Ahead of this season’s first North London Derby next weekend at The Emirates, we take a look at how the squads shape up against each other with this combined team.
Formation- Since it’s the most commonly used shape for both sides this season, it seems logical to go with a 3-4-3 for this team.
While Petr Cech has had a long and illustrious career, winning trophies with Arsenal and Chelsea (and establishing himself as one of the best ‘keepers in the country in the process), on the basis of the last few seasons I have to go with Hugo Lloris. The Spurs- and France- captain has gone from strength to strength since his move from Lyon in 2012, while Cech has undeniably and perhaps inevitably declined.
With almost a dozen central defenders competing for only three spots, competition is tight. However, that doesn’t stop Toby Alderweireld from walking into the side. With over 250 career appearances under his belt, the big Belgian is arguably the best in the league at his trade. The second slot goes to his Spurs partner Jan Vertonghen, an underrated defender who hasn’t missed a minute in the league so far this season and narrowly beats out the impressive Davinson Sánchez.
Around now, it’s probably time we selected our first Arsenal player, no? Despite the protests of Messrs Mustafi and Mertesacker, it’s Laurent Koscielny who makes my side after several years now of being Arsenal’s undisputed best defender. Sorry, Rob Holding.
The interesting thing here is that almost none of the wide defenders on offer here are true wing-backs- not really. In reality, they have all spent most of their careers as attack-minded fullbacks who are currently being asked to play slightly further forward, liberated by the cover of an extra man behind them.
An in-form Hector Bellerin could run away with it on the right, but, unfortunately for Arsenal, the Spaniard hasn’t really been at his best for a long while now. On top of that, I haven’t been impressed with Serge Aurier’s defensive ability so far at Tottenham, so I’ll have to go with Kieran Trippier on that side. On the left, Ben Davies and Danny Rose have shared the position pretty evenly this year for Pochettino’s side, but I can’t leave out Sead Kolasinac, who’s dragged the Gunners through some difficult times this season with his unparalleled attacking dynamism. It helps that he’s built like a brick wall too.
Now this is a tough one. I would argue that there’s six players deserving of a place here, but only two can prevail. After much deliberation, I’ve decided that both of my choices will come from Tottenham. Mousa Dembélé is the first: a shoe in in my eyes, the Belgian is one of the most complete midfielders in the Premier League and still goes unnoticed by many. If I’m being honest, he doesn’t face particularly stiff competition from counterpart Granit Xhaka, who I haven’t taken to at all since his move to Arsenal last season.
The second is a bit of a cheat (ambiguity intended) because he rarely actually plays in central midfield, but there’s no way I’m leaving out one of the best young prospects in world football. Yep, it’s Dele Alli, who’s recently found his form after a dry start to the season. Despite some of the less appealing aspects of his game, the ex-Derby man makes the side due to his creativity and eye for goal.
The most-used catchphrase in Premier League journalism right now is that Mesut Ozil doesn’t show up in big games. I hate lazy clichés like that- but in this case I can’t argue and that’s why the phenomenally talented German doesn’t make it into my XI. Instead, his teammate Alexis Sanchez takes up the left-hand spot. Sanchez hasn’t been at his usual brilliant best this year, but was Arsenal’s best player last season (and the season before that… and the season before that), and a move to Manchester City seems to be looming.
Opposite him is a player I must confess to being infatuated by: Christian Eriksen, the closest thing in the league to Kevin De Bruyne who isn’t Kevin De Bruyne, a man who can turn entire games by himself.
Of course, these playmakers are nothing without a good striker to create for, and we have a great one. Harry Kane has well and truly arrived at the top level now, consistently delivering in top-class fashion for a fourth consecutive season and terrorising defences from Newcastle to Bournemouth. There’s nothing wrong with Alexandre Lacazette, but truthfully I never even considered putting him in over the Englishman- at the moment, it’s just no contest.
With the depth that features in each squad, I found myself leaving out so many players that I decided I had to pick substitutes bench too. Even then, so many good players were missing that I opted to make it a full 23-man squad- and still so many players have missed out who would easily get into half the sides in the Premier League. In the interest of inclusion, I’ve included them all below.
Lineup: Lloris, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Koscielny, Trippier, Dembelé, Alli, Kolasinac, Eriksen, Kane, Sanchez
Bench: Cech, Rose, Mustafi, Wanyama, Ozil, Son, Lacazette
Reserves: Ospina, Bellerin, Sanchez, Ramsey, Giroud
Notable Omissions: Mertesacker, Wilshere, Walcott, Monreal, Cazorla, Welbeck, Coquelin, Elneny, Aurier, Lamela, Vorm, Wanyama, Dier, Sissoko, Llorente, Winks, Davies
Agree with my selection? Feel free to comment and tell us who would make your Arsenal-Tottenham combined XI.