Picking a Combined Tottenham Hotspur-Arsenal XI
Arsenal and Tottenham may hate each other, but both play relatively similar attacking brands of football.
Both attack with fluidity and pace, and both are filled with small, speedy creators. The table clearly shows that Arsenal have been much better at executing their strategy this season, but they both endeavor to achieve the same aesthetic.
Picking a combined Arsenal-Tottenham XI is therefore a difficult task, but I have endeavored to do so using a combination of present quality and future potential in every position, assuming the merged side plays a 4-3-3.
Feel free to dissent.
Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny
One could certainly make a case for Hugo Lloris here, but Szczesny has been so exceptionally consistent this season that leaving him out would be unjust.
The Pole has completely rid himself of the occasional immaturity and poor distribution that plagued him in his first couple campaigns and has always kept Lukasz Fabianski out of the net for any match that matters.
While Lloris is still well ahead of Brad Friedel in Tottenham's pecking order, he has simply not been as dominant between the sticks.
Right-Back: Kyle Walker
On present form, Bacary Sagna would clearly get the nod over Tottenham's young Kyle Walker.
But as mentioned in the opening slide, selections are made based on a combination of form and potential. And even if Sagna can maintain his current level for a while longer, he will likely not do so at Arsenal.
He has not signed a contract extension yet, which means he will almost certainly be off in the summer. Meanwhile, Walker continues to impress with dynamic, if not fully polished, performances that are earning him flirty glances from Roy Hodgson.
Center-Backs: Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny
This is the easiest selection on the list.
Over the last calendar year, Koscielny and Mertesacker have forged an iron-clad partnership in the center of Arsenal's defense, shoring up a back line that for years had been as stable as quicksand.
The two have helped give Arsenal the third-best defensive record in the Premier League, according to Yahoo Sport. Tottenham, meanwhile, have conceded 37 goals to the Gunners' 28.
Consider that 11 of those 28 goals have come in two aberrational thrashings, and that record is even more impressive.
Left-Back: Kieran Gibbs
Kieran Gibbs' playing time has been shortened recently by injuries and rotation, but he is still the most dynamic left-back on either Arsenal or Tottenham.
The debate here really is between Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, rather than the former and any Spurs player. Whereas Arsenal have two left-backs who would start for almost any Premier League team, Tim Sherwood is relatively starved for choice.
Gibbs has effectively combined the winger's instincts he honed while in Arsenal's academy with the defensive nous he acquired after being promoted to the senior team. He's a threat in all areas of the pitch and can lock down almost any opponent on the left.
Defensive Midfielder: Paulinho
Neither club has a truly exceptional player in defensive midfield, but Paulinho combines technical skill and brawn better than either Mathieu Flamini or Mikel Arteta.
The latter two possess a lot of grit and a lot of footballing intelligence, respectively, but Arsene Wenger is forced to choose between them if he does not want to field a very conservative team.
Paulinho can dribble an opponent and uncork the occasional fireball of a shot, but is equally capable of sticking a leg in to make a challenge or dropping back and helping his defense when under pressure.
Though not outstanding, he's simply the better overall player.
Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey
Arsenal have really suffered since Ramsey went down with an injury on Boxing Day. It's incredible to realize that he has not played a single minute of football in 2014 considering how stunning his performances were during the first half of the season.
The Gunners have sorely missed the relentless energy and drive he brought to the midfield during every single match he started. Ramsey also managed to add a surgically clinical goalscoring touch to his tireless running, making him the prototypical box-to-box player.
Almost no other midfielder in the world could challenge him when he was at his peak several months ago. Arsenal will be significantly boosted if he regains anything close to that form when he finally returns in a couple weeks.
Attacking Midfielder: Mesut Ozil
Competition for places begins to really heat up once we get to the attacking end of our combined Arsenal-Tottenham XI.
But Mesut Ozil clearly rises above the fray.
Most of his performances this season have not exemplified a player who is obviously better than his peers. But he has flashed his mesmeric creative ability a few times and has shown it many times in the past at Real Madrid.
Essentially, Ozil's not being able to play in the North London derby due to injury is a massive blow for Arsenal despite his spotty form, and any manager in the world would be overjoyed to have the German spearheading their midfield.
Left-Winger: Christian Eriksen
Before you rush to the comments to bemoan Santi Cazorla's exclusion, consider that Eriksen has notched one fewer goal and one fewer assist than the Spaniard in the Premier League this season despite registering six fewer appearances and less than half as many shots.
Plus, Eriksen is 22 and Cazorla is 29. The Dane has much more room for future growth.
Cazorla is still an excellent player, but seems to have peaked last season. Injury and poor form have knocked him down a couple pegs from his talismanic best, and he does not seem capable of producing the spectacular moments he did last season.
Eriksen, meanwhile, is a fleet-footed creator with a powerful shot. The ball always seems glued to his feet, and he is always looking to make something happen when given it.
Right-Winger: Theo Walcott
Arsenal have been reeling from losing Walcott ever since he ruptured his ACL in a match against Tottenham in January.
He has really matured since last season and looked poised for another excellent year. No longer is he merely a sprinter with a modicum of technical ability; rather, he is a refined finisher and winger who can zip behind a defense and coolly put the ball past the goalkeeper.
The closest analogue Spurs have to Walcott is Aaron Lennon, who is older and not as consistently effective. Lennon provides Tottenham with speed like Walcott does to Arsenal, but he is just not as consistent nor as generally good.
Striker: Olivier Giroud
There are three legitimate options here: Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado and Giroud.
Adebayor's statistics are more than respectable. In 14 Premier League appearances, he has scored eight goals and assisted on three more. More than half of his shots on goal have struck the back of the net.
Soldado really is a nonstarter. It's quite safe to say that he has failed in his first season at Tottenham, having scored only six goals in the Premier League in 23 appearances—many of which have come from the penalty spot. His first goal of 2014 came two weeks ago.
Olivier Giroud's numbers could and should be better, but they at least match Adebayor's. Unlike the latter, Giroud is not moody and contributes in both midfield and defense.
The Frenchman's 12 goals and seven assists in 26 Premier League appearances are respectable. He might face constant criticism for his streakiness, but Giroud is clearly the most well-rounded of these three.