We’re just two days away from the North London Derby match against Arsenal at the Emirates, and it’s time to make some hard-hitting analysis. Specifically, one of the things we as a staff wondered was what an Arsenal-Spurs combined team would look like. If you could meld the two clubs, what North London United trot out on the field to start the game?
We know we’re a Tottenham blog, but we took a long look at both clubs and came up with what we think is a totally serious and thoughtfully considered NLD XI. We stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation that both clubs tend to use, which did inform some of our decisions, and we’re also ignoring injuries. Hard choices had to be made, but we’re all in agreement here.
You might not fully agree with all of our decisions, but we stand by our choices.
Keeper: Hugo Lloris
With all due respect, I don’t think this is even close. Hugo Lloris has been one of the best keepers not only in the Premier League this season, but in the world. Spurs are lucky to have him. Peter Cech is fine, but he’s no Hugo.
Right back: Kyle Walker
Hector Bellerin is destined for greatness and will probably end up playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid someday. But he’s not there yet. Kyle Walker has quietly developed into England’s best attacking right back, overcoming injuries and dogged accusations of mental mistakes. He’s fully deserving of a place in the NLD XI.
Center backs: Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen
Call me crazy, but I simply cannot break up this Belgian center back duo. Toby Alderweireld is still injured, but you can’t deny that when he’s on the pitch he’s one of the best center backs in the Premier League, and even opposition fans can’t argue with that. In his absence, Jan Vertonghen has stepped up and put in some exceptional defensive performances. In fairness, Laurent Koscielny is a great defender, but in my humble opinion Janny Verts juuuuuuuust squeaks in.
Left back: Danny Rose
Submitted for your consideration:
Central midfielders: Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele
Oh sure, Arsenal have Francis Coquelin and he’s great and all, but I think even Gooner fans would rather have England native Eric Dier protecting the back line from a defensive position than Coquelin. And if Granit Xhaka can’t get in the Arsenal squad ahead of Coquelin, he’s not getting in the NLD XI. Meanwhile, Mousa Dembele, when healthy, is a dominant central midfielder who makes Spurs’ offense tick. The fact that the rest of the footballing world is slow to this realization isn’t my problem. He also gets injured (slightly) less than Aaron Ramsey, so that’s another tick in his favor.
Attacking midfielders: Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min
Controversial? Possibly. But Son Heung-Min is Tottenham’s leading scorer this season, and as much as I love Erik Lamela and his terrier-like pressing game, I think you have to give the edge to the Korean due to his goal threat, especially from the flanks. Elsewhere, there was much argument over who would start as CAM: you just can’t leave either Christian Eriksen or Dele Alli out of this XI, so while Eriksen is probably better played centrally, Alli deserves the start, and Eriksen can be just as effective drifting in from the left.
Why no Meszut Özil? Because he looks like Marty Feldman and as much as I love Young Frankenstein I just can’t get past that.
Striker: Harry Kane
Yes, Kane’s been injured for the past several weeks and Olivier Giroud is on a string of good form lately. But Kane’s the reigning golden boot winner and is considered one of the best strikers in England. How can you keep him off this list? Answer: you can’t.
Final North London Derby Combined XI
So, here it is: our North London Derby combined Arsenal-Tottenham starting XI. We at Cartilage Free Captain think we’ve been completely fair and made rational and informed decisions at every position. We stand by everything in this article. But we want to hear from you! Should Erik Lamela have replaced Son Heung-Min? Is there a place for Victor Wanyama? Have your say in the comments!