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TALKING TACTICS: Liverpool victory glorious chaos; Chelsea jaded; Wenger coaching shown up

The most entertaining game of the Premier League season so far, Liverpool's 4-3 victory over Manchester City, was a game that largely defied in-depth tactical analysis. It was utter chaos at Anfield as defensive errors led to a frenzy of second-half goals in a game that, for the most part, City had controlled well.

From a tactical perspective, things were more interesting in Chelsea's 0-0 draw with Leicester City and Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth. This was a weekend in which the race for the top four decisively shifted in favour of Liverpool and Spurs.

Here are three things we learnt from the weekend action:

1) Conte's flat 3-5-2 raises serious concerns for a jaded Chelsea

Leicester City dominated their match against Chelsea before Ben Chilwell's red card, amassing more shots in the first half (12) than any other team at Stamford Bridge since 2003/04. The main reason for their success, beyond being more aggressive in the tackle and pushing high up the pitch, was the flatness of Chelsea's 3-5-2.

When Leicester had the ball Eden Hazard played alongside Alvaro Morata while the midfield sat in a very flat line, making it alarmingly easy for the visitors to play diagonal passes into the spaces between defence and midfield. Riyad Mahrez, Shinji Okazaki, and Matt James didn't have to move very much to ghost into the gaps, exploiting a strangely lacklustre Chelsea formation.

Tiemoue Bakayoko was barely more than an apparition once again, while Cesc Fabregas didn't take up the right defensive positions. Chelsea were jaded and bereft of ideas, reflecting Antonio Conte's unwillingness to rotate regularly this season. With Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur so free-flowing in attack, a top four finish isn't looking too likely right now.

2) Post-Sanchez Arsenal defeat highlights the lack of tactical coaching under Wenger

Arsenal have lost each of their last three Premier League matches in which Alexis Sanchez played no part, and on Sunday Arsene Wenger fielded his youngest 11 since November 2012 (with an average of 25 years, 11 days). Together, these two statistics point to the alarming absence of coaching at Arsenal over the last ten years.

Wenger is widely known for taking a back seat, rarely teaching his players tactically or working to improve individuals. The phenomenal impact of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola over the last couple of years has made Wenger's biggest flaw more noticeable; this weekend Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked like a man re-born for Liverpool, while Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding, Theo Walcott and Callum Chambers continued to stagnate.

Not a single Arsenal player has improved as an individual under Wenger's tutelage over the last ten years. It is a damning indictment of how far the club has fallen. Year after year their elite academy churns out superb prospects with all-rounder skill sets, but their progress is suddenly halted once they graduate to the first team. Wenger is doing serious damage.

3) Arnautovic & Lanzini striker partnership shows Moyes is defying the dinosaur label

David Moyes continues to surprise us all with his up-to-date tactical approach with West Ham United. This weekend it was his use of a double-striker-less formation that saw his side win only their third away league game of the season. Following on from the Townsend/Zaha example at Crystal Palace, Moyes used two playmakers as alternating forwards to catch out Huddersfield's high press.

Marko Arnautovic was the furthest up the field but Manuel Lanzini frequently hung next to the Switzerland international, giving the Hammers a two-pronged counter-attacking threat as Huddersfield looked to control possession. It was the perfect tactic to exploit David Wagner's naiveties – and final proof that Moyes isn't the dinosaur we made him out to be.

Best of the Weekend – the frenzy at Anfield

Some matches defy any reasonable tactical analysis. Liverpool and Manchester City simply poured forward relentlessly in a match defined by defensive errors at both ends of the pitch. City were the most tactically controlled throughout, keeping Liverpool at bay and patiently opening up gaps – except for a bizarre ten minute period in which they completely collapsed.

Kevin de Bruyne was once again the standout player, although this wasn't really a contest that can be defined by patterns of play or even individual skill. It was just a wonderful – and chaotic – game of football.

Worst of the Weekend – Everton's defending

Tottenham didn't have to work very hard to win comfortably against Sam Allardyce's alarmingly poor Everton on Saturday. The visitors' back four was in disarray throughout, giving away multiple chances with a zig-zag back line and some bizarre individual decisions.

Allardyce has clearly doubled down on his tried-and-tested defensive tactics, and since Everton are no longer in danger of relegation the fans are very unhappy. It is highly improbable he will survive beyond the summer.

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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