Premier League Tactical Preview: Goals galore in Arsenal v Liverpool and other key battles

Arsenal manager Unai Emery
Emery's Arsenal will struggle to stop the flow of goals against Liverpool

Alex Keble looks ahead to the 11th round of Premier League matches, using tactical analysis to predict a goal fest in Arsenal v Liverpool...

"Unai Emery’s desire to pass out from the back means Liverpool’s high pressing will likely catch out those error-prone defenders, while Arsenal struggle to cope with transitions from attack to defence. If a Gunners move breaks down, it should be easy for the visitors to counter at speed through the centre of the park."

Newly narrow Brooks & Fraser partnership to cause Matic problems

Bournemouth v Manchester United
Saturday, 12:30,
Live on BT Sport 1

Eddie Howe will most likely continue with the Conte-esque 3-4-2-1 formation used in the 3-0 victory at Fulham, primarily because of that success but partly because he used a similar system at Chelsea in September - Bournemouth's only other top-six encounter this season. The Cherries have become a counter-attacking team in 2018/19, and consequently they will happily absorb pressure for the visit of Manchester United, who are only effective when their opponents press high. It could be a tough game for Jose Mourinho.

The key battle is between Nemanja Matic, in dreadful form, and the inside forward pair of Ryan Fraser and David Brooks. These two did a superb job at Craven Cottage in overwhelming the number 10 space; they took 47 touches in the opposition half that fell in the width of the penalty area, compared with just 15 in their previous match.

As Bournemouth sit deep and frustrate United (who were only more fluid against Everton because the Toffees push on, leaving space behind) Brooks and Fraser will be ready to burst into Matic's zone. The Serbia international rarely gets enough support from his midfielders, although Fred was an energetic character at Old Trafford last weekend. Perhaps the Brazilian can tame Bournemouth's playmakers.

Gegenpressing Liverpool to capitalise on error-prone defence (and burst past Xhaka)

Arsenal v Liverpool
Saturday, 17:30,
Live on BT Sport 1

There are two big reasons why Liverpool should be free-scoring at the Emirates this weekend. First, Unai Emery's desire to pass out from the back means Liverpool's high pressing will likely catch out those error-prone defenders, and second, Arsenal struggle to cope with transitions from attack to defence. If a Gunners move breaks down, it should be easy for the visitors to counter at speed through the centre of the park.

The reason Emery likes to pass out from the back is to draw the opposition forward, thus creating space for his team to play a couple of vertical passes and launching something resembling a counter-attack. Liverpool haven't really faced a quick attacking team in the league so far this season (Man City were surprisingly conservative) and so they could struggle. However, that would require Arsenal successfully outmanoeuvring the gegenpress... which is easier said than done. Either way, the clash of styles will lead to goals.

Of even greater concern to Emery is Matteo Guendouzi's suspension, which means putting Granit Xhaka back into central midfield. He simply doesn't have the legs, or positional awareness, to keep track of the Liverpool midfielders or forwards as they launch a counter-attack. Arsenal's difficulties defending breakaways stems from their expansive formation and high full-backs, but with Xhaka they just can't stop conceding.

Barkley's directness to penetrate the rigid Palace lines

Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Sunday, 16:00,
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Big six teams will struggle against Roy Hodgson's well-drilled Crystal Palace this season. His side defend in a rigid 4-4-2 formation that happily concedes space up until the final 40 yards, before engaging as a unit - compressing space between defence and midfield to make it very hard to create chances via short passing. With two big centre-backs in the box, often teams will be forced to throw hopeless crosses in from deep, only for the Palace defenders to clear; Arsenal only scored via set-pieces last weekend.

Fortunately for the hosts at Stamford Bridge, Ross Barkley can offer the sort of penetration that will be needed to pull Palace out of shape. Arsenal's biggest flaw last weekend was a static midfield, with Lucas Torreira failing to break ahead of Cheikhou Kouyate. Barkley, by contrast, loves to make late runs into the number ten space and is excellent at driving at the heart of teams with the ball at his feet.

This assertiveness should force Palace's lines to become zig-zagged, in turn opening up little pockets for Eden Hazard to ghost into. A disruptive presence is vital for matches like this; in Barkley, Chelsea have the perfect weapon to force Palace into uncomfortable positions.

Pritchard & Mooy to finally come to life against midfield-less Fulham

Huddersfield v Fulham
Monday, 20:00,
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

With just eight points and one win between them - plus a total of 49 goals conceded - Huddersfield v Fulham is arguably the first relegation six-pointer of the season; it is highly unlikely that both clubs will survive the drop. Fulham have the inferior defensive record, and while David Wagner's players understand how to show cohesion at this level the visitors look helpless. Consequently the more experienced Premier League team should narrowly win.

Conceding 2.8 goals per game, Fulham are simply incapable of closing the huge gaps in their defence. The main issue is an overall shape that's too wide, with Kevin McDonald massively overworked alone at the base of midfield. McDonald is suspended for this one, further destabilising Fulham in the middle of the park.

That should hand Huddersfield the advantage they need. Wagner's men may have only netted four times this season, but Aaron Mooy and Alex Pritchard are talented playmakers - and, from the very beginning of their Premier League adventure, the Terriers have looked to create through the centre via these two. Here is an opportunity for both players to rediscover their verve.

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