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League Two Stats: Eight Games In

The League 2 season is now eight games old for the majority of teams and some of the narratives for the season are beginning to be drawn up.

It is a division that is often talked about in terms of the unpredictability, but the league table is currently suggesting otherwise, even at this early stage. Three of the top four favourites for the title pre-season currently find themselves in the top five in the standings, while the two relegation places are currently occupied by two of the three shortest-priced pre-season relegation favourites. With almost a fifth of the season already completed, let us take a look at some of the statistics from League 2 and try and draw out any interesting discoveries that are not immediately obvious from the league table.
Paul Cook's Portsmouth team appear to be living up to their pre-season title favouritism thus far

The table shows the five best attacking teams and the five worst attacking teams in League 2 thus far based on their expected goals, not including penalties. We can see that Plymouth Argyle have accumulated the greatest expected goals with 13.7, which is a full goal ahead of Carlisle in second position. This is driven by two interesting aspects.

Firstly, their 12.88 shots per game is the most of any side in the division. This is not a huge surprise - more shots generally equals more expected goals - but this is not necessarily the case, as Notts County prove. Notts County have taken joint third most shots in League 2 per game this season, but rank just tenth for expected goals, with over half of their shots coming from outside the penalty area.

Secondly, Plymouth are not only having more shots than any other team, but they are also creating shots in good areas. Their 0.75 chances per match from Very Close Range with either left or right foot (worth 0.59 xG) is almost twice as high as the second highest in the division and shows that they are generating shooting opportunities in the most dangerous area at an impressive rate. Indeed, these chances mean that their attacking duo of Jake Jervis and Graham Carey are currently 1st and 3rd in terms of xG for individual players with 4.1 and 3.2 respectively, which roughly reflects their actual tallies of 5 and 4 goals.

In terms of individual players, it is also no surprise to see 2nd and 4th on the list coming from Carlisle United. Jabo Ibehre and Jason Kennedy have 3.5 and 3.1 in xG this season, although this is not quite reflected in their actual goal tallies with Ibehre having scored 8 goals and Kennedy still yet to get off the mark from open play.

At the other end of the scale, Yeovil Town are in disarray and are being forced to consider the possibility of consecutive relegations down from the Championship into non-League. Their 6.25 shots per match is comfortably the lowest in the division and even their 8 non-penalty goals so far is potentially an over-achievement.

It is interesting to note that Leyton Orient are the only one of the top nine pre-season title favourites to feature in this list and just two of the top five teams in the list are currently in either promotion or playoff places.


Oxford United finished last season with nine clean sheets in their last fifteen matches and have continued their excellent defensive record into the current season. They concede just 7.0 shots per match, have not conceded a single shot from Very Close Range, concede a league low 0.88 shots with the foot from the Centre of Box and tend to force teams to shoot from wide areas of the penalty area. With just 4.8 xG conceded in eight matches so far, their seven actual goals conceded is actually a bit high compared to what we might expect. Five of these seven goals have come from 17 shots in Centre of Box with a conversion rate of almost 30% compared to a league average of just under 16.4%. This may come down, but interestingly it mirrors last season where they appeared particularly vulnerable in this area. Time may tell whether there is a systemic weakness in their defensive system or whether this will simply revert back toward the mean.

AFC Wimbledon also appear highly in this area, which combined with their third-place in the attacking stats suggests that maybe they should be higher in the table than their current 12th place in the table.

The presence of Barnet and Carlisle in the bottom five for defensive ability in contrast to their top five ranking in attacking ability explains why they have combined for 24 and 34 goals respectively in the league so far. Yeovil Town will be seriously concerned about their position in the bottom five for defensive ability, given their struggles in attack that we looked at earlier.


One team in particular is notable in comparison to the pre-season expectations - Accrington Stanley. They were the joint favourites for relegation according to the bookmakers, but currently find themselves in 6th position in the table. This position appears deserved thus far, given their 5th position in the defensive stats and 8th in attacking stats. While they may not be able to keep this up for the rest of the season, they are already looking in an excellent position to stay in the division and can seriously eye up a top-half finish. They have been aided by the good form of Josh Windass, whose 2.1 xG places him at 13th in terms of individual players.

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