Premier League Acca Builder: Conte to make winning start

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Man Utd v Man City
Saturday, 12:45
Live on BT Sport 1

Manchester United are once again in a good position to win ‘Big Six’ matches after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reverted to the counter-attacking and pragmatic tactical system he had abandoned over the last 12 months. His attempt to introduce a more front-foot mode of playing has backfired badly, and having come so close to losing his job surely Solskjaer now has the humility to use the system that beat Tottenham 3-0 with regularity.

That means a deeper line, minimal pressing, and the 3-5-2 formation sitting in neat rows, shuffling back and forth to deny space in the final third. It’s a simple tactical methodology and frankly all Solskajer is capable of, and it also happens to be the best way to stunt a Manchester City team whose attack is suffering this season.

Too much is going through Jack Grealish and he hasn’t quite settled yet, while the lack of a striker means City can struggle to create chances when up against an air-tight defence. United ought to be able to create a dull and low-scoring game here, and with Cristiano Ronaldo in form they may even steal the three points.

Back double chance United/draw at 2.01/1

Everton v Tottenham
Sunday, 14:00

Antonio Conte has been reluctant in the past to take jobs mid-season because there is so little time to get ideas across, and the Italian is one of the most immaculately-detailed tacticians in world football. It will be a while before the Spurs players have learnt exactly where to stand, move, and pass, but for the time being the simple energy bump ought to do the trick at Goodison Park.

In theory, Conte’s 3-5-2 is well-suited to the Tottenham squad. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son work well as strike partners, Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg should excel with firmer direction from the dugout, and Christian Romero is at his best in a back three. This is likely to be the immediate configuration, and the demanding yet charismatic nature of the new manager will see a huge increase in motivation and sharpness.

Everton are particularly vulnerable to this off the back of three straight defeats. Rafael Benitez‘s reactive counter-attacking tactics are a little outdated, partly because a more conservative approach risks being passive when faced with more energetic opponents. The psychological difference between the two teams should allow Spurs to swarm and overwhelm through midfield.

Back Spurs to beat Everton at 2.3811/8

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Arsenal v Watford
Sunday, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

It is notoriously difficult to predict Arsenal results and our safest bet here is to back plenty of goals. That’s because while Arsenal have started to find rhythm they still tend to sit deeper, and become vulnerable, towards the ends of matches while Watford showed in their 5-2 win at Everton that Claudio Ranieri keeps his teams going right to the end.

Mikel Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 sees Alexandre Lacazette slaloming intelligently behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and it seems likely that these two – supported by narrow wingers Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka – will dance around a Watford midfield that hardly looks secure with Moussa Sissoko holding it down. Watford are yet to find defensive solidity under their new manager and will surely fall behind.

But with Ismaeli Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis breaking on the wings, not to mention Josh King in form following a hat-trick at Goodison Park, Watford have the sort of explosiveness on the break that tends to make Arsenal look brittle, especially towards the end of matches. The hosts ought to hold out, but it will be another topsy-turvy game at the Emirates.

Back over 3.5 goals at 2.55

West Ham v Liverpool
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

David Moyes’ West Ham are particularly good at sitting deeper, refusing to press the ball outside their own half, and cutting off passing lanes through their compressed defensive shell. Led by Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek in midfield they have the power to stop possession-centric teams from making progress, while on the counter-attack Michail Antonio has the legs to break beyond a high defensive line.

That points towards a tricky game for Liverpool, especially considering how Brighton came back from 2-0 down to draw last weekend. Graham Potter bravely ensured three forwards stayed high up the pitch throughout the second half to ensure Brighton had options on the counter. West Ham are very good in the transition and will expect to cause damage.

But despite all of that, Liverpool are just too good. Their front three is in exceptional form and it is unlikely that Aaron Cresswell will be able to cope with Mohamed Salah, especially with Pabo Fornals drawn forward onto Trent Alexander-Arnold. Roberto Firmino is also quietly playing very well, and his movement around Rice and Soucek should give them too much to do.

Back Liverpool to beat West Ham at 1.674/6

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