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Van Persie sees off Drogba & Torres while Lampard & Ramires start in midfield - the ultimate Arsenal & Chelsea combined XI

Van Persie sees off Drogba & Torres while Lampard & Ramires start in midfield - the ultimate Arsenal & Chelsea combined XI

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As the two London rivals prepare to clash in the Premier League this weekend, debate which players would make it into an overall team from the respective squads

By Chris Myson

The undoubted match of the weekend in the Premier League sees Arsenal face Chelsea in a crucial London derby at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Both sides have had dramatic seasons - the Gunners recovering from a disastrous start to the campaign on and off the pitch. There were calls for Arsene Wenger's departure after a dreadful early run of results and the exits of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri but they now sit third in the table.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have rallied after sacking Andre Villas-Boas and are now within touching distance of an unlikely Champions League final spot after beating Barcelona in their midweek semi-final first leg.

But Roberto Di Matteo's men need a result against Arsenal to keep pace with the likes of Tottenham and Newcastle in the hunt for a top four spot.

Ahead of the clash, analyses each area of the two squads and attempts to come up with what would be the best combined team from their current available squads, lining up in the 4-3-3 formation which they both currently deploy.

The goalkeeper

Arsenal and Chelsea both have clear and established No.1 goalkeepers in Petr Cech and Wojciech Szczesny.

Cech was up there with the best keepers in world football in his first couple of seasons after joining the Blues in 2004. Although he remains a very good shot-stopper, as shown in midweek against Barca, he has become more inconsistent in recent years and can be shaky when his confidence deserts him.

Szczesny has been an unlikely hero for the Gunners in the last 18 months, showing levels of talent and character far beyond that you would expect from a 22-year-old. His breakthrough into the starting XI ended years of calls from Arsenal fans for a new keeper to be signed.

This is one of the toughest choices to make when comparing two squads that are generally evenly matched. On this occasion I have opted for youth over experience - Szczesny is in form and already one of the league’s best. The question now is how much better can he become?

The defence

Chelsea’s options at right-back include the durable Branislav Ivanovic, who has established himself as the first-choice in that position at Stamford Bridge and Jose Bosingwa, a player who perhaps has more flair than the Serbia defender but suffers from inconsistency.

At the Emirates, though, Arsenal have one of the Premier League’s most proven performers in Bacary Sagna. The stopper has all the attributes needed for a successful full-back and gets the nod in our selection.

In the heart of defence, Thomas Vermaelen has surpassed all expectations since joining Arsenal and fitness permitting, is a must-pick. John Terry had a shaky start to this season but his exceptional performances under Roberto Di Matteo have been pivotal to the Blues’ turnaround in fortunes and, on the pitch at least, he deserves positive recognition.

Laurent Koscielny is one of the country’s most improved defenders but is not yet in the same league as Vermaelen or Terry, while Gary Cahill and David Luiz also narrowly miss out but I expect both to grow further over their next 12 months at Chelsea.

The Gunners have a weakness at left-back since the departure of Gael Clichy, with Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos yet to nail down the spot. Their former player Ashley Cole - now with Chelsea - remains one of the best players in the world in his position.

The midfield

In the defensive midfield position, Alex Song is the obvious choice for our combined XI. While I was criticised heavily for omitting him in favour of Scott Parker ahead of the north London derby, it is clear that the Cameroon international is a talented performer.

Not your stereotypical holding player, Song has good technical ability and an eye for a pass. Combined with his strength and physical prowess, he is a player with impressive attributes and one who certainly has more about him than John Obi Mikel.

Ramires has impressed observers throughout his first two seasons since arriving in England from Benfica. The Brazilian’s boundless energy and versatility make him a must-pick for any side, including ours – he is great to watch.

He is joined in the selection by Frank Lampard. The experienced campaigner is still producing for Chelsea despite having his problems earlier in the season with Andre Villas-Boas. At 33 he still has the fitness, quality and eye for goal to make him a threat at any level.

Mikel Arteta narrowly misses out on the side. While he has more technical ability than Lampard, the Spaniard offers less as an overall package, while Aaron Ramsey has had a disappointing campaign.

Michael Essien is a world-class performer, but long-term injuries have taken their toll and he is not currently getting into the team for the biggest matches. Oriol Romeu made an impressive start to his Chelsea career but has been out of first-team action since February. Raul Meireles and Tomas Rosicky also miss out from the two squads.

The attack

In our formation there are two wide positions to fill in the attack. The first of these, and easiest to pick, is Juan Mata. The Spaniard has had a strong debut campaign in England and has the talent to grace most teams in Europe – he will be hoping to show even more next year.

The second is a bit more of a dilemma, but I have opted for Theo Walcott. The Englishman is coming to the end of one of his best seasons, having shown more consistency and a regular end product coming into his game, which critics previously claimed was all about pace.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to surpass Walcott in the years ahead, but as yet he lacks his team-mate's experience and is still establishing himself at the highest level. Daniel Sturridge has fallen out of favour in recent weeks at Chelsea but has also had an impressive year and is the other forward to narrowly miss out.

Yossi Benayoun, who is on loan at Arsenal from Chelsea, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda also fall short of making our final cut.

In the striking position, Robin van Persie leads the line. The Dutch goal machine has netted 34 times this season and his all-round quality has Europe’s biggest clubs closely monitoring his contract situation.

Didier Drogba still has a lot to offer at the top-level – as shown in midweek against Barcelona – but it is fair to say he is no longer at the peak of his powers. Fernando Torres may be threatening a resurgence, but still has a long way to go before he is playing at the level he was in his early days at Liverpool.

Suggested best combined Arsenal & Chelsea XI


Wojciech Szczesny


Bacary Sagna

John Terry

Thomas Vermaelen

Ashley Cole


Alex Song


Frank Lampard



Theo Walcott

Robin van Persie

Juan Mata


Do you agree with our suggested best combined Arsenal and Chelsea starting XI? If not, who should be there instead and which players should get the chop? Which way is this weekend's crunch derby going to go? Let us know your views on the debate by posting a comment below or by engaging with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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