Premier League Tactical Preview: Jota and Cavani to be key players

Man Utd striker Edinson Cavani
Cavani is likely to hurt the West Ham defence on Saturday

For Premier League Gameweek 11 Alex Keble picks out four key tactical battles and says Edinson Cavani and Diogo Jota will make the difference in their clubs' fixtures...

"Arsenal are a long way off their best under Arteta, and the disconnectedness between players will help Tottenham Hotspur hold the visitors at arms' length on Sunday."

Cavani can show up West Ham's defensive flaws

West Ham v Man Utd
Saturday, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

West Ham might be fifth in the table after a three-game winning streak, but the quality of their recent opponents and Aston Villa's dominance on Monday night suggests things aren't quite as rosy as they seem. David Moyes has done a good job this season, but his off-the-ball shape can remain decompressed at times, with his players elongated across their own half during periods of opposition possession.

This flaw is minimised when playing the big clubs, but nevertheless most opponents find an angle through central midfield to create a clear-cut chance against them. Perhaps the best example of this is Diogo Jota's late winner in Liverpool's 2-1 win, when Xherdan Shaqiri had space just outside the D to feed his team-mate.

It seems likely that Manchester United's improvisational approach is well-suited to finding those gaps. Bruno Fernandes can anticipate getting on the ball in central areas, while Edinson Cavani's movement should prove too much for the West Ham centre-backs.

Kante could be overwhelmed by midfield runners

Chelsea v Leeds
Saturday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Chelsea's much-improved defensive record faces a huge test this weekend with the visit of Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United. They often force wild and uncontrollable contests in the Premier League, which may mean a return to the more positionally disordered Chelsea we saw in the first few weeks of the season, such as in the 3-3 draws with West Brom and Southampton.

It should be an entertaining end-to-end game, and although Leeds tend to favour overloading the flanks, on Saturday it is central midfield that could prove most fruitful for them. N'Golo Kante has excelled alone at the base of midfield recently, but he is likely to be overworked here as Bielsa instructs four or five players to charge through the middle simultaneously.

The sheer volume of bodies will catch Chelsea out, unless Frank Lampard humbly decides to sit a little deeper and absorb pressure, as he generally does against 'big six' opposition. If the hosts are lured into an expansive game, Kante is unlikely to get the help he needs.

Marcelo Bielsa shout 1280.jpg

Disjointed Arsenal shape to be nullified by Mourinho

Tottenham v Arsenal
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Mikel Arteta sounds as confidence-stricken as his players. He told reporters that his side's high crossing rate last weekend was a good sign of creativity, coming off a little bit too much like Tony Pulis. His players are disjointed and entirely without their structure or attacking automatisms of late, and a reference to hurling balls into the danger area - not to mention a surprise formation change to 4-2-3-1 - certainly adds to the sense that individualism and improvisation reigns.

Arsenal are a long way off their best under Arteta, and the disconnectedness between players will help Tottenham Hotspur hold the visitors at arms' length on Sunday. Jose Mourinho's calculated low block, which squeezes space in the final third by adding both Moussa Sissoko and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to the back four, requires complex interplay to pull apart.

Arteta cannot provide that right now, suggesting Spurs will keep a clean sheet. Joe Willock, Nicolas Pepe, and Dani Ceballos are likely to probe harmlessly, although Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son probably won't do too well on the counter. Arsenal remain relatively tight at the back. The most likely outcome on Sunday is a repeat of Spurs' cagey, conservative 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

Jota can exploit half-spaces against old club

Liverpool v Wolves
Sunday, 19:15
Live on Amazon Prime Video

Wolves enjoyed success against Arsenal last time out with their new 4-2-3-1 formation, a system that allows Nuno Esperito Santo to get his three best playmakers into the same side; as Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence combine centrally on the break, the opposition is distracted away from Adama Traore on the right. However, given their previous success against Liverpool, Nuno will probably go back to a 3-4-3 for this one.

That means a low-scoring game and one in which Podence, Neto, and Traore (one of the three will likely replace Raul Jimenez up front) can hope to break quickly behind the makeshift Liverpool back-line after absorbing pressure for long periods. It's a system that has worked well in the past, because Nuno's back three can stay narrow and tight to Liverpool's front three, leaving the wing-backs to push and meet Jurgen Klopp's full-backs.

However, Diogo Jota adds a new dimension to this fixture. At times this season Wolves' 3-4-3 has left the half-spaces too open: the wing-backs are forced to drop, creating pockets of attacking space either side of the Wolves midfield pair. It is here that Jota flourishes, and given he knows his old team inside out, Klopp will rely on him to make the difference.

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