Premier League Tactical Preview: Wolves could beat Arsenal

Wolves v Arsenal
Tuesday, 18:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Wolves are in very poor form at the moment although Nuno Esperito Santo has begun to stabilise things with a return to a 3-4-2-1 formation, in which a fluid striker-less front three can drop off the defenders to launch counter-attacks. The model looks defensively secure again, which is likely to prevent Arsenal from continuing to play assertive, line-breaking football in the transition; Emile Smith Rowe won’t find much space here.

The most important area of the pitch is on Wolves’ right side. Ki-Jana Hoever, who struggled against Crystal Palace, is a weak point as the right wing-back, which ordinarily would be a huge advantage to Arsenal with Kieran Tierney and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. However, both of those players are injured – and that gives Nuno the chance to be bold with his selection on that flank.

Should Adama Traore start, he can run directly at Cedric Soares, a player so poor on the one-on-one that last weekend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be heard screaming at Marcus Rashford to take him on because he “cannot defend” – and with Gabriel Martinelli not getting back well enough, Traore can give Wolves the platform to victory.

Man Utd v Southampton
Tuesday, 20:15
Live on BT Sport 1

Southampton’s ability to press hard and make good use of attacking transitions spells danger for Manchester United. They will play expansively, drawn forward by a conservative 4-4-2 that will then pounce on loose touches and pour forward through Stuart Armstrong and Moussa Djenepo. These two, tucking inside, can make good use of the open spaces left behind Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba – both of whom will remain high.

However, United are still favourites thanks to a series of injuries mounting up at Southampton. Ibrahima Diallo and Oriol Romeu will both miss the game and so 19-year Alexandre Jankewitz will have to start alongside James Ward-Prowse to create a potentially porous midfield pairing. If Saints commit boldly to counter-attacks then the game may descend into a series of transitions – exposing the makeshift midfield.

Bruno Fernandes has endured a tough run of form recently, so here is an opportunity to get into space between the lines and feed Rashford and Edinson Cavani. With Jannik Vestergaard also out, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side can get their first win in three.

Liverpool v Brighton
Wednesday, 20:15
Live on BT Sport 1

In the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City Brighton began the game in a hybrid 3-5-2/4-3-3 formation, Bernardo flitting between left wing-back and central midfield to engage the shift between systems. Unusually, Brighton were 4-3-3 off the ball and 3-5-2 on it, although Bernardo’s position, stretching diagonally across the left side, depended on his personal judgement.

At times he got caught between where to stand and when to drop, even though on balance the formation was a success; Brighton were unlucky to go one nil down just before half-time, and at that point Potter moved to a more adventurous system that proved less successful. At Anfield then, we should see the hybrid return, but the threat on Liverpool’s right side means it is cause for concern.

Mohamed Salah is back in form and looks as sharp as ever, while Trent Alexander-Arnold is improving, plus in the new diamond 4-4-2 formation both Xherdan Shaqiri and Thiago can get out there to help too. Together, these players should combine to overwhelm Brighton in the moments they transition between formations.

Tottenham v Chelsea
Thursday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Thomas Tuchel has already begun to get some of his ideas across. His 3-4-2-1 formation is defined by clear structure, with low-tempo possession introduced in order to ensure the players keep to their demarcated zones of the pitch and balance them against being caught in transition. He has also ensured that five players remain behind the ball at all times – the three centre-backs and two defensive midfielders.

Jose Mourinho’s tendency to allow his team play to passively with a conservative midblock suggests Chelsea will easily succeed in dominating possession and territory as they have done in his two games in charge so far. However, this does not mean Chelsea are in a good position to win. Their 3-4-2-1 looks overly narrow with very few runners in behind, and that should allow Spurs to sit back and absorb the pressure quite easily.

What’s more, the main attacking tactic so far under Tuchel has been to draw the opponent infield before the wing-backs arrive in space to create chances. Mourinho’s excellent use of a back six, in which two wide players drop back, should stop that channel for the visitors. A 0-0 seems likely.

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