Picking a Combined Liverpool-Arsenal XI

Vince Siu@vincetalksfootyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2014

Picking a Combined Liverpool-Arsenal XI

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    This Saturday, Anfield hosts a clash between two Premier League titans who are the second and third highest scorers this season, when fourth-placed Liverpool welcome the visit of leaders Arsenal.

    As we look forward to this high-profile match that may have major repercussions on both the title race and the battle for the top four, besides pondering what lineups each team should field to earn a result, let’s also take a more light-hearted look at this fixture.

    Here we’ve selected a combined Liverpool-Arsenal XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation, complete with a seven-man bench. It doesn’t bode too well for Reds fans, with just two names in our starting lineup—but let us know your picks in the comments below.

Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny

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    Simon Mignolet’s been a very good signing for Liverpool, but in goal we’ll go with Arsenal’s No. 1 Wojciech Szczesny, who’s come on leaps and bounds this season.

    With 11 clean sheets (four ahead of Mignolet), 21 goals conceded (eight fewer) and 73 saves (two fewer), Szczesny has been a big part of Arsenal’s successes at the back this season.

Right-Back: Bacary Sagna

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    Considering Glen Johnson’s poor form, possibly due to injury, and the lack of any specialist right-backs to step up in his absence, Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna is far and away the winner in this position.

    A key part of both the Gunners defence and attack, Sagna’s chipped in with a goal and two assists this season.

Left-Back: Kieran Gibbs

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    Liverpool’s flanks have been beset with injuries and unconvincing performances this term, and as Reds fans ponder the possibility of Aly Cissokho facing up to a potent Arsenal attack, the starting left-back here has to be Kieran Gibbs.

    Another member of an all-Arsenal back five in this combined XI. Brendan Rodgers, take note.

Centre-Back: Per Mertesacker

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    Per Mertesacker will probably feature in the Premier League Team of the Season come the end of the current campaign, so he strolls into this lineup with consummate ease.

    Just as he normally does at the Emirates Stadium, with his immaculate positioning, aerial command and composure in defence.

Centre-Back: Laurent Koscielny

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    On potential ability, Mamadou Sakho certainly has a strong shout to be included here in years to come, but the current Arsenal defence wouldn’t be what it is—and Mertesacker wouldn’t be who he was—without the reliable Laurent Koscielny alongside him.

    On top form, Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic of Manchester City might be one of the best defensive partnerships in the league—but Mertesacker and Koscielny hold that title these days.

Central Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey

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    The Premier League’s best box-to-box midfielder once graced the hallowed turfs of Anfield, but the legendary Steven Gerrard was outshone in the reverse fixture at the Emirates in November by the resurgent Aaron Ramsey.

    With eight goals and six assists from just 18 league games this season, Ramsey has stepped up his game and become an essential member of Arsene Wenger’s team. A pity for the neutrals that he won’t make Saturday’s clash due to injury, but a welcome relief for Liverpool.

Central Midfielder: Jack Wilshere

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    The Arsenal midfield has constantly rotated this season due to injuries, but while Mathieu Flamini has proven a useful signing and Mikel Arteta an important deep-lying outlet, it’s Jack Wilshere who makes the cut here.

    Having been slightly overshadowed at the start of the season by Ramsey’s rise, Wilshere has turned in a few stellar match-winning performances in the following months. With five goals and four assists across all competitions this season, he has added direct output to his game besides flair, creativity and tenacity.

Right Forward: Santi Cazorla

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    Our pick for the left forward position means that Santi Cazorla, normally a left winger, moves over to the right, as he has done recently.

    But one of Cazorla’s many admirable traits is his ambidexterity, which means he is comfortable playing—and scoring—on either wing. He has recovered from an early-season dip and looks back to his impressive best.

Left Forward: Luis Suarez

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    From the public flirtations with a move to North London to his impressive goal-scoring feats this season, there’s nothing much about Luis Suarez that we don’t already know.

    He’s earned most of his accolades in a record-breaking season as a lone striker, but Suarez will be taking up a left forward role in our combined XI—and in the process move Cazorla, yet another brilliant offensive weapon, over to the right.

    With a free role on the left side, Suarez will be able to trick and dazzle his way through opposition defences coming in from the wing—all the while putting in a mean defensive shift for the team.

No. 10: Mesut Ozil

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    If Arsene Wenger was hoping to elevate his squad to another level by bringing in a world star, he succeeded with his signing of Mesut Ozil.

    His movement between the lines, ball control, vision, creativity and eye for goal have made him a quality addition to the Premier League. In this combined side full of creative and attacking talents, Ozil in a no. 10 role would augment the entire forward line.

Striker: Daniel Sturridge

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    He doesn’t hold the ball up as well as Olivier Giroud does, but Daniel Sturridge just can’t stop scoring.

    With 14 goals and three assists in just 16 league games this season, Sturridge would thrive at the tip of an ominous forward line. One of the most lethal marksmen in the Premier League on current form.

Bench

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    Simon Mignolet: No legitimate arguments here, surely.

     

    Mamadou Sakho: Comfortable on the ball, underrated in terms of technique and passing, and boasting pace, physicality and aerial ability in abundance, Sakho will blossom into one of the Premier League’s finest centre-backs in due course.

     

    Steven Gerrard: Just shades Mathieu Flamini here, simply because Gerrard has a few things in his locker than no one else across the two squads can offer: game-changing set-piece ability, an eye for the most outrageous passes, and a deadly finish from 12 yards.

     

    Jordan Henderson: A well-deserved place in the squad for Henderson, who has transformed from a timid youngster unsure of his place at Anfield to a confident leader from the front and almost a complete midfielder—minus the finish.

     

    Raheem Sterling: It would be unfair to give Sterling his place simply because Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been injured for most of the season. Sterling has picked up, and improved, on his debut season form, and has matured into one of the most complete wingers in the league.

     

    Theo Walcott: Sterling and Walcott on the same bench? Despite their reputations, they are actually quite different players. What Sterling offers in all-roundedness, Walcott matches with his game-changing pace and improved finishing ability.

     

    Olivier Giroud: One of the Premier League’s most complete strikers when on form, Giroud’s goals haven’t hit the headlines as frequently of late, but he’s far from your typical predatory forward: He’s the key that makes the Arsenal machine tick.

     

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