Antonio Conte reverts to 3-4-2-1 and hands Willian a role alongside Eden Hazard in Chelsea’s rout of Brighton.
Wayne Rooney drops to the bench as Sam Allardyce turns to Gylfi Sigurdsson as his No 10 in Theo Walcott’s first outing for Everton.
Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola opts for Oleksandr Zinchenko to help solve Man City’s left-back conundrum, with Danilo named on the bench for the visit of Newcastle.
Here’s part one of Line-up Lessons, assessing the teamsheets and formations from Gameweek 24, with one eye on what’s to come over the midweek Carabao Cup semi-finals, weekend FA Cup fourth round fixtures and beyond.
Starting XI: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal (Maitland-Niles 35); Xhaka, Wilshere, Elneny; Ozil (Nelson 72), Lacazette, Iwobi (Kolasinac 83). Subs not used: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Nketiah.
- What we saw: With Alexis Sanchez omitted once again ahead of his move to Manchester United, Arsene Wenger opted for a 4-1-2-3 formation. Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal returned at centre-back and left-back respectively, while Mohamed Elneny was recalled as the deep-lying defensive shield. Granit Xhaka moved forward alongside Jack Wilshere ahead of him, while Alex Iwobi and the fit-again Mesut Ozil played either side of Alexandre Lacazette in the front three. Ainsley Maitland-Niles replaced Monreal during the first half after the Spaniard was forced off as a precaution with a hamstring knock. Late on, Sead Kolasinac was brought on in place of Iwobi in an advanced role down the left.
- What we learned: While the Gunners produced a much improved display, the imminent arrival of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the possibility of other new faces such as Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang means changes – including tactics – are likely for the Gameweek 25 trip to Swansea City. Aaron Ramsey missed out on the weekend due to illness, but he could provide another central midfield option in south Wales. If Monreal is ruled out, Maitland-Niles may be favoured over Kolasinac at left-back if Wenger sticks with a four-man defence. The Gunners play Chelsea in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night but are out of the FA Cup, making rotation less of a concern when they face the Swans.
Current Status: Slightly unsettled
Risk Areas: Left-back, central midfield, attacking midfield
Starting XI: Begovic; Francis, Cook, Ake; Smith, Cook, Gosling, Daniels; Ibe (Stanislas 62), Wilson, Fraser (King 85). Subs not used: Boruc, Surman, Mousset, Simpson, Taylor.
- What we saw: Eddie Howe named the same side that beat Arsenal 2-1 for the trip to West Ham United, although Jordon Ibe and Ryan Fraser played slightly wider to form a 3-4-3 formation. Junior Stanislas and Josh King both returned from injury as substitutes, finishing the match either side of central striker Callum Wilson.
- What we learned: Following another decent performance, Howe could well stick with the 3-4-3 for the Gameweek 25 trip to Chelsea, although with more options at his disposal, the Cherries boss could consider a return to 4-4-1-1. The break should allow Stanislas and King to build up their fitness levels, potentially putting the starts of Ibe and Fraser at risk. King also has the ability to lead the line, so Wilson’s spot may also be slightly vulnerable. Other changes appear unlikely. Andrew Surman and Harry Arter, who missed out last weekend due to illness, provide alternatives in the middle of the park though Lewis Cook has started the last five Premier League matches.
Current Status: Settled
Risk Areas: Flanks
Brighton & Hove Albion
Starting XI: Ryan; Goldson, Duffy, Dunk; Schelotto, Stephens, Propper, Suttner; Gross (Kayal 68), March (Izquierdo 83); Hemed (Murray 68). Subs not used: Hunemeier, Baldock, Rosenior, Krul.
- What we saw: Chris Hughton decided to match up against Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 formation, bringing Connor Goldson into a three-man backline. Ezequiel Schelotto and Markus Suttner started in the wing-back roles, while Pascal Gross and Solly March were stationed in central attacking midfield positions behind lone striker Tomer Hemed.
- What we learned: Hughton’s decision to go for a three-man defence backfired in the 4-0 defeat and, with a trip to Southampton next, it’s likely he’ll revert back to either a 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 system. Goldson should drop back to the bench, while Bruno and Gaetan Bong could return in place of Schelotto and Suttner in the full-back roles. Anthony Knockaert should come back in on the right wing, with either March or Jose Izquierdo likely to line up on the opposite flank. Glenn Murray may earn a recall as the lone striker in place of Murray, with new club-record signing Jurgen Locadia doubtful due to a hamstring injury.
Current Status: Slightly Unsettled
Risk Areas: Full-backs, flanks, lone striker
Starting XI: Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Cork, Defour, Arfield (Nkoudou 81); Hendrick (Vokes 81); Barnes (Wells 89). Subs not used: Lindegaard, Long, Lowton, Westwood.
