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TALKING TACTICS: West Ham say bye to Bilic; Arsenal formation perfect for Ozil; Chelsea sub makes the difference;

The penultimate weekend of the 2016/17 Premier League seasonsaw Hull City relegated after another excellent win for Swansea City, while all of the top five recorded victories. Liverpool and Manchester City are in pole position to take the remaining Champions League places, although a brilliant Arsenal performance has put them back in with a chance.

Here are three things we learnt from the weekend action:

1) Poorly coached defensive system suggests Bilic's time is up

West Ham's inability to build on their 1-0 win against Tottenham last weekend suggests the players are no longer listening to Slaven Bilic's tactical instructions. Disjointed and sluggish, their performance on Sunday may signal the end for Bilic, whose coaching ability has rarely convinced in east London.

Their back five was bizarrely disoriented by Jurgen Klopp's subtle formation change. Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge started up front for the visitors and they easily pulled apart a zig-zag back line. Jose Fonte inexplicably played Sturridge onside ahead of his opener, while Sam Byram looked lost in a right wing-back role he really ought to have mastered by now.

The 2016/17 campaign has highlighted Bilic's serious tactical deficiencies; he does not seem capable of successfully coaching his players or drilling them with in-depth defensive knowledge. Consequently, the West Ham board will most likely terminate his contract in the next couple of weeks.

2) 3-4-2-1 is a perfect fit for "luxury" players like Ozil

Arsenal were superb in their 4-1 win against Stoke City, carving open Mark Hughes' team easily thanks to their use of dual number tens. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez dominated the match in spaces around the helpless Geoff Cameron, with the German in particular silencing his recent critics.

His defensive laziness and minimalist playing style have often made him a burden and a defining symbol of the tactical mistakes that have littered the late Wenger years. However, like Eden Hazard at Chelsea, Ozil is excelling in a formation that allows him to focus exclusively on being creative.

The block of midfielders and defenders behind him means Ozil rarely needs to help out at the back, and having Sanchez operate in the same areas draws opponents away from the Germany international. Ozil can float about in his casual way without letting anyone down, before suddenly turning it on in the final third; Ozil is the main beneficiary of Wenger's formation change.

3) Koeman's Everton tactics are too narrow, and too predictable

Everton might have beaten Watford at Goodison Park, but they required a long-range Ross Barkley strike to break through one of the division's worst defences. It has become increasingly clear that Ronald Koeman's direct and narrow football is too predictable; he must learn to vary tactics or risk stagnation.

Barkley and Kevin Mirallas are both central attacking midfielders used invariably as wingers by Koeman, which inevitably means Everton struggle for width. As the two players cut inside, everything filters through the somewhat static Romelu Lukaku, who extended his scoreless run to four games.

Everton must buy some quicker wingers over the summer – and develop some new formations on the training ground.

Best of the Week – Antonio Conte's title-winning substitution

The Italian seems incapable of making a bad decision. Throughout the second half of the season Conte has gradually implemented a 3-4-1-2 formation when opponents are particularly stubborn, and indeed he may see this as a useful long-term solution for 2017/18 (more adaptation will be necessary after a summer of analysing Chelsea's success).

On Friday night, he brought Michy Batshuayi off the bench for the 18th time this season and switched to a 3-4-1-2. After an extended goalmouth scramble, an unmarked Batshuayi – left alone because the West Brom defenders were not used to dealing with a second striker - scored the winning goal.

Worst of the Week – Silva's attacking wingers

Marco Silva has done a superb job at Hull City but he must take responsibility for the manner of their defeat at Crystal Palace on Sunday. He continued with a 4-4-1-1 formation that uses two attacking wingers despite Sam Allardyce's focus on counter-attacks down the flanks.

Kamil Grosicki made just one tackle and zero interceptions, leaving left-back Andrew Robertson with too much to do. Wilfried Zaha was menacing on that side, leading to a comfortable Palace victory that sent Hull back to the Championship.

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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