Alex Keble assesses four tactical battles ahead of this weekend's Premier League games, building a 45/1 acca based on Chelsea beating Man Utd and a damaging defeat for Newcastle...
"Manchester United might get a bit of a new-manager bounce from Michael Carrick this weekend, but considering his involvement in the previous regime they are unlikely to be any better organised."
Arsenal v Newcastle
Live on BT Sport 1
Newcastle United looked particularly attacking in Eddie Howe's first game in charge, cumulating 52% possession as they tried to keep hold of the ball for longer periods and attack in a more open way. This conformed with our expectation that Howe is not the right man to improve the team's defensive structure, and it is a particular worry for the visit to the Emirates this weekend.
Arsenal are sharp in the transition, most comfortable when picking the ball off their opponent and playing quick vertical football through the lines for Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka, and Emile Smith Rowe. Liverpool's excellent pressing made it almost impossible to do this last weekend, but in a 3-4-3 that looks far too light on numbers in the central column of the pitch Newcastle should be very vulnerable.
Overly expanded and looking to pour forward in numbers themselves, it's easy to imagine a quick break through the Magpies' front three breaking down, giving Arsenal the chance in the transition to dart forward and expose the league's worst defence. It could be a particularly damaging defeat for Howe.
Man City v West Ham
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have a habit of looking unplayable, wiping the floor with everyone, right up until they face a diligently organised defensive unit and suddenly they can't score. That's because their lack of a centre-forward means they rely entirely on attacking midfielders flitting intelligently between the lines, and so narrow and compact defences can hold them at arms' length.
Like Southampton and Crystal Palace already this season, West Ham can pull this off. They will, of course, be happy to leave the City centre-backs alone and sit off, patiently absorbing pressure but denying any room in the half-spaces -the column between full-back and centre-back in which Man City create chances, whether it's Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, or Joao Cancelo.
Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek are so good, and receive so much close support, West Ham can shut this area down. What's more, Rice's driving runs in possession threaten to destabilise City's system, leading to set-pieces at the other end. There is the chance of another upset on Sunday.
Leicester City v Watford
Things are unravelling fast at Leicester, where Brendan Rodgers is struggling to find the right balance in a difficult hangover season for the club. In the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea his 3-4-3 formation was far too porous through central midfield, with Wilfried Ndidi and Boubakary Soumare badly exposed by a lack of coordinated pressing from the forwards and a widening gap to the centre-backs.
The formation is stretched, largely through fearful retreat by the back line, but also because the two-man midfield has to move out to the flanks to defend in front of the wing-backs; essentially in a 5-2-3, Leicester are easy to out-number in crucial areas. Watford's counter-attacking strategy works almost entirely down the flanks via quick distribution to Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaili Sarr. That's a worry for the hosts.
Ndidi and Soumare are likely to be dragged out to meet these two, in turn creating huge spaces for midfield runners Moussa Sissoko and Tom Cleverley to arrive late in the move. Having scored nine goals against Manchester United and Everton, two teams with troublingly flaky central midfields, it is likely that Claudio Ranieri's team will inflict further damage on Leicester.
Chelsea v Man Utd
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Manchester United might get a bit of a new-manager bounce from Michael Carrick this weekend, but considering his involvement in the previous regime they are unlikely to be any better organised. Consequently Chelsea, who have a remarkable tactical variety this season that makes them unpredictable and almost impossible to stop, should win relatively comfortably at Stamford Bridge.
Thomas Tuchel is packing the middle of the park brilliantly, using inverted wing-backs to underlap and overwhelm the opposition. Coupled with the use of a false nine while Romelu Lukaku is out, this ought to give Chelsea a major numerical advantage as they contruct attacks, blowing away Fred and Scott McTominay.
What's more, the absence of pressing from Cristiano Ronaldo will make it easy for the three Chelsea centre-backs to step out with the ball, pulling United players towards them and disrupting the shape. The relationship between Jorginho and N'Golo Kante, with one often sitting in front of the other to receive a line-breaking pass, further threatens this chaotic and flat United team.
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