January 27, 2023

The North London Derby takes place on Sunday with Arsenal top of the Premier League and Tottenham in the hunt for a top-four spot – but who would make it into a combined XI of each team?

Tottenham hosts Arsenal this weekend in what could be a pivotal week for the Premier League. The Gunners currently sit top of the table, five points clear of Manchester City – who themselves have a derby clash against rivals Manchester United.

If results go the right way for Mikel Arteta’s side, their lead at the top will extend to eight points. If not, Pep Guardiola’s team will be hot on their tails with only two points separating them.

Tottenham, meanwhile, is three points off the top four having played a game more than Manchester United. Antonio Conte’s side has not had an ideal restart to the Premier League after the end of the World Cup, drawing against Brentford before a 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa at home. However, they were back on form with a 4-0 win against London rivals Crystal Palace last time out.

This game kicks off a tough run of fixtures for both sides that could define their seasons. And ahead of the huge clash between the top teams in the capital, we at football.London decided to ask: who makes it into a combined XI between the Gunners and Spurs?

Alasdair Gold, Tottenham correspondent

This was a tough one because Arsenal is clearly flying high and playing great football so on the form they deserve to have far more players in this combined North London Derby starting XI.

However, I wanted to pick a team that either has impressed in these derbies at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before or has the experience to deal with them.

That’s why I’ve gone with World Cup winner Hugo Lloris over Aaron Ramsdale behind a blended back four. In midfield, I’ve had to bring back Dejan Kulusevski into a deeper role because I wanted to fit both the Swede and Bukayo Saka into the team and didn’t want to go with wing-backs.

Up front, I was very close to picking Gabriel Martinelli ahead of the out-of-form Son Heung-min, but the South Korean star comes alive in this fixture so I’ve stuck with him.

Gold’s combined XI: Lloris; White, Romero, Saliba, Perisic; Kulusevski, Bentancur, Odegaard; Saka, Kane, Son.

Kaya Kaynak, chief Arsenal writer

This may seem over the top but it’s really hard to see how many Spurs players get into this Arsenal team. It’s of course worth the usual caveat that the two teams play very different systems, but I think the Gunners squad is showing their superiority right now.

Hugo Lloris has come back from the World Cup with an error against Villa, while Aaron Ramsdale is looking nice and solid. If you look at the back line, Arsenal’s full-backs take it comfortably with Ben White clear of whichever right-back it is Antonio Conte decides he doesn’t have faith in that week, and Oleksandr Zinchenko ahead of Ivan Perisic even if they play very different roles.

Gabriel has to be in on the left side of the defense for me, and although Cristian Romero is Spurs’ best defender, how can you leave out William Saliba?

In midfield, Thomas Party is in ahead of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Granit Xhaka starts over Yves Bissouma. Martin Odegaard is one of the best players in the Premier League so he has to play, even if that is a little harsh on Dejan Kulusevski who I’m a fan of.

Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are ahead of the out-of-form Son Heung-min and the misfiring Richarlison. Harry Kane does get in the side though, with Eddie Nketiah set to play ahead of Gabriel Jesus.

Kaynak’s combined XI: Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard; Saka, Kane, Martinelli.

Lee Wilmot, Head of Football

This is the first time in many years that there will be much more Arsenal representation in a combined North London Derby XI.

I’m still going to give the gloves to Hugo Lloris. I am a big fan of Aaron Ramsdale, but while both have a mistake in them I’m going to give it to the experienced man, over the up-and-coming keeper.

Ahead of him, it’s an almost wholly Arsenal backline.

Ben White and Oleksandr Zinchenko as full-backs are almost no-brainers, although Ivan Perisic’s delivery means you could make a big argument for having him in if you play a different formation.

Then William Saliba and Cristian Romero make up the central defense.

In midfield, I have to play a three, and an attacking three at that. Granit Xhaka has been excellent this season, and he’s joined by Martin Odegaard. I have to give a spot to Tottenham’s Rodrigo Bentancur, who is Spurs’ star in that midfield.

Up front, Harry Kane is a given, as is Bukayo Saka for me. Then it’s who takes that third spot. Son Heung-min has not performed this season, so he sits out, and then it’s between Gabriel Martinelli and Dejan Kulusevski.

Just because Kulusevski averages a goal contribution every 130 minutes this season, compared to Martinelli’s 185, I’m picking the Swede.

Wilmot’s combined XI: Lloris; White, Saliba, Romero, Zinchenko; Xhaka, Bentancur, Odegaard; Saka, Kulusevski, Kane.

Tom Canton, Arsenal writer

I look biased, and there’s little that I could likely say to convince people I’m not. However, the fact of the matter is that whilst the likes of Cristian Romero, Son Heung-min, and potentially Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg would’ve featured when the two sides met last year, the reality is only Harry Kane gets into this current Arsenal team sitting high at the top of the table.

If the chance to swap Kane for Gabriel Jesus came about hypothetically, there’s an argument the Gunners are better off with the Brazilian too – but there’s no doubt the England captain is individually the superior striker. However, as for the rest, no other swap makes sense in this scenario, and therefore Kane, and only Kane gets into this combined XI.

Canton’s combined XI: Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Kane, Martinelli.

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