Premier League Tactical Preview: Wolves can win at Spurs

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho
Spurs will struggle to cope with Jota...

Alex Keble picks out four key battles ahead of the 28th round of Premier League fixtures, predicting plenty of goals in Everton v Man Utd...

"Jota and Raul Jimenez should have the edge when running at pace towards the Spurs goal, not least because Serge Aurier’s form has rarely been worse."

Djenepo can flourish in gaps around Ngakia

West Ham v Southampton
Saturday, 15:00

This is West Ham's first winnable game for quite some time, and as such we need to go back to January for a clue about their tactical setup for this six-pointer. David Moyes, on home turf, will most likely go for a 4-1-4-1 that aims to hold at least 50% possession, and as usual this should mean gaps appearing to the right of Declan Rice - where Robert Snodgrass and Mark Noble will both go hunting for the ball higher up the pitch.

This space is made yet more vulnerable by West Ham's problems at right-back, with 19-year-old Jeremy Ngakia picked ahead of Pablo Zabaleta against Liverpool in an attempt to patch things up. The youngster dealt relatively well with Sadio Mane, but, counter-intuitively, the job is more difficult this weekend because West Ham are expected to be more expansive and go for the win.

The main reason Southampton beat Aston Villa last weekend was because Moussa Djenepo cut infield from the left to dominate the half-space as Ralph Hasenhuttl's 4-4-2 morphed into a narrower 4-2-2-2. Djenepo completed six dribbles and four key passes. A similar performance at the London Stadium and Saints should win all three points, especially with Ryan Bertrand looking sharp on the overlap.

David Moyes - Arms Open - 1280.jpg

Jota-led counters a danger behind Aurier

Tottenham v Wolves
Sunday, 14:00

Jose Mourinho will get back to working on how to develop Tottenham's on-the-ball shape this weekend when Spurs host a Wolves team keen to sit deep and invite pressure. Consequently the hosts will be playing an expansive game through Harry Winks and Giovani Lo Celso, their two most important players in matches such as these.

There is little doubt, then, that Tottenham will be vulnerable to Wolves' counter-attacks, as they have been under Mourinho's reign so far. Nuno Esperito Santo will go for a 3-5-2 (Leander Dendoncker in for Adama Traore) to solidify central midfield against the likes of Winks and Lo Celso, and so the Wolves counter will rely upon in-form Diogo Jota making ground after receiving longer break-away passes from Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves.

Jota and Raul Jimenez should have the edge when running at pace towards the Spurs goal, not least because Serge Aurier's form has rarely been worse. He continually rushes out of position, rashly trying to cut things off at source, and therefore some clever interplay between the Wolves forwards will likely carve Spurs open.

Ancelotti's high line 4-4-2 suggests BTTS

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

Arsenal's 3-2 victory over Everton last weekend exemplified the best and worst of the Toffees under Carlo Ancelotti. His basic 4-4-2 shape looks nicely compressed between the lines and is relatively aggressive too - setting pressing traps in midfield, holding a high defensive line - but then it can crumble when an opponent like Arsenal slides through-balls in behind.

Man Utd will attempt plenty of these. Bruno Fernandes and Fred are good at feeding Anthony Martial and Daniel James down the flanks, and indeed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team generally flourish against a high-line opponent. United naturally move down the left flank and it's here Everton are weakest, with Djibril Sidibe beaten numerous times by Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last weekend.

However, whenever these attacks break down Everton can swing up the other end and create chances themselves. Ancelotti's most important improvement so far has been getting Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in-sync up front; these two should outmanoeuvre United's defence on the counter-counter, leading to a frantic and open contest at Goodison Park.

Ancelotti Press Conference 1280.jpg

Hapless Villa to be crushed in EFL Cup final

Man City v Aston Villa
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Football

Dean Smith said he was 'embarrassed' by his side's performance in the defeat to Southampton, and while he is right to criticise the players' attitude his tactical choices were equally to blame. The Villa manager continues to pick a 3-4-3 formation that is leaving them far too light in the middle and unable to build out from the back as they would like (neither central midfielder is capable of turning in possession and moving the ball into the final third).

But against a Man City side riled up by their Champions League disqualification, it is Villa's defensive frailties that are most concerning. The 3-4-3 rapidly becomes a 5-2-3 when opponents dominate possession because the wing-backs get pinned, and so for long periods of Sunday's League Cup final the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez will wander easily into space on the outside of the two-man midfield.

If Southampton's Djenepo can do it against Villa, just imagine what the Man City players will get up to at Wembley. There is truly no hope for Smith's side, who lack guile or craft when forced onto the back foot. Their main attacking method is to give it to Jack Grealish whenever possible, but the Villa captain tends to get isolated out on the left in games like these.

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