Premier League Tactical Preview: Can Man Utd recover at West Ham?

Betting Insider look ahead to the seventh round of Premier League matches, using tactical analysis to predict an end-to-end tie in Chelsea v Liverpool...

Pogba's clipped balls for Valencia & Shaw to beat West Ham's stubborn defensive line

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

For the last two Premier League matches Manuel Pellegrini has abandoned his expansive 4-2-3-1 for a compact counter-attacking 4-3-3, winning four points and realising in the process that West Ham simply don't have the players (or pace in midfield) to play a possession game. Chelsea were stumped because they were too narrow (trying to force the ball through a cluster of bodies in midfield) and because they didn't realise the Hammers' one major flaw.

Man Utd manager Jose Mourinho

Pellegrini's team might have sat back but they did not drop into their own penalty box, instead keeping the defensive line on the edge of the area even when Chelsea had the ball just 30 yards from goal, preventing the visitors from getting shots away or grinding them into submission. However, West Ham's tactic meant there were huge amounts of space for runners from deep; had the Chelsea full-backs made runs in the channel between full-back and centre-back then Jorginho could have put them in.

Jose Mourinho will have spotted this. Manchester United's clumsy attacking patterns means West Ham's quick front three could catch them on the break, but it is unlikely Pellegrini's side will hold out. Instead, Paul Pogba will be instructed to clip delicate balls over the top of the defence for Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw, both of whom love making those arcing runs in behind. This should at least lead to a goal for the visitors, although West Ham have every right to feel they can get at least a point.


Organised, high-pressing Watford midfield will take advantage of Arsenal confusion

Arsenal v Watford Saturday, 15:00

The sophistication of Javi Gracia's midfield is one of the most exciting things to watch in the Premier League right now. Will Hughes is the hard-tackling, nimble playmaker at the front of a narrow midfield diamond that compresses the spaces, presses high, and alternates dropping between the lines to create their near perfect passing angles.

It is precisely this sort of energy and speed of passing that will hurt Arsenal, who look awkward at the moment with too many players in unfamiliar positions. Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both seem uncomfortable in wide roles, which is leaving too much to do in the transitions for the central midfield players (particularly when Aaron Ramsey is expected to press so high up the pitch). Unai Emery's desire to play quick, direct football sees too many players commit to attacks, and without an adequate press this is causing serious problems.

It is highly likely that Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira will be overwhelmed by the number of bodies in the middle of the park. Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue is a hugely underrated partnership; their strength in the tackle, sharpness in the 50-50s, and intelligence in possession could be the key to a shock win for the visitors.


Vietto & Schurrle can find the gaps around Everton's struggling full-backs

Everton v Fulham Saturday, 15:00

Fulham have been far too open so far this season. Their 4-3-3 with Andre Schurrle and Luciano Vietto staying high means the three central midfielders have to stretch across the width of the pitch, and so there are plenty of gaps for opposition counter-attacks. They were far more solid after switching to 4-4-2 at half-time against Watford, but faced with a leaky Everton defence Slavisa Jokanovic won't be able to resist another crack at the 4-3-3.

Lucas Digne and Jonjoe Kenny will probably start again this weekend despite their consistently poor defensive performances, although the entire back four is a mess at the moment - largely because Everton are also too attacking. Theo Walcott and Richarlisondon't help out enough at the back, exposing the inexperienced full-back pair.

Vietto and Schurrle have both been dangerous this season as Fulham's midfield look to spread the ball wide as quickly as possible. With Ryan Sessegnon on the overlap, poor Kenny is likely to be overworked, leading to plenty of simple crossing opportunities for the left-sided players to find Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian striker is the joint top scorer in the Premier League with five goals in six games.


Sarri & Klopp to ensure a wild, entertaining game at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea v Liverpool Saturday, 17:30, Live on Sky Sports Premier League

There are numerous key battles at Anfield on Saturday evening that could make this one of the most entertaining Premier League matches in recent history. Liverpool are renowned for gung-ho, end-to-end matches against possession-centric teams while Chelsea are not yet able to control the opposition counter-attacks. There will be plenty of chances in both penalty areas.

Chelsea don't play with a defensive midfielder under Maurizio Sarri, with N'Golo Kante charging forward and Jorginho barely registering one interception and one tackle per 90 minutes so far. Their full-backs will surely stay deeper than usual to cope with the threat of Liverpool's front three, but nevertheless Chelsea's desire to make the pitch big and pass through the opponent makes them vulnerable on the break.

On the other hand, Liverpool's back four are yet to be seriously tested this season. Eden Hazard's new free role is causing all sorts of problems for opponents and a fairly slow Liverpool midfield are unlikely to track him successfully. The visitors' counter-attacks will simply create more room for Chelsea to counter-counter through Hazard and Willian; these two high-energy, attack-minded coaches should give us a game to remember at Stamford Bridge.

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