Premier League Tactical Preview: Coutinho v Toure and other key battles

Toure needs to repeat his excellent performance in the League Cup final to stop Coutinho
Toure needs to repeat his excellent performance in the League Cup final to stop Coutinho
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Alex Keble returns with his regular analysis of four key tactical battles ahead of the midweek action in the Premier League, including why West Brom could dent Leicester's title bid, and why Sanchez needs to return to form against Swansea...

"Wes Morgan and Robert Huth will sit higher up the pitch than usual and leave troubling amounts of space behind them for Sessegnon and Berahino to dart into."

Leicester v West Brom

Leicester's centre-backs v West Brom's wingers
Tuesday, 19:45

West Brom switched to a 4-3-3 formation for the victory over Crystal Palace with Saido Berahino and Stephane Sessegnon - both out of favour - returning to the starting line-up to add much needed pace and width to the side. This could cause problems this weekend for Leicester's slow defenders, who may struggle in a match that Leicester will uncharacteristically dominate.

Leicester held the majority of possession against Norwich for only the third time this season, with Alex Neil's side laying down a defensive template that West Brom will copy. The Foxes like to play on the counter-attack and when forced to hold the majority of possession they are significantly less effective. West Brom, who average 40.9% possession (lowest in the Premier League), will ensure Leicester are on the front foot.

This means that Wes Morgan and Robert Huth will sit higher up the pitch than usual and leave troubling amounts of space behind them for Sessegnon and Berahino to dart into. These two were superb at the weekend, bursting into space on the counter and linking up effectively. Their movement will be a huge concern for Morgan and Huth, two defenders that are easily out-run if forced out of that deep defensive shell.

This problem is exacerbated by N'Golo Kante's expected absence since the Frenchman is the key interceptor; without his break-up skills West Brom's long diagonal passes into the wings will be more effective.

Recommended Bet
Back the draw at 14/5

Arsenal v Swansea

Sanchez & Ozil v Swansea's narrow 4-3-1-2
Wednesday, 19:45

Swansea remain in North London for their midweek game against Arsenal, and unfortunately for Francesco Guidolin there may be a similar outcome; Arsenal will dominate possession as Spurs did, and could flourish in the same space - the left wing.

Swansea's 4-3-1-2 formation is very narrow and essentially does not provide adequate support out wide for the full-backs. Danny Rose was arguably the most dangerous player on Sunday and this was because right-back Angel Rangel received little cover. Jack Cork was charged with roaming out to the right to stop the overlapping runs of Rose (who created two chances and scored the winner), but Tottenham's narrowness (their wingers cut inside to overload the centre of the park) kept him preoccupied in the middle.


39% of Arsenal's attacks come down the left hand side of the pitch as Mesut Ozil links up with Alexis Sanchez to cause havoc in a centre-left zone. Their one-twos could easily out-manoeuvre Rangel if he is once again left to fend for himself, although Sanchez needs to step up his game to ensure that Arsenal can take full advantage of this weakness. The Chilean has struggled since returning from injury and has failed to register a goal or assist in any of his last six games.

Recommended Bet
Back over 2.5 goals at 4/5

West Ham v Tottenham

Collins v Eriksen
Wednesday, 19:45

Tottenham continue to win scrappy matches because of the great variety in their attacking tactics, as proved by the latest victory over Swansea in which they played with an uncharacteristically forceful directness. Expect a similar style on Wednesday, and thus the key battle will between Spurs' primary playmaker and the aerial ability of James Collins.

Spurs attempted 30 crosses on Sunday (up from a season average of 19.8) and hit 14 shots from outside the box (up from an average of 7.7). Their biggest strength is adapting to the opponents tactics and with Swansea defending deep Tottenham threw as much at goal as they could. Christian Eriksen attempted nine crosses (up from 5.6 average), roaming dangerously on the edge of the area and controlling the match with his passing range.

West Ham are an aerially dominant team that boasts tall, strong centre backs. Collins' no-nonsense defensive style is well-suited to this kind of fixture, and indeed his heroic slides and blocks (2.6 aerials won per match, 8.5 clearances) will be vital in preventing Spurs from forcing the ball into the back of the net.

Recommended Bet
Back under 2.5 goals at 5/6

Liverpool v Man City

Coutinho v Toure
Wednesday, 20:00, Live on BT Sport 1

Perhaps the most surprising element of the League Cup final was that Yaya Toure played with remarkable defensive discipline in central midfielder to deny space in between the lines for Liverpool's front three, but in a less dramatic game he is unlikely to maintain this form. Philippe Coutinho flourishes when allowed to drift into this central zone, and at Anfield this feature - conspicuously absent at Wembley - is likely to play a part.

Toure misses 50% of his tackles and, more importantly, is prone to over-committing to attack when asked to play in a deeper midfield role. Coutinho was largely ineffective on Sunday (two key passes, three dribbles) but having scored the late equaliser his confidence should be restored.

As he floats infield to support Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge, it will take another superbly organised display from Fernando and Toure (with Fernandinho holding a narrow position on the right flank to cut off the space for Coutinho) to stop him again.


Recommended Bet
Back Liverpool to win at 8/5

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