Football thrives on rivalries and derbies make them fiercer!
The crunching tackles come far often than in regular games, the fans’ chants have that extra bit of spice and club legends are made overnight for winning is the sole aim on either side’s mind.
The Premier League has seen many special derbies develop since its inception but the North London Derby stands out for various reasons.
Arsenal, for many years the capital’s foremost club, have been made to feel uncomfortable in recent seasons by their exuberant neighbours—Tottenham Hotspur.
Whether London is Red or White (or Blue, while you are at it!) has been a raging topic for the past few decades and fans are desperate to secure bragging rights after each edition of the North London Derby.
And nothing quite stokes the fire ahead of Saturday’s mammoth clash at the Emirates than a combined Gunners-Lilywhites XI.
Considering all their players are full-fledged internationals and some even have a claim on being called world class, almost every selection is expected to be a bone of contention.
Both teams play similar (three at the back) systems, and hence, The Statesman has compiled a combined XI in a 3-4-3 formation for you:
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
Petr Cech is a Premier League legend, of that there is no doubt.
But, the 35-year-old is past his prime and Tottenham’s captain—Hugo Lloris— is one of the best keepers, not just in the English top-flight, but the world as well.
The 30-year-old Frenchman is the perfect exponent of the sweeper-keeper position and while he does make the odd mistake, he more than makes amends with a flying save the next moment.
Centre-Back: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Since his arrival in England from Atletico Madrid, Alderweireld has steadily established himself as the Premier League’s finest central defender.
High praise, but the 28-year-old deserves all the acclaim as his displays for the Lilywhites have enabled them to maintain one of the league’s stingiest defences.
Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi are decent defenders but while former is clearly over the hill (retiring at the end of the season), the latter (who had reportedly fallen out of favour with Arsene Wenger) is simply not in Alderweireld’s league.
Centre Back: Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Spurs have enjoyed the services of Jan Vertonghen in his prime and the versatile Belgian has been a treat to watch.
Unsurprisingly, considering he came up through the ranks at the Ajax Academy, the 30-year-old has a cultured approach to defending and is at ease when he has the ball.
Technically, Alderweireld has an edge over Vertonghen (especially in the physical department) but since none of Arsenal’s defenders have covered themselves in glory, the entire defence of our combined XI is constituted of players fluent in French.
Centre Back: Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
Laurent Koscielny’s big-game record doesn’t make for good reading, but with the Gunners misfiring for a few seasons now, it would be harsh to single him out for their travails.
The 32-year-old remains Arsenal’s best defender and while Davinson Sanchez has been promising in his debut season so far, it’s too early to rate Spurs’ £40 million acquisition (and record signing) over the hard-hitting Frenchman.
Left Wing-Back: Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal)
A controversial inclusion, considering both Spurs Danny Rose (when fit) and Ben Davies have been impressive for the past two seasons, but Arsenal’s Bosnian recruit has been imposing since his arrival in the summer.
What acts against Davies is that he plays second fiddle to Rose, who has just made his comeback from a long-term knee injury.
The 24-year-old Kolasinac has already scored once this season and has chipped in with three assists for good measure.
While Davies’ offensive contributions have been equally noteworthy (two goals and two assists), his starting spot is not certain with Rose’s return and Kolasinac’s game seems tailor-made for the wing-back slot.
Rose could have made the slot, but the 27-year-old isn’t as consistent as he should be and Kolasinac edges him out.
Central Midfield: Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Every team’s unsung hero is the one who shields the defence.
The versatile Eric Dier does that job admirably for Spurs and doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves.
Mousa Dembele is a fine player, but the talented Belgian isn’t a proper defensive defensive midfielder and Dier would be the logical choice for most managers when asked to pick an enforcer.
Victor Wanyama was a contender for this slot, but the African’s technical abilities aren’t refined and the need of the hour is for modern footballers to be able to be as competent with the ball as they are without it.
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka has impressed in patches, but like most of his teammates, has been found wanting in the big games and the likes of Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny don’t look like they will ever become regulars for the Gunners.
Central Midfield: Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
The man who makes Spurs tick is their Danish maestro in midfield.
Ideally a No.10, Eriksen is versatile enough to play in almost any system. His graft often goes unnoticed due to his pin-point through balls and his well-struck shots.
The 25-year-old Eriksen, who’s the toast of his nation after helping them qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, is a handy option on set-pieces as well and you would be hard-pressed to find a notable flaw in his game.
Aaron Ramsey has shown signs of getting back to his best, but the Welshman continues to struggle with a variety of niggling injuries and Eriksen is the clear winner here.
Mesut Ozil has intermittently lit up the Premier League with his elegance, but the German hasn’t quite lived up to his billing in North London and perhaps a change of scenery would be best for all parties involved.
Santi Cazorla would have been in with a shout, but the diminutive Spaniard has been injured for so long that’s it’s difficult to believe he’s still a part of Arsene Wenger’s squad.
Right Wing-Back: Heung-Min Son (Tottenham Hotspur)
Technically the Korean plays in a more advanced position for the Lilywhites, but his excellent work-rate and underrated technical abilities would make him a fine wing-back.
Kieran Trippier has done an admirable job in the position since Kyle Walker’s departure but one feels new recruit Serge Aurier will be Mauricio Pochettino’s first-choice in the future. The Ivorian can be deadly on his day, but his rash tendencies threaten to overshadow his positive contributions each time he steps foot onto the pitch.
Hector Bellerin, a reported Barcelona target, is probably the fastest player in the Premier League but pace isn’t everything and the young Spaniard’s poor decision-making often lets him down in the final third.
Considering Son is a proper winger (or second forward), this selection is expected to create a furore, but after his 14 goal return last season and fine form in the current campaign, he just had to be included.
Left Wing: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Arsenal’s wantaway winger is yet to hit top form this season, but the Chilean remains one of the Premier League’s finest wide-men.
Since his arrival from Barcelona in 2014, Sanchez has let his feet do the talking and after having scored 53 goals in his last three seasons in the English top-flight, it’s safe to assume that the 28-year-old is one of the best players in England.
Sanchez’s petulance can be grating at times, but no player is perfect and as a move to Manchester City (or some other lucky club) nears, Arsenal fans best enjoy the Chilean’s displays while they still can.
Centre Forward: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Was there any doubt?
Winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot for the past two seasons, Kane continues to score goals at a prodigious rate and any of Spurs’ rivals would be counting their stars if they could manage to nab him.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that rumours of a move to Real Madrid continue to swirl but remaining with the Lilywhites, who have centred their game around him, is an appealing proposition for the 24-year-old as he is bound to become a legend here.
Barring perhaps Sergio Aguero, Kane is the league’s finest centre forward and the stats are there to back up the bold claim.
Alexandre Lacazette, who is Arsenal’s record signing, looks like the real deal, but it’s too early to seriously consider the rapid 26-year-old Frenchman over Kane.
Right Wing: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
Apart from his affinity to score wondrous goals, Dele Alli doesn’t quite have a standout ability but yet, is one of English football’s big hopes. At times his naughtiness gets him in trouble, but the lanky midfielder continues to churn out performances that belie his young age.
Along with Kane, the 21-year-old Alli is one of Spurs’s brightest prospect and after his 18-goal return in the Premier League last season, picking him was a no-brainer.
The Gunners’ senior options in this position, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, have had their moments, but due to a variety of reasons, haven’t truly established themselves as sure-shot starters.