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Premier League Tactical Preview: Spurs can win a high-scoring North London derby

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
Pochettino's 4-3-1-2 is the right system to beat Arsenal

Alex Keble looks ahead to the 14th round of Premier League matches, arguing Southampton can take points from Man Utd and Spurs will win the North London derby...

"If they reproduce that compressed midfield shape then Arsenal (now using just two central midfielders) can be overwhelmed. Tottenham, then, should collect the second balls and drive at the heart of the Arsenal defence, exposing the hosts' difficulty coping with transitions."

Hughes' defensive setup can take points from lacklustre Man Utd

Southampton v Man Utd
Saturday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Southampton have averaged 35.6% possession in matches against the 'big six' this season, and given Manchester United's persistent difficulty breaking down deep-sitting opponents Mark Hughes will happily gift the ball to the visitors on Saturday. Saints will stay narrow and compact, using the strong tacklers in their central midfield to repel United's low-tempo, directionless attacks.

Jose Mourinho's side are deep in the quagmire, their 0-0 draw at home to Crystal Palace symptomatic of the lack of energy or fluency in their attacking movements; they don't pull players out of position or sync effectively, which is Roy Hodgson's defensive blockade easily frustrated them. With Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (5.3 tackles, 4.9 interceptions per match) scurrying to close down United's ambling attackers, Southampton should be able to follow suit. Saints have kept three clean sheets in their last six matches.

They might even take all three points. Southampton have looked aimless under Hughes but luck - and poor finishing -has played a big part in their season so far. They have attempted the third most shots in the division, behind only Manchester City and Chelsea, and according to xG should have scored 7.37 more goals, conceded 2.33 fewer, and won 6.88 more points. Nathan Redmond's combination with Stuart Armstrong (who scored twice against Fulham) down the left could be a problem for Ashley Young on the counter-attack.

Fulham's soft centre offers Chelsea a chance to recover

Chelsea v Fulham
Sunday, 12:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

It is hard to resist the temptation to suggest Claudio Ranieri can record a victory back at Stamford Bridge, but despite Fulham's win last weekend the Italian hasn't had enough time to fix the glaring flaws in the Premier League's bottom side. Chelsea love to funnel their one-two passing through the centre, which is where the Cottagers are weakest; a comfortable home win is the most likely outcome.

Presumably Ranieri will follow the examples set by Mauricio Pochettino and Marco Silva by instructing Tom Cairney to sit on top of Jorginho. However, Cairney is not as good as Gylfi Sigurdsson or Dele Alli, while Fulham's other midfielders are unlikely to successfully track the movement of Eden Hazard regardless. Calum Chambers is a good stop-gap solution (he made five tackles and three interceptions from defensive midfield against Southampton) but he doesn't have the mobility to deal with the quick interplay between Matteo Kovacic and Hazard.

Southampton's goals at Craven Cottage both resulted from a too-large gap between the Fulham defence and midfield, an issue that has cropped up in virtually every single game this season. As the hosts dominate the ball and territory, eventually cut backs into that area (or half clearances to the edge of the D) will drop to a Chelsea player. It will take several more weeks until Fulham are compact enough to resist such an attack-minded team.

Clash of new formations favours Spurs and a high-scoring derby

Arsenal v Spurs
Sunday, 14:05
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Arsenal switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation for the victory at Bournemouth (and it seems likely to stay given it provides greater defensive support to the full-backs), while Spurs used a 4-3-1-2 against Chelsea to superb effect. Assuming both North London clubs stick with the change, Spurs should hold a slight advantage in a game with plenty of chances.

First, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son constantly make runs ahead of Harry Kane in the 4-3-1-2, which means the visitors can easily create three-on-threes on the break - with Son in particular driving into the wide gaps between Arsenal's three centre-backs.

Furthermore, Chelsea were scuppered last weekend by Spurs' suffocation of midfield; their flat three was supported by the forwards dropping deep to surround N'Golo Kante from all sides. If they reproduce that compressed midfield shape then Arsenal (now using just two central midfielders) can be overwhelmed. Tottenham, then, should collect the second balls and drive at the heart of the Arsenal defence, exposing the hosts' difficulty coping with transitions.

However, Unai Emery's wing-backs overlapped very well at Bournemouth, using the movement of the inside forwards (particularly Alex Iwobi) to draw the opposition into a narrow shape before running off the back of the full-back. Spurs' 4-3-1-2 is very narrow, offering limited support to Serge Aurier or Ben Davies. The visitors could get done by the Iwobi-to-Sead Kolasinac overlap that led to both Arsenal goals at Bournemouth.

Mane versus Coleman the crucial battle in a potentially cagey game

Liverpool v Everton
Sunday, 16:15
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Liverpool continue to look a little prosaic this season, their switch to a possession style highlighting that Jurgen Klopp lacks a playmaker in the David Silva mould. When building gradually against a deeper defence a link-up number 10 helps cut through the lines, but Liverpool persist on a relatively flat 4-3-3. It took Roberto Firmino temporarily fulfilling this role to make the breakthrough in the 67th minute at Watford, the Brazilian dropping right into his own half to start the move, before contributing again in the final third.

Everton's composed central midfield partnership of Idrissa Gueye and Andre Gomes has helped them to three consecutive clean sheets, with the Toffees conceding just five goals in their last nine matches in all competitions. Consequently this could be a low-scoring game defined - perhaps - by a key battle on Liverpool's left.

Sadio Mane's sudden burst of pace momentarily changed the game in Paris on Wednesday night, earning Liverpool a penalty late in the first half. He is the sharpest of the three forwards at the moment, and possesses the sort of directness that can define tight Premier League games. This Sunday he comes up against Seamus Coleman, the clear weak link in the Everton defence. Coleman was at fault for both United goals at Old Trafford, twice getting caught out of position.

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