Premier League Tactical Preview: Chelsea to ease past Arsenal

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel's Chelsea can take another big step towards the top four.

Alex Keble assesses the tactical battles in the midweek Premier League games, arguing that Chelsea will easily beat Arsenal while Villa get three points against Everton...

"Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 formation is very narrow and perfectly set up to take advantage of Arsenal’s softness through the middle."

Quick counters to favour both sets of attackers

Manchester United v Leicester City
Tuesday, 18:00
Live on BT Sport 1

It looks like this could be a really good game of football defined by quick counter-attacks and sudden, explosive moments in the transition. Leicester City and Manchester United both have defenders missing and both have the pace in their forward lines to take advantage of any confusion caused by the absence of Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire.

Without Evans, Leicester were all over the place against Newcastle United. Steve Bruce's side repeatedly countered at ease, playing long ground passes through a disorganised back three to get Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson in behind. Man Utd should easily be able to copy this example, using Mason Greenwood to burst beyond Brendan Rodgers' high line.

At the other end, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho have been working very well together since Rodgers moved to a 3-4-1-2, making clever runs on the outside of centre-backs. Judging by how ropey United looked in the closing stages against Keinan Davies and Wesley on Sunday, Vardy and Iheanacho can out-muscle and out-run a Maguire-less defence. What's more, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will rest a lot of players for this one... which makes it likely there will be chaos, and goals, on Tuesday.

Zaha & Eze to capitalise on weak point

Southampton v Crystal Palace
Tuesday, 20:15
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

There is a reason why Ralph Hasenhuttl keeps rotating his wingers. Nothing is sticking at the moment, and that's particularly true on the right-hand side where Takumi Minamino and Theo Walcott are both struggling to have much of an impact. Southampton play with particularly high wingers, and neither of their preferred options on this side can get back to defend very effectively.

That is a worrying situation to be in ahead of a game against Crystal Palace, who attack predominantly down this side of the pitch through Wilfried Zaha and Eberichi Eze. Eze has a goal and two assists in his last three Premier League games, and while Zaha has only scored once in his last ten matches in all competitions he was impressive against Sheffield United.

But not as impressive as Eze, who started in central midfield but drifted out to both flanks, completing five dribbles and getting fouled five times. Hasenhuttl's 4-4-2 looks tired; Eze's renewed energy across the width of the pitch can make the difference, especially as he interacts with Zaha down Palace's left.

Hodgson Smiling 1280.jpg

Mount to help overwhelm Arteta's brittle midfield

Chelsea v Arsenal
Wednesday, 20:15
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Despite their victory over West Brom at the weekend, Arsenal are in no position to expect a result at Stamford Bridge. There is a tactical void at the heart of the Mikel Arteta project right now, and aside from frequent defensive errors - something a high-tempo Chelsea front line will likely exploit - the biggest problem is in central midfield. Granit Xhaka's absence has left Mohamed Elneny looking flat and lifeless.

Chelsea's 3-4-2-1 formation is very narrow and perfectly set up to take advantage of Arsenal's softness through the middle. Mason Mount in particular always finds the pockets of space, and on Wednesday he should have no problem outmanoeuvring Elneny and Dani Ceballos, handing Chelsea the initiative and carving out room to create chances for Timo Werner.

If Arsenal are to threaten, it will be down the left flank where Reece James can occasionally be got at defensively. Bukayo Saka excelled as a left-back against West Brom, taking charge of the game and working well with Willian as the Brazilian cut inside; their new partnership is something for Thomas Tuchel to think about, although the hosts really ought to blow Arsenal away.

Grealish return to lift Barkley's level

Aston Villa v Everton
Thursday, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Aston Villa are expecting Jack Grealish to return for Thursday's game, which is a timely boost for the club as a whole and Ross Barkley in particular. He was once again too timid at the weekend, failing to show for the ball as Villa struggled to play with any real fluency against Manchester United. With Grealish back he is likely to find space in central attacking midfield after the Villa captain draws players towards him.

Everton are notably porous through central midfield, an issue that will not go away until Abdoulaye Doucoure is fit to play again. There is just not enough dynamism or defensive ability in any of Carlo Ancelotti's midfield combinations, which should offer Barkley the chance to play well against his former club.

What's more, Everton are desperate to sign a right-back this summer and with good reason. Seamus Coleman isn't the player he once was, suggesting Grealish - with Matt Targett overlapping - can flourish on the left wing and help Villa to back-to-back wins over Everton in the space of two weeks.

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