Premier League Tactical Preview: How Arsenal can beat Chelsea and other key battles

Arsenal manager Unai Emery
Emery's counter-attacking tactics could work well at Stamford Bridge
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Alex Keble looks at four key tactical battles ahead of the weekend Premier League action and predicts Arsenal beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge...

"Still slightly chaotic as they get used to the Italian's methods, Chelsea are just the sort of team Emery will look forward to facing."

Ozil-instigated narrow counter-attacks to cut through work-in-progress Chelsea

Chelsea v Arsenal
Saturday, 17:30,
Live on BT Sport 1

A lot of attention was given to Arsenal's attempts to play out from the back against Manchester City, but what should have been of greater interest was Mesut Ozil's new deeper role as the right-sided central midfielder in a 4-3-1-2. The formation was extremely narrow, with Aaron Ramsey making runs ahead Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan supporting in the hole.

Bunched-up counter-attacks - triggered either by Ozil from inside his own half or via those short goal-kicks that draw the opposition out - are the future under Unai Emery. There is every chance it will work well at Stamford Bridge, where Maurizio Sarri is attempting to implement a high back line and a more expansive formation. Still slightly chaotic as they get used to the Italian's methods, Chelsea are just the sort of team Emery will look forward to facing.

Arsenal attempted lots of long vertical passes to break at speed against City; these may catch David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger, neither of whom looked comfortable with their new aggressive roles in a flat back four. What's more, Arsenal will happily encourage Chelsea to dominate possession before springing in a tight throng into the spaces around Jorginho, still finding his feet in English football. A smash-and-grab away win is definitely on the cards.

Foxes can expose Wolves' too-wide 3-4-3

Leicester City v Wolves
Saturday, 15:00

Wolves were naive against Everton on Saturday evening and would surely have lost the game had Phil Jagielka not made a critical error towards the end of the first half. Nuno Espirito Santo played a wide 3-4-3 formation that involved high wing-backs and forwards that hugged the touchline, leaving Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves to patrol a large area of central midfield.

Santo won't change his formation or tactical philosophy this weekend, which could spell further trouble when they come up against the speed of Leicester City's counters. James Maddison was superb on his debut, linking neatly with Demarai Gray to create opportunities for a disappointing Kelechi Iheanacho. Jamie Vardy should be back for this one, ready to get on the end of Maddison's through balls and Gray's crosses.

The battle between Neves and Maddison should define the contest. Many Wolves fans have been worried about a lack of strength in the middle without an out-and-out defensive player; Maddison should be able to prove this anxiety is legitimate.

West Ham's left wing may overpower newcomer Brooks

West Ham v Bournemouth
Saturday, 15:00

After this weekend's home game against Bournemouth West Ham face Arsenal (a), Wolves (h), Everton (a), Chelsea (h), and Manchester United (h) in their next five league matches: they desperately need three points against Eddie Howe's side to avoid a crisis-laden start under Manuel Pellegrini. Fortunately for the hosts, a powerful left side of Arthur Masuaku and Felipe Anderson hands them an advantage.

The Hammers attacked down the left more frequently than the centre or the right at Anfield (42%) simply because this was the only area in which they had the speed and power to turn a Liverpool defender and charge forward on the counter-attack. A much more even game on Saturday means they should find it easier to get Anderson and Masuaku on the ball in the opposition half after both were impressive - and proactive - in charging past Trent Alexander-Arnold on the left flank.

A tight game will most likely be settled by a sudden turn of pace or moment of individual brilliance that creates space for a winner, and so it is alarming from a Bournemouth point of view that Anderson and Masuaku can combine to beat David Brooks. The 21-year-old, signed from Sheffield United, should keep his starting place but is an obvious weak point so soon after his Premier League debut. It is a mismatch that tips the balance in Pellegrini's favour.

Can Brighton's Gross and March show the same courage as Leicester did at Old Trafford?

Brighton v Man Utd
Sunday, 16:00,
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Brighton are one of the favourites to be relegated at the end of the 2018/19 season, and after a disappointing start they should be comfortably beaten by Manchester United. However, months of moaning has created serious tension between Jose Mourinho and those around him, meaning they are vulnerable to bold tactics that look to force them onto the back foot. Leicester City were unlucky not to earn a point after Maddison and Gray controlled the game for long periods.

Mourinho will once again be forced to play Matteo Darmian at right-back, unless Ashley Young is deemed fit, while Andreas Pereira and Fred will look to settle in midfield again. If Brighton can frustrate the visitors early on United's confidence should wane, allowing Pascal Gross to pick up the ball in gaps around Fred (as Maddison did) and create an even contest.

However, Chris Hughton is not known for his confrontational tactics against bigger teams, and will instead most likely attempt to emulate their 1-0 victory over United in May, in which they held 32% possession and survived an onslaught. Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, and Luke Shaw didn't play that day. This time around that approach won't work.

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