Leicester City v Arsenal
Live on BT Sport 1
This should be a great game. Leicester and Arsenal are both unpredictable clubs this season largely because both possess error-prone defences but well-structured attacks that function best in sharp explosive bursts. On Saturday, both sides should be able to build quickly through the lines out from the back, catching each other flat-footed and taking advantage of their respective lack of agility in the defensive line.
For Leicester, now back to their best in a 3-4-1-2, James Maddison will be fed by Youri Tielemans into a number ten space that is generally patrolled poorly by Mikel Arteta’s midfielders. From here, the dual runs of Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho will create a two-on-two with Ben White and Gabriel, which should lead to goals for the hosts.
The formation mismatch is the main reason there will be large patches of open grass; space to weave carefully-orchestrated possession football up the pitch. For Arsenal, the rejuvenated partnership of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang threatens Daniel Amartey’s side of the back three (Leicester’s weak link), while a Wilfried Ndidi-less midfield two should be outwitted by Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe.
Liverpool v Brighton
This one is far easier to call. Graham Potter’s side have made an excellent start to the season and nobody can doubt the tactical intelligence of their football, but a run of four Premier League games without a win shows they still have a problem scoring goals – and are still committed to expansive and expressive football no matter the opposition.
This was alarming in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City, a game in which Brighton’s sophisticated and shape-shifting football initially caused a few problems before the visitors tore them apart on the counter-attack. Phil Foden dropped as a false nine to overwhelm Brighton’s midfield pair and took advantage of the hosts’ high defensive line, bursting forward with Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish to devastating effect.
Liverpool will copy this model almost exactly. Robeto Firmino can drop as Foden did, setting clear a devastating front three that will show Brighton their naivity in persisting with such an open system against one of the best teams in European football history. Jurgen Klopp will expect a big margin of victory.
Man City v Crystal Palace
Although they eventually fell to a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool, Crystal Palace were impressive in that game and Patrick Vieira appears to be getting better with each ‘Big Six’ game he takes part in. Palace’s very tough start has given the impression of an average start, with nine points from nine, but this is in fact one of the most coherent and slick teams in the division. They could finally make headlines on Saturday.
The Palace central midfield snaps into challenges very effectively as James McArthur and Conor Gallagher lead a press that becomes active only in the middle third of the pitch. Their compression between the lines is commendable, and that ought to be make it very difficult for Man City to build through the central column of the pitch as they like to do.
However, there is also the danger that Vieira’s commitment to passing gradually out from the back makes them vulnerable to City’s high press, and frankly Man City are looking ridiculously strong in all areas. They should win the game, but don’t underestimate Palace’s ability to hold out for a long time.
Tottenham v Man Utd
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Nuno Espirito Santo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are under huge pressure for their mutual inability to construct possession football, which leaves both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United without a clear plan when on the ball. That should lead to a low-scoring game with very little quality, especially with both sets of players hesitant and low on confidence.
But whereas Solskjaer is committed to playing a more adventurous style of football this season (despite his historic success in a low block against big teams), Nuno is humble enough to sit back. Spurs will be the ones deploying a deeper line, luring United forward and waiting for chances to counter, which gives them the edge in this game.
United’s haphazard pressing in ones and twos is a big worry with Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane looking to move quickly into the final third, while the visitors will struggle to break through Tottenham’s defensive blockade without a clear plan. There won’t be many goals, but this may be the final nail in the coffin for Solskjaer.