Premier League Tactical Preview: Mahrez v Young and other key battles

Mourinho could see the 11-point gap to Man City grow even bigger this weekend
Mourinho could see the 11-point gap to Man City grow even bigger this weekend

Alex Keble returns with his tactical analysis for the big Premier League games, including why Leicester City could beat Man Utd...

"Arsenal’s two-man central midfield rarely looks comfortable against teams who can attack quickly through the middle (as Manchester United proved in their 3-1 win at the Emirates, when Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba ran riot in the number ten space), but Aaron Ramsey’s absence on Friday makes them even weaker than usual."

Wilshere v Chamberlain & Firmino

Arsenal v Liverpool
Friday, 19:45 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Arsenal's two-man central midfield rarely looks comfortable against teams who can attack quickly through the middle (as Manchester United proved in their 3-1 win at the Emirates, when Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba ran riot in the number ten space), but Aaron Ramsey's absence on Friday makes them even weaker than usual. It seems unlikely that Jack Wilshere, who is too slow to react following years of serious injury, will be able to cope with Liverpool's movement.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was particularly impressive from central midfield last weekend, piercing through the middle expertly to help create space for Liverpool's front three; often Jurgen Klopp's team struggle to transition the ball from the middle into the final third unless winning possession with a high press, which is precisely why the Ox was signed. His ability to wriggle through challenges in tight central areas could leave Wilshere looking flat-footed.

Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will be looking forward to taking on the Arsenal full-backs, particularly given Arsene Wenger's side have gone back to holding the majority of possession against the bigger clubs. Liverpool's quick counters should be highly effective on Friday.

Recommended Bet
Back Liverpool to win at 9/5 (Betfair Sportsbook)


Sigurdsson v Willian

Everton v Chelsea
Saturday, 12:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Chelsea have been struggling to find fluency at Stamford Bridge, scoring just once in four of the last five matches, but might have found a solution while playing Eden Hazard as a false nine.

This move meant Willian came back into the starting line-up for the last two Chelsea games, and the Brazilian bagged a goal and two assists at Huddersfield before creating six chances for his team-mates in the narrow win over Southampton.

His inventiveness from the right, coupled with the gradual return to form of Victor Moses, is the biggest threat to the Everton defence.

Sam Allardyce will sit his team very deep in this match and look to absorb pressure, which should be successful; Chelsea are not very good at breaking down defensive teams, while Big Sam is superb at winning unlikely points against the top four. There will be very little space for Hazard in the final third.

Moses' and Willian's ability to cross the ball into the box from deeper positions might be the only route to goal, not least because Gylfi Sigurdsson, playing left midfield under Allardyce, isn't always defensively disciplined. However, Everton should have enough height in the box to nullify the threat.

Recommended Bet
Back double chance Everton/draw at 13/10 (Betfair Sportsbook)


Shaqiri v Krychowiak

Stoke City v West Brom
Saturday, 15:00 GMT

A six-pointer at the bottom of the table is the most important match of the weekend - but probably won't be much fun to watch. Stoke City look tactically directionless under Mark Hughes while West Brom are yet to find their rhythm under Alan Pardew, meaning this will be a low-scoring game as two teams low on confidence slog it out.

The midfield will be largely bypassed (which is great news for Stoke, who are seriously struggling in this area), and powerful defenders on both sides means the most likely outcome here is 0-0. However, if there is one player who could make the difference it is Xherdan Shaqiri, in surprisingly good form from right wing.

Shaqiri rarely sticks to the right, but instead cuts inside and drifts into the number ten space. The key battle in the Potteries is between the Switzerland international and Grzegorz Krychowiak, the Baggies' best defensive midfield shield. If Krychowiak can cut off the line that Shaqiri likes to drive into, then Pardew should keep another clean sheet.

Recommended Bet
Back under 1.5 goals at 7/4 (Betfair Sportsbook)


Vardy & Mahrez v Young

Leicester City v Manchester United
Saturday, 19:45 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Leicester City have found their goalscoring rhythm under Claude Puel of late, largely because Riyad Mahrez is back in form and Wilfried Ndidi and Vicente Iborra have forged a strong partnership in central midfield. Manchester United fans should be worried.

Jose Mourinho's team will hold the vast majority of possession, which perfectly suits the hosts. United's inability to attack coherently, a problem that has plagued the club for five years, should mean Puel's powerful midfielders confidently keep a clean sheet, all the while drawing an increasingly-frustrated United side forward.

Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, peeling to the right, can then punish the visitors on the break. Ashley Young remains a little bit rash in the tackle and isn't the quickest, making left-back an area for Puel to target. Mahrez won't need a second invitation to pounce on any sloppiness from Young.

Recommended Bet
Back Leicester to win at 15/4 (Betfair Sportsbook)

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