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TALKING TACTICS: Arsenal given false hope; Liverpool show title winning potential; Dreadful finishing costs Man City;

Manchester City dropped points on a fairly quiet weekend in the Premier League, although the televised matches provided plenty of talking points. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur shared the spoils in a superb match at Anfield, while Arsenal's 5-1 win against Everton taught us plenty about both sides.

Here are three things we learnt from the weekend action:

1) Clueless Everton system allows Arsenal to dream of a Dortmund-style future

Although Henrikh Mkhitaryan's hat-trick of assists gives Arsenal fans fresh hope their new-look attack can bring them Champions League football, this match said more about Everton than it did the hosts. Sam Allardyce's 3-4-3 formation backfired horribly, with the manager angrily criticising their performance as "unacceptable".

But it was Big Sam who was at fault. Everton's decision to deploy a 3-4-3 was very strange. Mkhitaryan's arrival alongside Mesut Ozil means Arsenal will filter their attacks through the centre more than ever, and so it makes no sense whatsoever for Everton to have played just two central midfielders; they were completely outplayed in central areas on the wide Emirates pitch. But equally strange was the use of a three-man defence, something Everton's players have rarely used. They looked predictably awkward in their chaotic zigzag lines, allowing Arsenal to ease through time and time again.

Arsenal deserve credit for their ruthlessness. Aaron Ramsey's late runs into the box were excellent, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang proved why he was worth the fee. However, Everton made this game very easy for the hosts. Allardyce's team need just three more wins to hit the 40-point mark. They shouldn't waste any more time to get him out and Marco Silva in.

2) Hodgson's second-half tactical switch suggests old-school 4-4-2s aren't the way forward

Crystal Palace versus Newcastle United was a very enjoyable game, largely because it was a stark throwback to old-school Premier League football. Both in a 4-4-2 formation and with defensive lines happy to sit deep, there was plenty of space in midfield and very little pressing, which lead to a frantic match full of chances. However, Palace ceased control of the game in the second half when James McArthur moved into central midfield to make a 4-3-3, highlighting the limitations of English football's traditional formation.

Palace should have won the game after McArthur switched. Wilfried Zaha, who had been playing up front with Christian Benteke, was moved to the left and McArthur sat just in front of the other two Palace midfielders as Roy Hodgson tried to wrestle control of such a chaotically open contest. And it worked, with Palace dominating the second half primarily thanks to McArthur's ability to win the second balls and spread the ball out wide to Zaha. Newcastle's flat formation meant they couldn't handle McArthur's presence in the number ten space.

Once again, Hodgson displayed his excellent in-game tactical nous, but unfortunately the hosts couldn't make their dominance pay and grab the winning goal. The most important conclusion from Selhurst Park is that the 4-4-2 is a system better consigned to the past.

3) If Liverpool can find a way to maintain their intensity for 90 minutes they can be champions

Liverpool's fast starts and slow finishes have let them down all too often under Jurgen Klopp, and while their 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur simply confirmed this point it was interesting to see the hosts' intensity levels drop despite a clear shift in their tactical approach throughout the game. Instead of tiring themselves out with a constant high press, Liverpool retreated slightly and looked to play on the counter. Sadly for Klopp, the end result – tired limbs in the final 20 minutes – was the same.

Playing like the away side, Liverpool only pressed high from Spurs goal kicks (to stop them being able to pass out from the back), otherwise sitting in a fairly low block that looked to cut off the passing lines to Tottenham's narrow playmakers. Knowing Spurs overload the centre, this was an intriguing and largely successful tactic from Klopp, who left the wings open for Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies, safe in the knowledge Virgil van Dijk could clear any crosses.

Liverpool also played long ball football, punting high and long behind the Spurs defence for Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to chase. The hosts' tactics would have been perfect – had they not tired in the second half, allowing Tottenham to finally get their passes through the middle and into the feet of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Displaying such interesting tactics, Liverpool have showed they are capable of challenging for the title next year – if only they can get the players as fit as Tottenham's.

Best of the Week – Gross-inspired Brighton

Brighton & Hove Albion have adapted to Premier League life superbly and they tore West Ham United apart on Saturday, making the most of West Ham's confused formation to put them three points clear of the bottom three.

The key player was Pascal Gross, the number ten who scored one and assisted another but generally dictated the tempo in the gaps left by Pablo Zabaleta – playing in central midfield for the visitors. The Argentine simply couldn't cope with Gross, failing to adequately press the 26-year-old as he put Glen Murray in on goal for the opener. Brighton passed the ball neatly throughout, playing with a confidence that belied their league position; if they continue like that, Chris Hughton's side should stay up.

Worst of the Week – Man City's finishing

Pep Guardiola described his team's performance as "perfect" at Turf Moor, and he has a point. Aside from some dreadful finishing the league leaders did everything right, attacking confidently and created numerous chances. If Raheem Sterling had scored that open goal pundits would be praising an efficient 2-0 win against one of the division's toughest teams.

Ilkay Gundogan in particular was exceptional, but Bernardo Silva was also on top form to suggest the fringe players at City are finally finding their feet. However, poor finishing throughout cost them two points on Saturday; they cannot afford to be so wasteful in big games coming up this month.

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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