Premier League Tactical Preview: Man Utd to beat Man City again

Man City manager Pep Guardiola
Man City could lose again at Old Trafford
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Alex Keble picks out four key battles ahead of the 29th round of Premier League fixtures, including why Burnley can add to Jose Mourinho's misery at Tottenham...

"With Fernandinho back in central defence following Aymeric Laporte’s injury, and Bruno Fernandes a significant upgrade on Lingard, United will fancy their chances."

Aubameyang movement to defeat defensive West Ham

Arsenal v West Ham
Saturday, 15:00

Although West Ham are rejuvenated by their 3-1 victory over Southampton last weekend David Moyes will almost certainly pick a considerably less attacking line-up at the Emirates. His side have lost five away games in a row in the Premier League. West Ham's deep defensive shape isolates Sebastien Haller and will invite Arsenal to carefully build their way to goal as Mikel Arteta prefers.

The biggest issue for the visitors is that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is excelling from the left flank, making diagonal runs into a centre-forward position that are very difficult to track. His movement, coupled with that of ultra-attacking left-back Bukayo Saka, meant Arsenal repeatedly slipped through balls behind the Everton defence on that side of the pitch in the Gunners' last home game.


West Ham's right-back, 19-year-old Jeremy Ngakia, is understandably capable of making minor errors as he gets used to the pace of the division. He switched off at Anfield, giving Sadio Mane a tap-in for the Liverpool winner, and he lost track of Michel Obafemi ahead of his goal last Saturday. The complexity of Arsenal's movement down that side should give them a crucial advantage.

McNeil & Wood will hurt leaky Spurs defence

Burnley v Tottenham
Saturday, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Three successive defeats, ending with the fifth 3-2 of the Jose Mourinho tenure, has confirmed it will take longer than the current season for Tottenham to sort out their defence. The problem is a mixture of slowing defenders no longer in sync and an off-the-ball shape that leaves too much space between the lines of defence and midfield.

Essentially Mourinho is trying to play a more expansive game, but without the high press or high defensive line - which means often the midfield get caught chasing down the ball while the defence begin to backpedal, opening up a gap between the two lines (a problem exacerbated by Serge Aurier constantly leaving his defensive position). Burnley have the tools to expose Tottenham just as Wolves did.

Dwight McNeil is having a brilliant season from the left, making his one-on-one with Aurier the game's most interesting battle, but it is the way McNeil cuts infield to support the strikers that will most worry Mourinho. It is easy to see the winger picking up the second balls (that drop off Chris Wood's head) in the gap between defence and midfield. Burnley's direct counters can shake Spurs into frantic defending.

Chelsea's midfield issues give Everton chance

Chelsea v Everton
Sunday, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Frank Lampard tends to stick with whatever formation worked most recently and ditch one as soon as it falls short, which is why Chelsea will most likely line up in a 4-3-3 this weekend having switched to it at 2-1 down to Bournemouth last Saturday. Jorginho's suspension and Matteo Kovacic's injury means a weakened trio in the middle, which is good news for Everton considering central midfield is their main problem area.

Morgan Schneiderlin's injury suggests Andre Gomes and Tom Davies in the middle, and these two are often either dribbles past or sucked into challenges. That won't happen without the high-tempo forward passing of Kovacic or Jorginho, which means Everton's compressed midblock 4-4-2 won't be pulled around. Chelsea's creativity problems could come back.

Lampard Applauding 1280.jpg

At the other end, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will no doubt threaten in the large gaps left behind Chelsea's high line, and it is easy to envisage the hosts' wingers failing to track back as Djibril Sidibe and Lucas Digne overlap.

United can do the double over City

Manchester United v Manchester City
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

The pattern of this match should follow that of United's 1-0 and 2-1 wins at the Etihad this season, mainly because the injury to Marcus Rashford forces Ole Gunnar Solskjaer into a more defensive line-up than the one used at Old Trafford in the League Cup, where United's home advantage saw them open up too much.

The diamond 4-4-2 used in the 1-1 draw against Everton should work. Their deep defensive line can ensure the City forwards are kept as quiet as they were in the two Etihad games, plus a reinforced central midfield should deny Kevin de Bruyne the space he needs in midfield. What's more, Anthony Martial can drift out to the left flank on the counter, finding space behind Kyle Walker (inverted to help out a congested midfield) just as Rashford did in the 2-1 win.

That day, Jesse Lingard and Fred dominated the first half by weaving confidently around the first line of the City press to expose a Fernandinho-less midfield and set Rashford away. With Fernandinho back in central defence following Aymeric Laporte's injury, and Bruno Fernandes a significant upgrade on Lingard, United will fancy their chances.

Alex Keble,

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