Premier League Tactical Preview: Saints can surprise United

Southampton's Ralph Hasenhuttl
Saints are in great form and could beat Man Utd on Monday

Alex Keble picks out four key tactical battles from the next week's Premier League matches, predicting defeats for Man Utd, Chelsea, and Tottenham in the coming week...

"Should Southampton catch Lindelof in the press, they can break into the big spaces left behind Wan-Bissaka, as Bournemouth’s Junior Stanislas did a week ago."

Redmond & Ings to cause problems behind AWB

Man Utd v Southampton
Monday, 20:00
Live on Sky One

Ralph Hasenhuttl's Southampton are a superb pressing team, holding a compact midblock that's difficult to break down and targeting a high press in key moments - and against particularly vulnerable opposition players. Consequently a repeat of their recent 1-0 win over Man City is certainly possible, especially given Victor Lindelof could find himself in real trouble down United's right.

Since the restart Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw have tended to attack together, giving Man Utd width as Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford both cut inside to support Anthony Martial. Nemanja Matic is expected to drop to form a back three, which leaves Lindelof in an occasionally-awkward right-sided position. Southampton can sit back patiently and wait for the right moment to pounce on the Sweden international.

Nathan Redmond will start in left midfield in a 4-4-2, with Danny Ings and Che Adams staying close together and making runs on the shoulder of the last defender, regularly leaning left to support Redmond. Should Southampton catch Lindelof in the press, they can break into the big spaces left behind Wan-Bissaka, as Bournemouth's Junior Stanislas did a week ago.


Saka versus Lo Celso can decide a tight NLD

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

Tottenham kept Man Utd quiet in June by sitting back in classic Mourinho style, their midfield and front line forming a ring around United's central midfielders to prevent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side from passing with conviction through midfield. They were forced into harmless wide areas, while Spurs' risk-averse football produced a claustrophobic, low-action game.

They can do the same for the visit of Arsenal on Sunday, particularly given that while Mikel Arteta's tactical shape is impressive their attacking play remains too low tempo at times. It is easy to imagine this match drifting, both sides relatively happy with a point and Mourinho more intent on stopping Arsenal than creating anything of his own.

But the visitors have a weapon that could make a telling difference. Bukayo Saka's movement off the right wing in Arteta's 3-4-3 is superb, and he will look to drop unseen into pockets of space in midfield (just as he did with great success against Wolves and Norwich). If he can shuttle into the gaps and receive the first pass from the Arsenal centre-backs on the half-turn, he can break through Mourinho's midfield trap - and release Arsenal into the final third. From here, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang surely has the run on Serge Aurier. It's the smallest of details, but in a tight contest it could make all the difference.

Tiring Villa to get caught by Ayew and Zaha

Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Sunday, 14:15
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Crystal Palace beat Bournemouth in June by allowing them to hold 58% possession, a rare privilege for Eddie Howe, who walked straight into the trap. Aston Villa, desperate to play expansive attacking football but without the quality to do so, will be similarly lured into playing Palace's game. John McGinn's lack of fitness and Jack Grealish's poor form suggest Villa's hopes of survival will end on Sunday.

When Villa are stretched out across the pitch and hogging possession, their midfield is full of holes. McGinn would ordinarily make up for this with his work-rate but he is still struggling after his injury, while a confidence-stricken Grealish isn't moving as sharply as he was before the Premier League's suspension. It is highly likely, then, that Douglas Luiz will be asked to cover too much space as Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew sprint forward on the counter, receiving passes into feet from a well-drilled midfield trio.

Villa's lack of ideas going forward has seen them reduced to swinging crosses into the box, and with Scott Dann and Mamadou Sakho in central defence this powerful Palace side shouldn't get caught out that way. Unless Grealish pulls something out of the bag, this looks set to be another limp defeat for Dean Smith.


Wilder's organisation will stop Chelsea in their tracks

Sheffield United v Chelsea
Saturday, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

The last hope of a Champions League battle is on Saturday, when Sheffield United can re-enter the race with a win and put Chelsea's place under threat. Chris Wilder can expect a similar game to the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, in which United's diligent organisation in midfield, and willingness to absorb pressure for long periods, made Chelsea look stale.

They don't need much help looking like that at the moment, even if they did score three goals against Crystal Palace last time out. Frank Lampard's side lack organisation in the final third, with Christian Pulisic's inventiveness covering for a lack of movement among the supporting players, and so a well-drilled United back five can surely hold out - with George Baldock and Chris Basham doubling up on Pulisic.

Christian Benteke's tap-in last week hints that Chelsea may struggle against Sheffield United's tendency to attack exclusively down the flanks, sometimes double overlapping to gain the advantage and cut the ball back across goal (a tactic that twice caught Spurs out in their 3-1 win). Behind Andreas Christensen, Reece James, and Willian, Enda Stevens could cause a real upset down United's left.

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