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With the north London derby this weekend, I wonder how much controversy I could stir up by picking what I think would be the best combined ‘Arsenal/Spurs XI’ based on the current season?
I’m betting that it’s a whole lot, but that sort of thing has never stopped me before, so here we go!
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris, Tottenham
Picking between Hugo Lloris and Wojciech Szczesny is not an easy choice.
French international Lloris is very much the finished article, whilst Arsenal’s Polish keeper still has some development in him. Personally, I’ve always thought the Pole had all of the attributes to be a top notch keeper, but probably needed a year as number two to an undoubted world class older talent.
Signing Julio Cesar a couple of years ago, or Iker Casillas, would have been ideal. It would have been a short term gain for the club in terms of games played, but a massive bonus for Szczesny, to have his game polished by someone who has “been there, done that” a the highest level.
I’m therefore going to go for Lloris between the sticks.
Right-back: Bacary Sagna
Along with the goalkeeper, the back four is key to the defensive stability of any team, and therefore I make no apologies for overloading it with Arsenal players.
At right back I’m taking Bacary Sagna. There will probably be howls of derision from Spurs’ fans over that one as Kyle Walker will have many people arguing his case. The problem I have however is that a defender’s first job is to defend.
Looking to move forward, Walker would have the edge, but Sagna is case-hardened in the role, and Walker can sometimes get exposed in one-on-one situations.
Centre-backs: Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker
Centre-backs are all about partnerships and whilst Dawson has performed admirably this season for Spurs, he hasn’t really had a regular partner with which to build a relationship.
I’m therefore going for the Franco-German axis of Koscielney and Mertesacker at the heart of my defence.
The huge German, Mertesacker, has the ability to dominate in the air, the in-game knowledge, and leadership qualities to have made him a favourite of Arsene Wenger’s. Alongside him, the unassuming Frenchman, Koscielny, goes about his work in a quietly efficient was. They are an ideal partnership.
Left-back: Jan Vertonghen
The left flank is more problematical with no real outstanding candidate, so I’m going a bit free form here and selecting Belgian Jan Vertonghen.
The versatile defender has the ability to play in a number of roles across the back line and has also been successfully deployed as a ‘sweeper’ in the past. I did toy with putting the Spurs man in at centre-back, as he is my sort of defender; solid, but with natural footballing ability.
Defensive Midfield: Paulinho
My midfield selections are very much shaped by my game plan, and as I’m going 4-3-3, I need three central midfield players.
In the middle, I want the solid and dependable holding player. It almost sounds like ‘foto-fit’ description on Flamini, and I was tempted to go for the Arsenal man.
In the end however, I plumped for the Tottenham’s Paulinho. It was a close call, but on sheer footballing ability, the Brazilian just gets the nod.
Central Midfield: Santi Cazorla
For the other two midfield players, I’m looking for craft and invention, but also with an eye to defensive responsibilities.
I’ve gone for one from each team here. Santi Cazorla has the skills to open up any defence, but is always a solid performer who notches his fair share of goals. Perhaps controversially, I’ve picked the Spaniard ahead of the Gunners’ record signing Mesut Ozil.
This time cries of anguish from Gunners’ fans, but you can’t please everybody so you have to please yourself, and looking at Ozil’s form of late means no place for him. To be fair, Aaron Ramsey also came close to a place, but with only one shirt to allocate, I made my choice!
Central Midfield: Christian Eriksen
Alongside Cazorla, I’m putting in Tottenham’s Eriksen.
The Dane is a player that has been long talked of as ideal for the Premier League. It will be encouraging to Spurs’ fans however that he didn’t burst on the scene and then fade away, a bit like charges that could perhaps be levelled at Ozil, but has had a more steady first season.
To my mind, Eriksen is almost the epitome of the modern midfield player, and gets into my team.
Wingers: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott
At the sharp end of my team, I want pace and goals, so I’ve gone for two wide men and a big guy who knows where the onion bag is.
On the flanks, Arsenal have the call with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott. Yes, I know Walcott’s injured at the moment, but I’m picking this team on this season, not on today, and if I want pace on the wide, Walcott has to be a strong contender.
The England international appears certain to miss the World Cup after his knee injury – ironically sustained against Spurs – and the loss to the national team may not be felt until the tournament begins and it’s realised that pace on the break will be such a key factor in Brazil.
Putting the Ox into my team somewhere was a no-brainer. I think this kid could be the real deal. He has massive potential, but even now his ability to influence a game with goals or assists, makes him a shoo-in for me. I did consider Lennon and Townsend for the wide positions, and nearly put Lennon in, but felt it would just be for equity’s sake, so stuck with Walcott.
Striker: Emmanuel Adebayor
And now to the striker. The big guy who will score my goals. Giroud had an exceptional first part to the season, and Adebayor came to the fore in the latter part after another Andre Villas-Boas ‘project’ was consigned to the waste-paper basket.
Giroud has a strong argument, but Adebayor is my striker.
Managed correctly, he could be the most effective striker in the country. Pace and power, height and ability are all at his disposal. Where Giroud is broadly effective in certain elements of the striker role, Adebayor can excel in them all.
When Tim Sherwood took over from Villas-Boas, he was canny enough to bring the Togo international back into the fold, and was repaid handsomely with the goals that set the new manager off to a flying start.
The only slight doubt I have is the long term sustainability of form. Adebayor seems to have glorious first seasons that then decline into mediocrity and then the inevitable moving on.
With the right manager however, to coax his ability along, he can be devastating and that gets him the front position on my team.
What? No Wilshere, Ozil or Ramsey call the Arsenal fans! No Walker, Lennon or Bentaleb demand Spurs’ fans! Yes, I know it will cause debate, but that’s what this sort of thing is all about. So, what do you think? Try picking your team. It really isn’t that easy!
Sagna, Koscielney, Mertesacker, Vertonghan,
Cazorla, Paulinho, Eriksen
Walcott, Adebayor, Oxlade-Chamberlain
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