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xGunners: Arsenal at Newcastle United Stats Preview

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Arsenal kick off their Premier League season with a trip to Newcastle United.

Arsenal FC v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After a flourish of a finish to the transfer window where Arsenal made a mad dash to get the final areas of need on their shopping list checked off. Arsenal are done shopping (but hopefully not selling) and get to play matches that really matter, starting with a trip to Newcastle United.

This is a tough match to look at for me from a stats perspective because there isn’t much data yet with the season yet to start and Newcastle facing a huge change with Steve Bruce replacing Rafa Benitez.

Newcastle’s Pre-Season and Transfer Business

In the pre-season Newcastle won four and lost one, scoring eight and conceding seven. Their last three friendlies don’t have any data beyond the score line, but for their first two in the Premier League Asia Trophy I have some basic data.

They 12 shots, 3 from the danger zone, scored 1 goal and created 1.1 expected goals. On defense they gave up 13 shots, 6 from the danger zone, gave up 4 goals (including 1 own goal) and 1 expected goal.

Before writing this I really had no idea what they had done, but that is surprisingly good. Their transfer business has been interesting. They sold Ayoze Perez and lost Salomon Rondon replacing them with a pair of young forwards in Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin.

Joelinton was a pretty good player for Hoffenheim, but I am not sure how he will translate at Newcastle as a Rondon replacement. Saint-Maimin is an excellent dribbler who is very fast but pretty mediocre at everything else and has red flags with his ability to get along with coaches. Adding together last December’s signing of Miguel Almiron from MLS’ Atlanta United, Newcastle have the potential to have a very fast counter attacking front three but with a lot of question marks.

How will the match play out?

I don’t expect a departure from Newcastle in their defense first approach with the change in coach, and it is very likely that Arsenal will have close to 70% of the possession in this match (in their two Premier League Asia Trophy matches against West Ham and Wolves they had about 40% of the ball). Ultimately, like so many of these top six vs bottom half matches it will come down to the question of whether can Arsenal pick the lock of a deep defense and stop counters before they create dangerous attacks.

My simulation model has Arsenal as heavy favorites in this match. That lines up well with the betting odds where they have an implied chance of Arsenal taking all three points is around 55% and FiveThirtyEight’s simulation giving Arsenal a 45% chance of winning.

There are still big questions on how Arsenal will line up, and who if any of the new signings will be ready to play.

After a disappointing end to last season mixed with the rumors that Arsenal wouldn’t have much money to invest in the squad things looked bleak in June. Instead of continuing that way Arsenal did very good addressing the holes in the squad and with their direct competition for the top four struggling. Hopefully Arsenal can build on that with a win and a good performance in a tricky away match.