The Big Match Tactical View: Newcastle v Arsenal and Tottenham v Sunderland

19May 2013

England - Premier League


Michael Cox thinks North London will prevail over the North East on Sunday afternoon.


Newcastle v Arsenal, Sunday 4:00, Sky Sports 1.

Match Odds: Newcastle 6.2, Arsenal 1.57, The Draw 4.7.


After Newcastle sealed survival against QPR last weekend, Alan Pardew made a rather unusual admission in his post-match press conference. 'I don't really care if Arsenal win 4-0 if I'm honest," he said. "I'm sure Spurs will, but I only care that our fans enjoy themselves."


Of course, this created a minor media storm, and Pardew was soon forced to clarify his comments. "I know people will have picked up on my comments about not caring about the result against Arsenal, which were of course a joke," he insisted. "It is definitely not the case that I would be happy for us to lose 4-0 against Arsenal on Sunday. I simply want our players and fans to be able to enjoy the game without looking over their shoulders."


Still, one can't help feeling that Newcastle aren't putting 100% effort into this match - the final game of an exhausting season that has stretched the squad. Arsenal could have been facing a side desperately fighting for survival - instead, they're facing one that have no motivation to perform well.


Arsenal have a poor recent record at St James' Park, but Arsene Wenger will be licking his lips having witnessed some of Newcastle's recent defensive performances. In particular, the 6-0 home defeat to Liverpool was a disaster - Newcastle were constantly opened up by through-balls from Coutinho, playing too high up the pitch and putting little pressure upon the man in possession.


That should play into the hands of Arsenal. Santi Cazorla plays more through-balls than any other Premier League player, while Tomas Rosicky has also been in fine form in an advanced midfield role.


Furthermore, there's Theo Walcott's pace in behind the defence. This will be especially problematic for Newcastle - with both long-term absentee Ryan Taylor and Massadio Haïdara unavailable, plus Davide Santon rated as doubtful, it seems like Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will be forced to continue at left-back. As a centre-back, he lacks the positional skills to play on the left, and Walcott should be able to sprint in behind the defence easily. Having opened the scoring against both Manchester United and QPR within the first three minutes in recent weeks, he's a fine bet for first goalscorer at 7.0.


Wenger's major decision is whether to recall Olivier Giroud after injury - the Frenchman offers heading ability and brings more variety to Arsenal's play, but Lukas Podolski will hope his opener against Wigan on Tuesday sees him given another start.


Tottenham v Sunderland, Sunday 4:00, Sky Sports 2.

Match Odds: Tottenham 1.3, Sunderland 12.5, The Draw 6.2.


At White Hart Lane, the second part of the race for the Champions League places sees another North London versus North-East clash, with Tottenham taking on Paolo Di Canio's Sunderland. The away side will be forced to cope with some serious absentees - Wes Brown, Lee Cattermole, Danny Rose, Steven Fletcher, Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner are all unavailable for a variety of reasons, and Spurs have steadily drifted from 1.45 to the 1.3 mark this week.


Di Canio has asked his players to press heavily since taking charge - closing down high up the pitch, but often leaving space between the lines. This might suit Spurs' gameplan, with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon excellent at skipping past opposition challenges and carrying the ball into attack.


Spurs are arguably a better side when on the counter-attack, with Mousa Dembele able to drive forward from central midfield positions - while Emmanuel Adebayor's brilliant curled effort against Chelsea last week was also scored on the break.


Dembele's probably return will be crucial to Spurs' gameplan, and it's difficult to see them being as disappointing as they were against Stoke last weekend, when they relied on a relatively late Adebayor winner. Sunderland won't be passive, but they'll probably tire late on - and I can see Spurs scoring a few. They can be backed at around 3.2 to win both halves - that's not a bet I usually go for, but when one side has motivation to get the result, and another are thinking about their holidays, it seems like a strong possibility.


Recommended bets:

Theo Walcott to score first in Newcastle v Arsenal at 7.0

Tottenham to win both halves against Sunderland at 3.2



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Keywords: The Big Match Tactical View, Newcastle, Arsenal, Tottenham, Sunderland

Source: Betfair

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