Alex Keble assesses four tactical battles ahead of this weekend's Premier League games, with a bet from each game building a fourfold that pays out at over 30/1...
"If Chelsea use this formation they should expose Man City, keeping the game low on chances before piercing through the centre of the pitch on the counter-attack."
Chelsea v Manchester City
Live on BT Sport 1
Chelsea generally play with quite a deep line of engagement against the bigger clubs, sitting off in a compressed shape in an attempt to draw the opposition forward before counter-attacking quickly in behind. It is a method that suits the pace in their attack, particularly with Romelu Lukaku in the team, and that creates a sense of safety. Man City are particularly vulnerable to facing a system like this.
Pep Guardiola's side have dropped points against Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton this season, two clubs that similarly defend in a compact midblock, surrounding the City midfielders with bodies to cut off the passing lines and force low-tempo, sideways possession that leads to few clear-cut chances. If it worked for these two then it should work for Chelsea - as long as they correct the initial error from last weekend's Spurs game and pack midfield.
Tuchel's half-time switch to a 3-5-2 stopped Tottenham from progressing the ball neatly through midfield. If Chelsea use this formation they should expose Man City, keeping the game low on chances before piercing through the centre of the pitch on the counter-attack, using Man City's high line to get Lukaku in behind.
Manchester United v Aston Villa
Man Utd are not playing particularly well despite results, and you get the feeling that eventually they will fail to win the moments with individual skill in one of those weirdly structureless games; West Ham were a penalty away and Wolves were remarkably unlucky. Aston Villa, looking confident against Chelsea, may be the side to frustrate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Their 3-5-2 is particularly defensive, with two wing-backs providing all the creativity in a playmaker-less formation of three workmanlike central midfielders and two strikers. But United struggle when forced to pick apart a low block like Villa's, and could find themselves pushed too high up the pitch to deal with the dual threat of Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings. Together, these two can make useful runs on the outside of the United centre-backs.
Then again, Villa haven't beaten United since 1995 and Cristiano Ronaldo has 10 goals in 13 games against them. This is Dean Smith's bogey team and it seems highly unlikely the visitors will keep a clean sheet. They may just give them a scare though.
Brentford v Liverpool
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Brentford haven't been particularly impressive since their opening day 2-0 win over Arsenal but the quality and possession dominance of this week's opponent should bring the best out of Thomas Frank's side. Brentford's aggression in the challenge, directness in getting the ball up to Ivan Toney, and bold use of wing-backs can cause Jurgen Klopp real problems.
Liverpool's 4-3-3 is particularly narrow with the front three generally staying high up the pitch. This should hand Brentford the chance to counter down the flanks through Rico Henry and Sergi Canos, who will look to swing as many crosses into the box as they can for Toney and Bryan Mbeumo. The power of these two, winning aerial duels and making a nuisance of themselves, should generally cause problems in open play and from set-pieces.
But Klopp's side are nowhere near as brittle as Arsenal and will come prepared. One of the chief dangers of a 3-5-2 is that it becomes 5-3-2 when sat deep, opening up an inviting pocket of space in front of the wing-backs. From here, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson may have too much room to swing in dangerous crosses. There should be goals in this one, with the match settled by the battle for both flanks.
Arsenal v Tottenham
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
It's remarkable how quickly the narrative has changed around the north London clubs. Just a fortnight ago Tottenham were riding high on a 100% start under Nuno Espirito Santo while Mikel Arteta was supposedly on the verge of losing his job, but on Sunday Arsenal can go above their rivals with a win - exiting their own crisis and plunging Tottenham into one.
Their respective psychological vulnerabilities at this moment in time will be reflected in the energy of the game; these are nervous, erratic teams capable of mistakes and moments of brilliance. Consequently we cannot tip the winner, but can at least predict it will be an entertaining game thanks to some adventurous line-ups.
Arsenal are now using a 4-3-3 with two playmakers - Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard - either side of a defensive midfielder, and Spurs used exactly the same approach against Chelsea as Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele advanced into the half-spaces. Similar aggression on Sunday should create a wide-open central midfield and plenty of chances for counters and counter-counters.
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