package.
  • Leicester City are supposedly on the cusp of signing Cengiz Ünder on a loan with an option to buy and that looks an interesting deal. He put up some promising numbers in limited minutes for Roma last season without actually get any assists for his work.
  • Ken Sema’s ability to create from crosses has already reared its head this season for Watford. He should be an excellent performer at Championship level.
  • Spare a thought for Fernando Bernadeschi, who significantly undershot both his xG (-3.7) and his xA (-2.4). There was some talk that he was on the chopping block for Juve this summer, but hopefully last year was just a blip.

La Liga

  • West Ham fans won’t be surprised to see Jonathan Calleri showing up as a poorer than average finisher.
  • Sheffield United have taken a punt on Oliver Burke and there’s enough to suggest he played slightly better in La Liga than his 1 league goal last season would indicate.
  • Guido Carrillo is still technically a Southampton player, I think? That signing has turned out to be one big yikes.
  • Joaquín is still motoring along at a fine level despite being an old man. If only his younger contemporaries could put away the chances he creates for them.
  • Gerard Moreno had a productive season in a yellow shirt and it could’ve been better still with a bit more luck/some better players around him.
  • Osasuna have a couple of players featuring on both lists, suggesting that they could’ve improved on their solid midtable finish slightly.

Ligue 1

  • Getting almost 4 goals behind expectation despite playing fewer than 7 full 90s is absurd. It’s a testament to just how dominant PSG are and how much of a streaky finisher Cavani is. He’s still without a club and whoever signs him needs to figure out whether this was his regular inconsistency or a symptom decline.
  • 3 of Lille’s main attackers undershot their expected goals numbers and they still finished 4th. They’ve lost Osimhen to Napoli, but they could take the leap this season. (I just checked and Jonathan Bamba’s scored twice in his first 3 Ligue 1 games this season).
  • I don’t know tonnes about Aaron Leya Iseka or Lebo Mothiba, but they clocked up some impressive metrics in a small amount of game time. Worth remembering those names.
  • Monaco desperately need someone to reliably stick the ball in the back of the net, apparently.
  • Further PSG ridiculousness with Mbappé here.
  • Looking at any Payet metrics makes me sad. He’s still the king of chance creation, despite his advancing years.
  • I didn’t recognise the name of Raphael Dias Belloli but that’s because he usually goes by Raphinha, who I had heard of. He performed at a good level last season, as did the Nantes pair of Louza (hopefully not a case of nominative determinism there) and Kader Bamba, who I’m totally unfamiliar with.

Premier League

  • It’s unsurprising to see David McGoldrick’s name pop up here considering it took him until July to actually score a goal.
  • Some of Jesus’ underperformance come from missing a penalty, but he’s still quite a way under despite scoring 14 times. Playing for City does have its benefits.
  • Christian Benteke is just properly, irreparably broken at this point.
  • Diogo Jota and Harvey Barnes are similar players, both crop up on this list, and both were linked with Liverpool. Smart clubs find value even when it’s right under their nose.
  • Raheem Sterling was badly stitched up by Gabriel Jesus last season.
  • Lots of players here (Pereyra/Cresswell/Kanté/Iwobi/Fred) who didn’t create much at all but sneak onto this list because they failed to get a single assist.
  • I’d be curious to look into why James Maddison’s output didn’t match the underlying data. Was he primarily creating chances for Harvey Barnes? He feels like another one who could have a big jump in his headlines numbers (provided he can recover from injury).



I write long, boring, and increasingly deranged articles about football tactics and West Ham @CastIronTactics on Twitter

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Cast Iron Tactics

I write long, boring, and increasingly deranged articles about football tactics and West Ham @CastIronTactics on Twitter