Newcastle vs. Arsenal Odds
|Over/Under||2.5 (-120 / -105)|
|Day | Time||Sunday | 9 a.m. ET|
|Odds updated Saturday afternoon via DraftKings.|
Arsenal is all but certain to miss out on European play next season unless the Gunners can win the Europa League. That renders this game with Newcastle relatively meaningless for Mikel Arteta’s side, as they travel to the northeast of England to take on the Magpies.
The Gunners sit in 11th place entering Sunday, and they still have an outside shot at seventh but are currently seven points behind Tottenham Hotspur with five matches to play. The return leg of their Europa League semifinal with Villarreal will be on Thursday, and Arteta could rotate his squad more than usual because of that.
At the other end of the table, Newcastle has a nine-point advantage above the bottom three, but they’ll want to get to 40 points before they really feel safe from potential relegation on the final day of the season when they host 18th-place Fulham.
Since they fell into the relegation scrap with Fulham and appeared to be in serious danger of dropping into the second division, the Magpies have dramatically improved their form. That’s not unprecedented, and teams fighting relegation do typically see an uptick in performance.
Newcastle has won the expected goals (xG) battle in four of their last eight games. Two wins, five draws and a loss later, they’re probably safe from relegation. FiveThirtyEight puts their odds at 2% to go down. The Magpies have excelled offensively in the last month against solid defenses, generating eight goals from 6.9 xG in the last four PL matches. That includes draws with Tottenham and Liverpool, plus a win against West Ham.
The question is whether the form represents a true change in the Magpies’ quality, or is it a brief, unsustainable run of good form. The advanced numbers seem to suggest it’s not going to continue. Despite being 10th in non-penalty expected goal difference (NPxGD) since Feb. 27, their passes completed within the opponents’ penalty area is just 34, compared to opponents’ completing 65 in their own area. They haven’t improved much in any statistical quality that would lead to good shots and chances, therefore, I’m selling this Newcastle team.
That 34-to-65 split is much more in line with a team in the bottom six of the league than a team that’s all of a sudden improved across the whole pitch.
Callum Wilson is a key return for the Newcastle front line, but big scoring chances will be tough to come by for him on Sunday. He’s not exactly 100% fit and looked a step off the pace last match.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is an advanced statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as luck or outstanding goalkeeping.
Arsenal’s 2-1 loss to Villarreal in the midweek Europa League semifinal leaves the Gunners as the underdogs headed into the second leg at home next Thursday. Before that, though, the Gunners will travel to Newcastle in a relatively meaningless PL game for them. The market is taking that into consideration and expecting some squad rotation.
However, Arsenal have dealt with plenty of change in the squad throughout the season, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they will play noticeably worse. They faced a setback in the league in two straight weeks when they had an unfortunate draw with Fulham and undeserved loss to Everton. The Gunners have been excellent at beating up on the bottom teams in the league in the second half of the season otherwise: a dominant performance and win against Sheffield United; a dominant performance against Fulham done-in by a penalty allowed and poor finishing; and a 1-1 draw with Burnley that was miraculously held on lead by the Clarets.
As much as the Gunners have struggled with almost every team of any quality they have faced, They’ve been flat-track bullies, and Newcastle is a bad matchup for the Gunners. Arteta has done an excellent job of building possession structures to avoid pressure being applied to them, as they are third best at preventing opponent pressures in the league.
Newcastle apply almost no ball pressure and sit deep and defend. They rank second to last in applying pressure to opponents, which will make it too easy for Arsenal to pick apart their porous defense.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Newcastle’s recent form and Arsenal’s seeming lack of motivation have driven this line down far enough in a range for me to play on the Gunners. Even though my projections have been much lower on Arsenal than the market all season, they are too cheap now. My number makes them -120, and I’ll play them at anything -110 or better.
Arsenal has had plenty of success generating chances against bad Premier League teams of late, and Newcastle could be breathing a sigh of relief with their now nine-point gap from relegation.
Pick: Arsenal ML +107 (-110 or better)