- What we saw: Sean Dyche kept faith in his usual 4-4-1-1 formation for the home encounter against Manchester United, with Scott Arfield returning from injury to start on the left side of midfield. That allowed Ashley Barnes to move back into the lone striker role vacated by Sam Vokes. Burnley ended the match in a 4-4-2 as they chased a late equaliser, with substitutes Vokes and Nahki Wells up front, while Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Johann Berg Gudmundsson were stationed out wide.
- What we learned: With nine days until the trip to Newcastle United, Dyche will hope some of his injured players will return to contention. Chris Wood has missed the last five matches due to a knee problem, however, so Barnes could continue as the lone striker. Left-back Stephen Ward has missed the last seven encounters with a knee injury, but may be closer to a return, perhaps putting Charlie Taylor’s start at risk. Tom Heaton is back in light training but is likely to be eased back into contention after a dislocated shoulder. The extra training time could allow Nkoudou to stake his claim for a first start out wide in place of Arfield.
Current Status: Slightly Unsettled
Risk Areas: Goalkeeper, left-back, left wing, lone striker
Starting XI: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen (Luiz 58), Rudiger; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso (Zappacosta 75); Willian (Musonda 81), Batshuayi, Hazard. Subs not used: Eduardo, Sterling, Ampadu, Barkley.
- What we saw: Blues boss Antonio Conte rolled out a 3-4-2-1 system for the trip to Brighton, with Willian and Eden Hazard stationed in central attacking midfield roles behind Michy Batshuayi. Andreas Christensen replaced the injured Gary Cahill in central defence, while Willy Caballero made his first start of the season in goal in place of the injured Thibaut Courtois. Christensen was forced off after a clash of heads just before the hour mark, with David Luiz taking his place in the back three.
- What we learned: With Pedro and Alvaro Morata available for the Gameweek 25 home clash against Bournemouth after serving their one-match bans, Conte will have options to change things up. Much will depend on who he selects in cup matches against Arsenal and Newcastle United over the next seven days, but it’s very likely that Morata will replace Batshuayi as the lone striker. The success of the 3-4-2-1 should mean Conte sticks with that system against the Cherries. Danny Drinkwater (ankle) and Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) offer different options in central midfield if they’re ready to return, while Christensen is expected to be available with Conte insistent that he will train today ahead of Wednesday’s tie. Courtois (ankle) is another who will be expected to face Bournemouth in Gaemweek 25, with his training ground injury described by the club as “minor”.
Current Status: Unsettled
Risk Areas: Goalkeeper, central defenders, central midfield, attacking midfield, lone striker
Starting XI: Hennessey; Fosu-Mensah, Kelly, Tomkins, Van Aanholt; McArthur, Milivojevic, Cabaye (Riedewald 89); Sako, Benteke, Zaha. Subs not used: Speroni, Ward, Townsend, Lee, Souare, Kaikai.
- What we saw: Roy Hodgson went with more of a 4-3-3 formation for the trip to Arsenal, with Wilfried Zaha and Bakary Sako flanking central striker Christian Benteke. Yohan Cabaye returned in central midfield alongside Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur, while the back four stayed unchanged. Cabaye was forced off with an ankle injury late on, with Jairo Riedewald taking his place in a straight swap.
- What we learned: With Andros Townsend back on the bench following injury, and with over a week until the Gameweek 25 trip to West Ham United, Hodgson could consider returning to a 4-4-2. Townsend and Zaha may start out wide, with Sako partnering Benteke in attack. McArthur provides a more defensive option out wide, while Riedewald is the main alternative in central midfield should Cabaye be ruled out. Joel Ward also has time to build up his fitness levels and could be an option to replace either Timothy Fosu-Mensah or Patrick van Aanholt in the full-back positions. Wayne Hennessey endured a difficult afternoon at the Emirates, so Julian Speroni may push for a recall, while there remains the possibility that Palace will look to bring in a new goalkeeper.
Current Status: Slightly Unsettled
Risk Areas: Goalkeeper, full-backs, central midfield, flanks
Starting XI: Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Williams, Martina: McCarthy (Rooney 62), Schneiderlin: Walcott, Sigurdsson, Vlasic (Bolasie 46): Tosun (Niasse 69). Subs not used: Robles, Keane, Jagielka, Gueye.
- What we saw: Toffees boss Sam Allardyce kept faith in the 4-2-3-1 formation for the home clash against West Bromwich Albion, although he did make a few changes from the side that lost 4-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. Nikola Vlasic was a surprise inclusion on the left wing, with Gylfi Sigurdsson replacing Wayne Rooney in the No 10 role. Theo Walcott made his Everton debut on the right, while Morgan Schneiderlin started in place of Idrissa Gueye at the base of midfield. The other change saw Ashley Williams return in central defence in place of Phil Jagielka. Rooney did enter the fray for the injured James McCarthy, playing in a deep-lying central midfield role.
