Premier League Tactical Preview: Havertz to inspire goal fest against Liverpool

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard
Lampard won't be able to prevent an end-to-end game

Alex Keble picks out four key tactical battles from the second weekend of the 2020/21 Premier League season, including why there will be lots of goals in Chelsea v Liverpool...

"Nuno knows just how to sit deep and frustrate Man City, and knows exactly when to pounce on the break. This could be yet another damaging result for Guardiola."

Arteta's hybrid formation to overwhelm West Ham

Arsenal v West Ham
Saturday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

West Ham will sit very deep at the Emirates and look to absorb pressure for 90 minutes, hitting Arsenal on the counter-attack via a couple of specific set moves, just as they did on their last visit, a 1-0 defeat in March. Jarred Bowen and Pablo Fornals combined neatly in the middle of the park to release Michail Antonio into the channels; a similar setup is to be expected on Saturday.

However, Arsenal are more fluid and dynamic these days, and in a new hybrid 3-4-3/4-3-3 formation should be able to confuse West Ham into being pulled out of their defensive shell. Using Chris Wilder's innovation as a template, Arteta played Kieran Tierney as the left-sided centre-back last weekend with licence to overlap. He would frequently make runs down the left, with wing-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles dipping into midfield to complete the transformation into a 4-3-3.

This shift, along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arriving late from the left and Willian making incisive diagonal runs across the pitch, tore Fulham apart on the opening day. West Ham will defend more doggedly than Scott Parker's side, but with Willian's raking diagonals out to the newly-confounding Arsenal left, the hosts will have enough to break their opponents down.

Hasenhuttl press to out-wit lumbering Spurs

Southampton v Tottenham
Sunday, 12:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Tottenham were woeful against Everton last weekend, thanks primarily to Jose Mourinho's tactical methods appearing increasingly out of date. He doesn't want his team to press the ball, instead believing in conservatively limiting space in Spurs' own half, and he expects his players to counter-attack by improvisation, rather than teaching set moves.

When playing a particularly energised side, allowing them to have the ball becomes wearying and confidence starts to slide - leading to a poverty of imagination when attempting to counter. That's what happened in a dreary second half against Everton following an opening 45 in which James Rodriguez wore them down. Southampton might play in a very different style to Carlo Ancelotti's side, but they are similarly energetic and organised.

Mourinho glum in training.jpg

Ralph Hasenhuttl's targeted press works in explosive bursts, and is typically followed by incisive counter-pressing attacks in the mould of his German contemporaries. It is easy to envisage a sluggish Spurs being caught out by this, with Harry Winks in particular unable to cope with the bodies flying forward.

Havertz & Werner to create end-to-end carnage

Chelsea v Liverpool
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Chelsea ought to resist the temptation to make this into a wide-open game like their 5-3 defeat at Anfield in July or like Leeds United's 4-3 defeat last weekend, not least because Frank Lampard continues to struggle to defend counter-attacks. His team are repeatedly caught out on the break because his players spread out with abandon when in possession, leaving gaping holes in midfield.

And although Chelsea have generally tightened up when playing 'Big Six' sides by sitting deeper, the arrival of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner probably means they will fail to avoid an end-to-end game even if their manager preaches caution. Against Brighton, their two new signings frequently made runs on the shoulder of the last defender and were fed by long balls forward.

Liverpool's very high defensive line will provide Chelsea's midfield with irresistible options in behind, with Havertz and Werner likely to arc their runs into the gaps left by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. That should pull Chelsea forward, in turn allowing Liverpool to break back the other way. Another high-scoring game is likely.

Traore-led counters to condemn City again

Wolves v Man City
Monday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Nuno Esperito Santo has only lost one of his five meetings with Pep Guardiola and his Wolves side did the double over Man City in the league last season, winning 3-2 at Molineaux and 2-0 at the Etihad. That latter result highlighted everything that was wrong with Man City's tactics last season, and after a relatively disappointing summer it is plausible they will once again be caught out by Wolves.

Wolves got in behind the Man City defence for one-on-ones on no fewer than five occasions, with the final two leading directly to Adama Traore's goals. And while Guardiola will have Aymeric Laporte available for this one to solidify central defence, he will still need to field either Fernandinho or Nicolas Otamendi on the right side (Nathan Ake, as a left footer, is most likely backup for Laporte).

That means more counter-attacking joy for Traore and Raul Jimenez, with the added bonus of an in-form Daniel Podence contributing. Nuno knows just how to sit deep and frustrate Man City, and knows exactly when to pounce on the break. This could be yet another damaging result for Guardiola.

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