The curtain raiser for the return of the Premier League is the North London Derby on Saturday. The fiery clash between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs is a rivalry drenched in history and strong footballing hatred.
In today’s segment, we’ll be looking at an Arsenal – Spurs combined XI. This will be based on player quality rather than current form due to there being a few players out of form at this moment in time but can’t be left out of a combined team.
Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
Formation: both teams deploy very different formations but have a host of quality players throughout their squads. For this reason, and to accommodate certain stars in more favourable positions, we’re choosing the 4-4-2 setup.
Goalkeeper : Hugo Lloris
This one was tough as Aaron Ramsdale has impressed since joining Arsenal last season. But since Lloris conceded less goals last campaign and has the same record as his North London counterpart this season, we’ll stick the Spurs captain in.
Oh, and him captaining France to World Cup glory in 2018 may be a good enough reason to stick him in there, too.
Right-Back: Takehiro Tomiyasu
The right-back slot is easy to be fair. Despite Ben White keeping the Tomiyasu out the starting lineup at the start of this season, the Japanese International has been a revelation since signing from Bologna in 2021.
Although he missed large parts of last season through injury, Tomiyasu was a solid presence throughout the time he did spend on the field, never putting in a performance below 7/10. He’s strong defensively, dominant aerially and is good on the ball, making him a perfect fit for almost any system in the world.
Furthermore, Spurs’ options on the right side of their defence is very limited with fans often slating Emerson Royal and Matt Doherty. New signing Djed Spence has not played enough this season, with rumours escalating regarding a loan deal in January.
Centre-back: William Saliba
Yes, we know he’s only played seven Premier League games in his career so far, but William Saliba is showing glimpses of why he was labelled as the ‘Mbappe of defenders’ during his time in France.
The 21-year-old has started every game for Arsenal this season and has been nothing short of rock solid in Arteta’s system. His physique and pace give off the perception that Saliba doesn’t even break stride when defending, almost Van Dijk-esque.
Not only is he defensively astute, Saliba is also good at progressing the ball, ranking 3rd in the league for progressive carries behind only Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias. Where the Frenchman does outdo the Man City duo though is directly in front of goal, scoring twice and grabbing one assist in his opening 7 games.
Thoroughly deserving of a spot in this XI.
Centre-back: Cristian Romero
Argentina International Cristian Romero has been without doubt the best piece of defensive business Spurs have done in recent years. Romero is an aggressive, no-nonsense defender that never shies away from a challenge.
Despite being consistently injured since moving from Italy in 2021, the 2020/2021 Serie A defender of the year has been sound for the North Londoners as they seem much more defensively astute when he’s in the side.
Lionel Messi also accredited Romero after their 2021 Copa America triumph, the first of both Messi’s and Romero’s international careers. If Messi thinks Romero is class, we think he’s probably good enough for our NLD combined XI.
Special mention to Gabriel Magalhaes of Arsenal. Unlucky not to make it.
Left-back: Kieran Tierney
Oleksandr Zinchenko has begun this season as one of the standout left-backs in the league, but that’s mainly due to the role he plays which allows his midfield qualities to show.
But Kieran Tierney is a more conventional fullback, solid defensively and can put in a decent cross. The Scottish International is another member of the backline that is consistently injured, missing almost half the games available since he joined Arsenal in 2019.
However, his class and hard-man attitude make him an important figure in the Arsenal squad, culminating in shouts to make him captain before it was given to Martin Ødegaard.
Ivan Perisic is unfortunate not to make this team given the lack of a wing-back role in the chosen system.
Centre Midfielder: Thomas Partey
Thomas Partey is the heartbeat of most good things that come out of Arsenal. The Ghanaian International has been pivotal for Arsenal in the last 12 months after finding it difficult to initially settle into life in North London.
Partey can operate as a box-to-box midfielder or as a number 6, with the latter being where he’s mostly been deployed during the calendar year. The 29-year-old is also very tidy on the ball, being able to evade the press easily as well as play line-breaking passes.
Spur’s option for this position is Pierre-Emile Højbjerg who’s had a topsy-turvy time since moving to North London. The Denmark International will have to settle for a place as Partey’s deputy.
Centre Midfielder: Yves Bissouma
Partnering Thomas Partey is former Brighton midfielder and Arsenal fan, Yves Bissouma. The Mali International joined the Lilywhites for a bargain £25million, but has struggled to break into the starting XI, only starting one game in the league thus far.
However, Bissouma’s performances for Brighton during his career at the Amex suggests it’s only a matter of time before he is one of the first names on the team sheet, dominating countless midfields including against Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
It’s difficult to pick out a team that Bissouma wouldn’t start for in the Premier League, and for that reason he starts in this combined XI.
Left Midfielder: Heung-Min Son
Before any one says Son isn’t a midfielder, we know. But in this system the wide midfielders are essentially wingers with extra defensive responsibilities.
Anyway, does Son really need any justification? He may not have had the best start to the current campaign but is still probably in the top 5 attackers in England. The South Korean International has 96 goals and 47 assists in 239 Premier League appearances and, of course, won the golden boot last season scoring 23 goals, none of which were penalties.
Furthermore, Son has developed statistically the best partnership in Premier League history with Harry Kane, combining for an astonishing 42 goals.
Son is undoubtedly getting a place in this team.
Right Midfielder: Bukayo Saka
Saka has come on leaps and bounds since making his debut in the 2018/2019 season. The Arsenal star is currently likely to be starting for England at the World Cup on the right-wing, after Saka put up 18 goal contributions last campaign in the league.
Saka has already made over 100 league appearances for Arsenal even though he just turned 21 earlier this month. Despite many criticizing the player for a slow start to the season, Saka has already contributed to 5 goals in 7 Premier League appearances this season, sitting only behind Kevin De Bruyne on the assist charts with four.
Dejan Kulusevski deserves a mention, but nobody can deny Bukayo Saka’s place in this eleven.
Striker: Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus’ impact since his arrival in North London has been nothing short of sensational. The Brazilian is a major reason why the Gunners’ currently sit top of the Premier League, scoring 4 goals and laying on 3 assists in the opening 7 games.
Jesus won the Premier League multiple times and was a player Pep Guardiola often called upon in the big games at Man City. The Brazilian has contributed to 94 goals and 166 appearances in the PL, averaging a goal every 160 minutes.
Not only is Jesus proving to be a menace in front of goal, but he is also excelling at progressing the ball, completing the joint-most dribbles in the league this campaign with 18.
The Brazilian has also won the most fouls in the Premier League this season on 22, proving how much of a handful he is to opposition defenders.
Striker: Harry Kane
Rounding off the eleven is none other than Harry Kane. The England captain moved above Andy Cole in recent weeks to become the 3rd top scorer in Premier League history.
The Spurs striker has also proven to be a constant thorn in the Arsenal team, being the player to have scored the most against them in the Premier League with 13.
Kane is on course to break Alan Shearer’s record of 260 PL goals, and no one can say he doesn’t deserve it. He’s been one of the world’s best strikers for the last 5 to 7 years.
A modern Premier League great, there is no one more worthy of a spot in this combined XI than Harry Kane.