- What we learned: McCarthy suffered a horrific broken leg and will miss the rest of the season. Gueye could replace the Republic of Ireland international for the Gameweek 25 home meeting with Leicester City, while Rooney may also be an option, particularly if Big Sam considers switching to a 4-1-4-1 system. However, he has strongly hinted that Sigurdsson or Rooney will be played as a No 10, with both unlikely to line up in the same XI. In central defence, Jagielka and Michael Keane are possible replacements for Williams and Mason Holgate. Allardyce appears to be in the market for a new left-back in the continued absence of the injured Leighton Baines, so Cuco Martina’s start could be under threat should there be a new arrival.
Current Status: Unsettled
Risk Areas: Central defenders, left-back, central midfield, attacking midfield, left wing
Starting XI: Lossl; Hadergjonaj, Jorgensen, Schindler, Malone; Hogg (Depoitre 79), Mooy; Van La Parra, Ince (Quaner 56), Pritchard (Sabiri 60); Mounie. Subs not used: Smith, Kongolo, Coleman, Williams.
- What we saw: Although David Wagner again opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation for the trip to Stoke City, he did make a number of personnel changes from the side that lost 4-1 to West Ham United. Steve Mounie replaced Laurent Depoitre as the lone striker, while Alex Pritchard made his first start for the Terriers in the No 10 role. Florent Hadergjonaj replaced Tommy Smith at right-back. Huddersfield ended the match in a 4-4-2, with Depoitre joining Mounie up front, while the fit-again Collin Quaner came on as a substitute on the right wing. Abdelhamid Sabiri made his first appearance since Gameweek 12, joining Aaron Mooy in central midfield.
- What we learned: With the Terriers facing a tough home match-up against Liverpool in Gameweek 25, Wagner could opt for a slightly more defensive approach. Mooy may play as either part of a three-man midfield, alongside Jonathan Hogg and Danny Williams, or in the No 10 role in place of Pritchard. Depoitre could return at the expense of Mounie up front, while Quaner is a viable starter out wide. At the back, Terence Kongolo and, if he’s fit, Chris Lowe will be options to replace Scott Malone at left-back. Smith could also come back in for Hadergjonaj at right-back. The Terriers host Birmingham City in the FA Cup on Saturday, with Wagner expected to shuffle his pack and hand starts to a number of fringe players.
Current Status: Unsettled
Risk Areas: Full-backs, central midfield, flanks, attacking midfield, lone striker
Starting XI: Schmeichel; Amartey, Dragovic, Maguire, Chilwell; Mahrez, James, Ndidi, Albrighton; Okazaki (Gray 64); Vardy (Silva 89). Subs not used: Iheanacho, Hamer, Fuchs, Benalouane, Diabate.
- What we saw: Claude Puel stuck with the same side that drew 0-0 against Chelsea for the visit of Watford to the King Power Stadium, with the Foxes lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ben Chilwell served a one-match ban in the FA Cup in midweek and came back in for Christian Fuchs at left-back. Midfielder Adrien Silva replaced Jamie Vardy late on, seeing fellow substitute Demarai Gray play the final few minutes as the lone striker.
- What we learned: With the Leicester side remaining pretty settled, changes aren’t expected for the Gameweek 25 trip to Everton. Danny Simpson and Robert Huth could be close to first-team returns, with the pair perhaps in with a chance of featuring against Peterborough United in the FA Cup on Saturday. Should they start that match, the back four that started last weekend will probably remain unchanged at Goodison Park, with Wes Morgan (hamstring) still a major doubt at this stage. Having started the last three, Matty James seems to be the favoured partner for Wilfred Ndidi in central midfield.
Current Status: Very Settled
Risk Areas: Right-back, central defenders
Starting XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D Silva; Sterling (B Silva 86), Aguero, Sane (Diaz 88). Subs not used: Bravo, Danilo, Mangala, Adarabioyo, Gundogan.
- What we saw: Pep Guardiola rolled out his usual 4-1-2-3 formation for the home fixture against Newcastle United, with David Silva returning in central midfield at the expense of Ilkay Gundogan. Oleksandr Zinchenko was surprisingly favoured over Danilo to replace the injured Fabian Delph at left-back.
- What we learned: City face Bristol City and Cardiff City in the EFL Cup and FA Cup respectively over the next seven days before they welcome West Bromwich Albion to the Etihad in Gameweek 25. So while Guardiola should name a similar starting XI against the Baggies, his selections in the next two matches should provide some clues as to whether the likes of Gundogan and Bernardo Silva could be possible starters in Gameweek 25. Delph (knee) is expected to remain sidelined, so Zinchenko may continue to keep out Danilo at left-back. The extra recovery time could also allow Vincent Kompany to regain his fitness and provide another option in central defence. Sergio Aguero’s owners will hope he gets a rest in one of the two cup matches to ensure he starts in Gameweek 25. As witnessed in the recent first-leg clash with Bristol City, Guardiola could utilise Raheem Sterling or Bernardo Silva in the central striker role in the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus, who is unlikely to be available to face West Brom.
Current Status: Fairly Settled
Risk Areas: Left-back, central midfield, flanks, lone striker
Part two of Line-up Lessons, assessing the remaining ten teams, will follow tomorrow.