Liverpool meet Arsenal in a huge Premier League clash this weekend, as the table’s top two collide at Anfield.
The victors will be guaranteed top spot for the Christmas celebrations, with both teams having made strong starts to the campaign to move into title contention.
Ahead of their must-watch showdown, we’ve picked our best combined XI from the two squads.
Goalkeeper: Alisson – Liverpool
Arsenal’s goalkeeping position has been one of the talking points of the season, with summer recruit David Raya having failed to convince since ousting Aaron Ramsdale for the number one spot. There’s no such uncertainty at Liverpool, with Alisson one of the very best in the business.
The Brazilian made two vital saves in the recent win at Crystal Palace and continues to bail out his backline with regularity. Last season, Alisson over-performed in terms of Expected Goals Against by the highest margin of any goalkeeper in the Premier League. He’s over-performed on that metric in each of his five full seasons at Liverpool. An elite shot-stopper.
Premier League clubs that Alisson has kept the most clean sheets against:
🔵 Everton – 7
🔴 Manchester United – 7
The Brazilian loves a rivalry! 😍 pic.twitter.com/UebgoFOWMs
— 90min (@90min_Football) December 18, 2023
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
Is Trent Alexander-Arnold really a right-back anymore? It’s a conversation to be had. Alexander-Arnold’s unprecedented output from full-back has seen the Liverpool defender moved into midfield of late, with the 25-year-old granted licence to roam and create.
It’s a tactic that has worked out well for Jurgen Klopp, who has seen the England international return two goals and three assists in his last six appearances across all competitions. Perhaps only Kevin De Bruyne aside, Alexander-Arnold is, arguably, the best passer in the Premier League.
Centre-back: William Saliba – Arsenal
William Saliba’s first full season in the Arsenal side saw the Frenchman named in the PFA Team of the Year, such was the impact of the centre-back on the North Londoners.
This weekend will see Saliba, emerging as one of the best defenders in Europe, face off against Virgil van Dijk in a fascinating battle, with the latter having been widely recognised as the Premier League’s best centre-back in recent years.
Just ONE Premier League defender has won the ball back 50+ times in the middle third of the pitch this season – William Saliba 🇫🇷🔴
Stepping 🆙 pic.twitter.com/vrb4Kwp7o3
— LiveScore (@livescore) December 21, 2023
Saliba’s numbers this season indicate his influence at Arsenal, with the 22-year-old among the highest ranked players in the Premier League for pass completion (6th – 93%), touches (5th), progressive carrying distance (7th) and percentage of dribblers tackled (1st – 91.7%).
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
Saliba is competing for a crown Virgil van Dijk has worn largely unchallenged in recent seasons. After a dip in form last season, the Dutch defender has been back to his best in the current campaign.
Named as Liverpool captain in the summer, the 32-year-old has been largely flawless as the leader of the Reds’ new-look side. No player in the Premier League has won a higher percentage of their aerial duels so far this season.
80% – Virgil van Dijk has the best aerial win rate of any player in the Premier League this season (min. 30 contested):
80% – Virgil van Dijk (71/89)
78% – Dara O’Shea (45/58)
77% – Kristoffer Ajer (24/31)
75% – Thiago Silva (30/40)
74% – Joël Matip (28/38)
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 21, 2023
Left-back: Oleksandr Zinchenko – Arsenal
Oleksandr Zinchenko has been a key piece in the evolution of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, with the Ukrainian’s influence from full-back felt. Exceptional in tight areas of the pitch and intelligent in his inversions into midfield, Zinchenko’s multi-faceted game has enabled Arsenal’s tactical plan.
He ranks third in the Premier League for progressive passes (136) this season and fourth for dribblers tackled (26), despite some scepticism over his defensive work.
Midfield: Declan Rice – Arsenal
Is Declan Rice the transfer to transform Arsenal into title winners?
Arsenal broke their transfer record to sign Rice from West Ham in the summer, but few have been discussing his £105m price tag given his form this season. The 24-year-old has been superb in the centre of Mikel Arteta’s midfield, with big moments having already arrived.
Late winners against Manchester United and Luton have kept Arsenal’s title challenge on track, in addition to the relentless defensive work that has strengthened the spine of the side.
Arguably, the Premier League Player of the Season so far.
Midfield: Dominik Szoboszlai – Liverpool
Dominik Szoboszlai is another new signing to have hit the ground running, adding a new dynamic to Liverpool’s midfield. The former RB Leipzig star has won admirers at Anfield for his mix of work-rate and technique, driving forward as a creative force to link with the forward line.
A healthy habit of scoring stunning goals has certainly helped, with this rocket against West Ham in midweek adding to Szoboszlai’s own Goal of the Season competition.
This angle of Szobo’s stunning strike 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/RnyjYzEaBZ
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 21, 2023
Midfield: Martin Odegaard – Arsenal
Completing our midfield trio is Martin Odegaard.
The Arsenal captain has evolved into one of the most watchable players in the Premier League in North London, with the responsibility as Arsenal’s creative catalyst having brought the best from the Norwegian’s talent.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 20, 2023
Last season, he scored 15 Premier League goals and added seven assists, and but for the record-breaking feats of a certain compatriot might just have been crowned the division’s finest footballer.
Perhaps the greatest compliment we can give Odegaard is that he’d fit into any Arsenal team of the Premier League era. He’s that good.
Forward: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool
Options aplenty as we enter the final third, but one certainty for our side is Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian remains the standard to which others (perhaps unfairly) are compared, having produced insane numbers since signing for Liverpool. The Reds rejected Saudi Pro League riches to keep hold of the 31-year-old last summer and have been rewarded with a league-leading 18 goals and assists in 17 games.
It’s 15 goals for the season in all competitions before we’ve even paused for the Christmas celebrations. A fourth consecutive 30-goal campaign looks probable for Salah, who recently passed 200 goals in a Liverpool shirt.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 14, 2023
Forward: Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
Bukayo Saka will have to settle for the left-sided role in our front three, with the Arsenal winger too good to leave out.
Saka is one of just four Premier League players to reach 5+ goals and 5+ assists so far this season, and the youngest to have done so for good measure. Full of pace, penetrative running and creativity, the 22-year-old is integral for club and country despite the wealth of wide options available to the latter.
This season, Saka has starred during his first Champions League campaign. He provided seven goal involvements in five games as Arsenal cruised into the last 16.
Forward: Gabriel Jesus – Arsenal
Gabriel Jesus earns the number nine position, ahead of the compelling chaos of Darwin Nunez, the under-used Cody Gakpo, and Diogo Jota.
Jesus might not bag the bucket-load of goals desired from an out-and-out centre-forward, but he does plenty brilliantly. His hustle, intricate build-up play and occasionally overlooked physical presence provides Arsenal with an outstanding outlet when on-song.
He’s been a great addition for the Gunners, despite routine calls for further additions up top.