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Talking Tactics: Zidane perfect Mourinho heir; Anfield anti-climax; Everton find spark

In a bizarre twist the biggest game of the weekend, at Anfield, ended in a bore draw while the supposedly dull battle between Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho was a thriller; football is unpredictable at the best of times but the eighth weekend of the season was something else.

Comfortable wins for Chelsea and Arsenal perhaps put them in the running for the title, with just two points now separating four clubs at the top of the table. However, taken as a whole the division seems more divided than ever: three clubs are still undefeated in the Premier League and three are yet to record a win.

Here are three things we learnt from the weekend action:



1) Man Utd's attacking second half suggests Zidane would be a big success at Old Trafford

Jose Mourinho's job is far from safe despite Manchester United's 3-2 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday. The problems with his management run deep and, not unlike the turnaround against Manchester City last season, this match was further evidence he will only play attacking football when the situation is desperate.

Zinedine Zidane is widely expected to get the job next, and based on United's second 45 minutes at the weekend he would be a big success. Zidane's management style is about leadership rather than tactical acumen, his Real Madrid side performing to high individual standards despite the absence of a coherent long-term strategy. United's creativity once they were unshackled showed these players can organise themselves tactically if given the freedom to be expressive.

Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, and Paul Pogba were exceptional, roaming freely in the final third to combine in a manner that was reminiscent of the Fergie days. United pummelled Newcastle via the flanks, playing neat one twos around the edge of the box and striking fear into their opponents; it is easy to envisage them doing this week in week out with a legendary figure like Zidane letting them loose.



2) Sigurdsson and Bernard the keys to ignite Silva's Everton project

Back-to-back Premier League victories has ended Everton's mini-wobble and Marco Silva deserves praise for the tactical changes that have pushed them back up the table. The Toffees clearly lack a good striker, but for the 2-1 victory at Leicester City Richarlison deputised well in this role; the Brazilian could have a long-term future as the fulcrum of the Everton attack, particularly because it freed space on the left for Bernard.

The 26-year-old, signed in the summer from Shakhtar Donetsk, was superb on his full league debut, assisting Richarlison's opener and generally causing chaos on the left. His trickery helped free up space in central attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson who – unsurprisingly – is looking much more assured in his natural position. The Iceland international ought not to be shoved out wide again.

Everton may have relied on a long-range strike from Sigurdsson to win the match but their overall performance was better than the result indicated. Richarlison's movement, dropping off the front line and into the channels, was a key factor. Both of Wes Morgan's yellow cards came from challenges on the Brazilian, who already looks comfortable in his new role.



3) Fulham's 3-4-3 is further evidence of their naivety

Injuries to full-backs Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Joe Bryan were used as justification for Slavisa Jokanovic's decision to switch to a 3-4-3 formation, but this is hardly an excuse. Fulham were even more porous than usual, going 2-1 down before finally changing to a four-man defence. Jokanovic's naivety threatens Fulham's place in the division.

The hosts played wide midfielders rather than wing-backs, which is why Arsenal so easily attacked into the huge spaces either side of the back three. A complete absence of cover put Fulham on the back foot and led directly to the opening goal, while playing just two central midfielders meant they were easily overrun in the middle. Fulham were lucky to go into the break at 1-1.

Things only got worse after the formation switch, primarily because the pattern had already been set. Substitute Kevin McDonald was once again overwhelmed in midfield as the Gunners tore through their London rivals to leave them just two points above the drop zone. Fulham have conceded 21 goals in just eight games, more than any other Premier League club.



Best of the Week – Bournemouth's counter-attacking football

Eddie Howe's Bournemouth have shifted their tactics towards a counter-attacking approach this season, proving the versatility of their manager and explaining the Cherries's surprising start to the season. Praise for Saturday's 4-0 win at Watford should go to David Brooks and Ryan Fraser, the two intelligent wingers whose passing initiates the counter-attack.

Jefferson Lerma was also very impressive. The 27-year-old defensive midfielder, signed from Levante in the summer, completed more passes (58), tackles (three), blocks (four), interceptions (two), headers (four) and touches (84) than any other Bournemouth player.



Worst of the Week – Cautious tactics in Liverpool v Man City

Pep Guardiola's post-match press conference proved that fear had dominated his tactical preparation for this match: "We want to create but they wait for you to make a mistake. It's not easy. If it is an open game at Anfield, you don't even have one chance, not even one per cent of a chance."

Man City slowed everything down to halt their poor run of form at Anfield, while the hosts' lack of a playmaking midfielder meant they could not raise the tempo themselves. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was badly missed for a game that suggested Liverpool have been overly romanticised this season.

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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