Premier League Tactical Preview: Valencia v Delph and other key battles

Moyes is unlikely to prevent a big Chelsea win despite West Ham's heroics at the Etihad last weekend
Moyes is unlikely to prevent a big Chelsea win despite West Ham's heroics at the Etihad last weekend
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Alex Keble returns with his tactical analysis for the big Premier League games, including why Manchester United can win the derby and how Southampton can get a positive result against Arsenal...

"Look out for Fabregas dropping into deeper pockets (as De Bruyne did in the second half last weekend) and dropping balls into Morata as he peels away from Rice."

Rice v Fabregas

West Ham v Chelsea
Saturday, 12:30,
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

West Ham's solid defensive performance against Manchester City last weekend provides them with a template for how to nullify a Chelsea side that don't enjoy holding possession and are overly reliant on Eden Hazard weaving his magic in central attacking midfield. However, the hosts might not have an answer to Cesc Fabregas's pinpoint passes into Alvaro Morata.

David Moyes instructed his players to sit deep and avoid making any tackles at the Etihad, which meant Cit couldn't pull them out of shape with their clever one-twos. West Ham will continue this theme at the London Stadium, restricting space for Hazard by sitting their midfield line just in front of the playmaker, therefore cutting off the passing line without having to come out of their compressed shape.

The Hammers eventually conceded via a Kevin de Bruyne cross to the back post, where youngster Declan Rice struggled to track David Silva, and this offers Antonio Conte a solution to the conundrum. Look out for Fabregas dropping into deeper pockets (as De Bruyne did in the second half last weekend) and dropping balls into Morata as he peels away from Rice.

Recommended Bet
Back Chelsea to win with a -1 handicap at 7/5

Bertrand & Austin v Bellerin & Mustafi

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

Although Arsenal's front three have been in superb form of late, they have also profited from the openness of their opponents; first Huddersfield Town played a typically aggressive pressing game, and then Manchester United's Paul Pogba left huge gaps in central midfield. Southampton will be sure to pack the middle with bodies, thus limiting the influence of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. As the game wears on at 0-0, the Gunners could become increasingly jittery - offering the hosts a chance to grab all three points.

The biggest factor in Southampton's recent upturn in form is the introduction of Charlie Austin, a powerful target man who can make the most of Saints' crossing ability. Austin has scored three goals in his two recent league starts, and unsurprisingly his team-mates are throwing more crosses into the box (they averaged 27.5 attempts in those two matches, up from 22.4). Ryan Bertrand in particular is finding success on the overlap, assisting twice in the 4-1 victory over Everton.

Arsenal will struggle to defend this tactic. Using a back three can make man-marking a target man tricky, and having played poorly in the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United Shkodran Mustafi might not be up to the challenge. Austin will fancy his chances of earning at least a point for the hosts.

Recommended Bet
Back double chance Southampton/draw at 10/11

Liverpool's high line v Rooney & Calvert-Lewin

Liverpool v Everton
Sunday, 14:15,
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Sam Allardyce will be confident of finding a way to stop Liverpool's brilliant attack, which might mean this is a fairly low-tempo match defined by some robust defending from the visitors. The most interesting tactical battle is between Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Liverpool's aggressive defence.

Calvert-Lewin and Wayne Rooney have already taken to Big Sam's methods. Allardyce loves playing a central midfielder who can ping long balls into the channels, and a striker with a good balance of pace and power to hold up the ball and move his team up the pitch. The partnership between these two players will be crucial in the months ahead.

Liverpool should spend the vast majority of the match camped in the Everton half, and so their high defensive line could be caught by the interplay of Rooney and Calvert-Lewin. The hosts should have enough to win, but Rooney is likely to find enough space around Jordan Henderson to release the young Everton striker.

Recommended Bet
Back both teams to score at 4/5

Valencia v Delph

Manchester United v Manchester City
Sunday 16:30,
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

There are plenty of intriguing tactical battles in the Manchester derby, many of which appear to hand the hosts a crucial advantage. Chief among them is the head-to-head down United's right, as Antonio Valencia looks to charge beyond left-back Fabian Delph.

Jose Mourinho's switch to a 3-4-1-2 formation means Valencia can pour forward more readily, safe in the knowledge that a spare United defender will cover for him. This led to numerous opportunities down the right against Arsenal, with Valencia scoring the opening goal from the sort of advanced inside position we rarely see the Ecuadorian take up.

Delph is a good footballer but struggles when isolated one-on-one with an opposition player. He is weak in the tackle and often gets drawn to the ball, which should mean the considerably more intelligent Valencia gets the better of him. It is on this flank that United can win the most important match of the season.

Recommended Bet
Back United to win at 12/5

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