Arsenal travel to Newcastle United for the final match of the Premier League season (4pm BST, Sunday, live on Sky Sports) looking for the three points that will secure them Champions League football for a 14th consecutive year.
The Gunners come into the match in 4th place with 70 points from 20 wins, 10 draws and seven defeats, one point clear of local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who host Sunderland on the last day. If Spurs win then Arsenal must do likewise to prevent slipping out of the top four.
Arsene Wenger will be glad that Arsenal’s fate rests in their own hands, as that did not seem likely to be the case following Tottenham’s 2-1 win over his side in early March. Spurs enjoyed an eight-point margin in the wake of that result, but an Arsenal run of seven wins and two draws in the subsequent matches has eroded and overturned that advantage.
The latest victory for the Gunners was a 4-1 win over Wigan Athletic on Tuesday, a result that sealed their opponent’s relegation from the top flight. It was a match that twoed and froed but was eventually decided by a burst of three goals in eight minutes just past the hour mark.
Arsenal have not always been particularly convincing this season, but since the Spurs defeat there has been a clear collective determination to get the results necessary to obtain Champions League football, with the 18 goals in this period spread between 10 different players and assisted by nine.
Santi Cazorla provided the assists for all four goals on Tuesday and has been the most impressive of Arsenal’s pre-season signings, scoring 12 goals and providing 11 assists over the course of the campaign, although Lukas Podolski also has 11 goals and nine assists to his credit and thrived in his favoured central role against Wigan.
The pair have certainly played their part in Arsenal’s final push for a top four place, which could yet even yield third if Chelsea, two points ahead, slip up at home to Everton on the final day.
Arsenal’s win over Wigan on Tuesday was enough to assure Newcastle United of their place in the Premier League for another season, but manager Alan Pardew is unlikely to be in a charitable mood and will be keen to obtain three points that could see his side finish a rocky season as high as 10th.
The Magpies finished in an excellent 5th place last season, but have been unable to replicate that campaign this time around. None of their top performers were sold prior to the commencement of the season, but a spate of injuries and some questionable tactical decisions by Pardew have brought about a relatively poor campaign.
Newcastle sat just four points clear of the relegation zone at the end of January. Top scorer Demba Ba (13 goals in 19 appearances) was sold to Chelsea in the mid-season transfer window, but Newcastle invested heavily themselves, bringing in six new players at a combined cost of £20 million to aid their survival bid.
The end result, four months later, is that Newcastle are now six points clear of the relegation zone, having seen a slight improvement in points gained per match (1.23 points per match, compared to 1.00 points per match previously) since the closure of the January transfer window.
Pardew has come under scrutiny from the Newcastle supporters because despite possessing a number of technically gifted players, he has often employed a direct style of play. The Magpies have played the league’s fourth highest percentage of long balls and crosses (22.33%) as a percentage of total passes, behind only West Ham, Stoke and Reading.
Pardew may have a eight-year contract (signed in September 2012), but is likely to find his position under threat if Newcastle’s performances and results do not improve in the early part of next season.
Newcastle v Arsenal Betting Tips Verdict
Newcastle have little more than pride to play for, although the chance to put a positive spin on a poor campaign by securing a top ten finish provides a little extra incentive for Pardew and his charges.
For Arsenal, the equation is simple: win, and a Champions League qualifying round place is the worst possible outcome. Lose or draw, and Spurs could swoop in and take their Champions League place.
Arsenal have not been particularly convincing this season, but did thrash Newcastle 7-3 earlier in the campaign and with the finish line now in sight have enough about them to push themselves over the final hurdle and secure a top four finish.
- Back Arsenal to win @ best odds of 3/5 with Paddy Power, Bet365, Ladbrokes or BetVictor (Note: 3/5 is better than 4/7).
- Six of the last eight league matches between these sides have ended with more than two goals, and although Arsenal have been solid defensively away from home recently, we expect that run to continue on Sunday. Back over 2.5 goals @ best odds of 11/20 with Ladbrokes. The odds for this were best at 4/6 but have been shortening.