Harry Kane is one away from 100 Tottenham goals, and xG data suggests his rise will continue
After successive golden boots, Harry Kane's fight against those who still doubt him is surely coming to an end. As his August drought goes on - he has never scored a Premier League goal in the first month of a season - his critics find one final stick with which to beat him. But the man who spent unsuccessful loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester overcame accusations of being a one-, then two-season wonder, and is now just one strike away from 100 Tottenham goals. Having started just 132 matches and made a further 34 substitute appearances, Kane has scored at an extraordinary rate of a goal every 1.67 appearances, or every 1.33 starts. And a look at his 'xG' data over the past three seasons suggests he is only getting better - and also that he has a better understanding than ever with his Tottenham team-mates. xG, or expected goals, is a system that gives a probability that any shot will be scored. That is, based on the quality of the chance, each shot will be assigned a value between 0 and 1 that shows how often it should be scored. A value of 0.2, for example, means that shot would be expected to be scored 20 per cent of the time. (If you want more of an explanation on xG, see here.) Mauricio Pochettino has helped make Kane into one of the world's best strikers Credit: AFP As well as the more noticeable fact that the number of goals he scores is on the rise, the quality of his chances is also improving, suggesting his movement is more innovative and that the creative players playing behind him have a better idea of where he will go. The average xG value of his shots in 2014/15 was 0.11, meaning he'd be expected to score 11 per cent of those chances. In 2015/16 and 2016/17, that has risen to 12 and 13 per cent, respectively. Furthermore, the proportion of his shots that have a high xG value is increasing. That is, in 2014/15, just 16 per cent of Kane's shots had an xG value higher than 0.3 (and would be expected to be scored 30 per cent of the time). 18 per cent of his shots had a high xG value in 2015/16 and 21 per cent in 2016/17. Kane xG So Kane scores more these days and does so from better chances. This can be seen in his xG maps from each of the past three seasons. Red dots are goals, while grey dots are unconverted shots. The bigger the dot, the better the chance, or the higher the xG value. Credit: Opta Credit: Opta While goals from difficult angles and long range remain, there is a noticeable increase in the number of high quality chances Kane had in 2016/17. But not only is Kane having a greater number of good chances, he is also outscoring the tally of goals the data expects him to score. That is, if you tot up the xG values of each chance a player has over the course of the season, you have an 'expected' number of goals he 'should' score in that time. Kane outscored this number by around seven in 2014/15, and then by just two in 2015/16, but that shot up last season, when he scored more than 10 goals more than he should have done. Only Messi and Griezmann have outscored their expected goal value by more than Kane in the last three seasons Credit: Reuters Over the past three seasons, a striker presented with Kane's chances would be expected to score around 44 goals. Excluding penalties, Kane has hit 63 goals, meaning he has outscored his expected goal tally by 19. Since the start of the 2014/15 season across Europe's big five leagues, only Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann have outscored their xG total by a greater margin than Kane. And as recently as November 2014, Kane was still a Tottenham substitute. It's been some rise, and the improvements in his game suggest he now right up there among the world's elite forwards. And if the past three seasons are anything to go by, he might just keep getting better.