Telegraph Sport delves into the Xs and Os of what you can expect to see in the Premier League this season

Premier League clubs scout each other incredibly efficiently, so there is a need for coaches to find new formulas going into a new season or risk being predictable.

Pre-season provided the opportunity for experimentation, and now is the time to see whether these tweaks hold up under the pressure of three points being at stake.

These are some of the tactical trends we expect to see during the upcoming Premier League campaign.

The box midfield

France won the 1984 European Championship with their ‘magic square’ of Luis Fernández, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Michel Platini, so the concept of having two players high and two deep in a narrow midfield is not exactly novel.

However, the Premier League’s top teams make up their midfield box slightly differently, usually by a defender changing position. At Manchester City, this has been centre-back John Stones pairing with Rodri when City build play, with two more advanced midfielders ahead of them. Arsenal formed their box through Oleksandr Zinchenko inverting from left back, and could use Jurrien Timber in similar fashion this season.

Most interesting has been Jurgen Klopp imitating his great rival Pep Guardiola by instructing Trent Alexander-Arnold to move inside next to Liverpool’s holding midfielder. Summer signings Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai will play higher, making Liverpool’s on-ball shape a three-box-three, similar to that we have seen City use.

The system allows for more central passing options with players in close proximity. Packing bodies into the middle of the pitch also provides a barrier against opposition counter-attacks if the ball is lost. The higher pair in the box also ensure the half-spaces – the pockets of space which are not quite the centre and not quite the wing – are always occupied.

Positioning more players in the middle of the pitch also narrows the defending team, leaving the winger isolated against his full-back. Wingers who receive passes from a full-back standing in midfield will also be facing the play, rather than having their back to goal.

Matador football

Guardiola has been the reference point for tactical trends over the past decade but the City manager has found himself studying (and marvelling at) Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton.

Whereas Guardiola and his disciples have encouraged their players to carry the ball into space if opponents drop off, De Zerbi’s players will pause and wait for an opponent to close them down. The idea is to entice pressure, before passing and moving into the space created with third-man combinations.

Once the press is broken, Brighton attack with speed and purpose through their wingers Karou Mitoma and Solly March. These moves have the appearance of counter-attacks, but Brighton construct them through their build-up play.

The approach is not always enthralling to watch, with a game of chicken resulting as Brighton’s defenders stand with their studs on the ball. Though devastating when well executed, it can lead to matches having a stop-start rhythm.

Will we see more coaches following De Zerbi’s lead? Since Opta started recording the statistic in 2015-16, the average direct speed of attacks in the Premier League has decreased from 1.72 to 1.41 metres per second. The number of direct attacks per game has fallen from 3.82 to 3.13. That trend could continue if teams decide to wait for their opponents to move before playing forward.

‘Big man up top’ is back in fashion

While he may start in an attacking midfield position, Arsenal added Kai Havertz to their squad and Mikel Arteta used him as a striker in the Community Shield. Liverpool have bought Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo in the last 12 months, during which time Erling Haaland destroyed the league. Manchester United’s new striker Rasmus Hojlund is well over 6ft. Brighton’s Evan Ferguson is an outstanding talent and built like a traditional centre-forward.

Further down the league, Luton Town will rely on playing direct to front pair Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo. Fulham and Everton’s seasons could depend on Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Brentford will be counting the days until Ivan Toney’s return.

Rasmus Hojlund of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Carrington Training Ground

Rasmus Hojlund joins a growing list of traditional strikers in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images/Matthew Peters

The widespread use of data analytics has shown football clubs that headed chances are generally of lower quality. Clubs also know that crosses from closer to the byline are more dangerous than those swung in from deep. So do not expect these teams to be putting the ball in the mixer with abandon.

Using a taller forward’s aerial strength can be extremely useful for playing over a high press, though. There are well-organised pressing schemes across the division, be they man-orientated, zonal or a hybrid of the two. Passing your way through a high press is potentially the most fruitful, but also the most risky. Playing around the press is less risky but also less threatening. Going over the top, either to win the ball directly or pick up the second ball, can be a useful weapon to have in your arsenal.

Return of the defensive full-back

Not so long ago, every team wanted to find full-backs who were the next Dani Alves or Ashley Cole: converted wingers who fly forward on the overlap on the outside of their winger.

Nobody would turn down players of their quality, but coaches are realising the value of more defensive full-backs. City regularly lined up with four centre-backs plus Rodri last season, while Arsenal used Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel and Timber against City in the Community Shield. All four of those players have spent time as centre-halves. There are echoes of Gerard Houllier’s 2001 Liverpool side, who won three cup competitions on the strength of a sturdy back four of Babbel, Henchoz, Hyppia and Carragher. Much more is expected of today’s defenders in possession.

One reason for coaches adopting at least one conservative full-back is for them to be a counter-weight to the opposite full-back inverting. Several teams now set up asymmetrically, with each full-back doing different things. Another reason is that many of the league’s most dangerous scorers – Marcus Rashford, Mohamed Salah and Bukayo Saka, for instance – attack from wide. A right-footed centre-back playing at left-back can be effective against wide forwards looking to cut inside on their left foot.