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Kings of north London - Is Robin van Persie now the only Arsenal player good enough to get into Tottenham's XI?

Kings of north London - Is Robin van Persie now the only Arsenal player good enough to get into Tottenham's XI?

As north London's fierce rivals prepare for their vital weekend Premier League derby, Goal.com debate which players would make it into a combined best team from the two squads

DEBATE
By Chris Myson

With a huge weekend of football ahead of us, the pick of the fixtures on offer could well be the north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham.

Arsene Wenger’s side go into the game at the Emirates after a disastrous week which saw their Champions League hopes all but ended with a 4-0 defeat to AC Milan before they were dumped out of the FA Cup by Sunderland.

Those results have surely condemned them to a seventh straight season without winning a major trophy and now finishing in the Premier League’s top four is a must if they are to salvage something from the season.

Not helping the mood amongst Gunners fans is the fact fierce rivals Spurs, who are still in the FA Cup, sit 10 points clear of them in the table and are enjoying their best campaign in recent memory.

For the first time in the Premier League era, it is widely acknowledged that Tottenham have the better team of the two rivals, but are they now streets ahead or is the gap realistically much closer than it may seem?

Inspirational captain Robin van Persie - one of the world's top strikers - has been the man who Arsenal have relied upon heavily over the last 12 months, with the Dutchman already having scored 22 league goals this season. That is more than double what any Spurs player has mustered, despite their fine campaign.

But is Van Persie the only player who would be good enough to get into Tottenham's team?

Ahead of the vital clash, Goal.com analyses each area of the two squads and presents two alternative sides - one combined XI and the other being the current Spurs side plus the Dutchman - which is better?

Goalkeepers


In recent seasons, neither side has been known for having goalkeepers who inspire confidence, but Arsenal and Tottenham have turned to youth and experience respectively to solve that issue.

Despite his high-profile blunder in last year’s League Cup final, 21-year-old Wojciech Szczesny looks ready to be the Gunners’ No.1 for many years to come after impressing since returning from a 2010 loan spell at Brentford.

That is a welcome improvement on having the uncertainties of Manuel Almunia between the sticks, while Tottenham have also moved on from Heurelho Gomes - the Brazilian equally capable of brilliance and the most shocking of errors – being their keeper.

Harry Redknapp brought in 40-year-old Brad Friedel from Aston Villa and that has proven to be an inspired move, with the American’s talent and reliability helping them up the table.

Obviously if you were building a long-term squad the sensible decision would be to select Szczesny, but do his reflexes and natural talent make him better than Friedel for the here and now? This is one of many tough dilemmas when comparing the two squads – it is youth versus experience.

Defenders


Right-back is another controversial area in the search to find the best combined team. Bacary Sagna has been one of the Premier League’s most consistent full-backs since arriving in 2007. However, Tottenham have one of England’s top emerging stars in the explosive Kyle Walker.

In the centre, Ledley King is a classy stopper who would get into almost any team in world football if he was fully fit. Thomas Vermaelen, despite his injury woes last year, is back and getting close to his best form. The Belgian is likely to be most people’s selection alongside King, even though Spurs fans will point towards the rapid improvement displayed by Younes Kaboul since he returned to the club from Portsmouth.

Michael Dawson is another solid customer and Laurent Koscielny can look like a talented defender depending on the situation, meaning either of the two could be seen as left-field selections in the combined side. William Gallas has made big contributions for both clubs, but has been stricken by injuries this season.

Despite arriving with a towering reputation, Per Mertesacker has looked like a nervous wreck at the heart of Arsenal’s defence and the likes of Ryan Nelsen, Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou are only cover players for their own team, never mind making selection for a combined north London XI.

Left-back is perhaps one of the weaker areas of the two squads. For Tottenham, Benoit Assou-Ekotto is improving all the time and has developed into a solid performer. Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs is talented but has been injury prone in the early stages of his career, while Andre Santos has also spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch since joining from Fenerbahce.

With a lack of standout selections in the position, and because this proposed team will never actually take to the field, left-sided options like Gareth Bale and Danny Rose, more attacking players who some believe could still become full-backs or wing-backs in the long-term, can be considered to allow for a tactical re-shuffle further up the pitch.

Midfielders


In midfield, there is undoubtedly talent in both squads. While Scott Parker and Alex Song are not strict ‘holding’ midfielders, they are the most defensive-minded options and will usually do the dirty work, showing strength to win back possessin before starting up attacks, allowing the playmakers in front of them to prosper.

Despite the goalkeeping and right-back dilemmas, this is perhaps the closest match in the two squads. Both are very good players in my mind, but perhaps Parker gets the edge due to his greater experience and continued stunning form since arriving at White Hart Lane.

Out wide, Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott are similar in offering of pace and threat without always delivering an end product. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could well supersede both of them in terms of all-round wing ability but would probably feature in a team like this in a year or so, rather than right now.

Gervinho has shown he has something about him since arriving from Lille in the summer, although Bale – a player being admired by top clubs around the continent – is another player in top bracket calibre, which Arsenal do not seem to have other than Van Persie.

In the playmaker stakes, Luka Modric is as good as they come in the Premier League, the Croatian oozing class, vision and creativity in possession. While Niko Kranjcar, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are all good players in their own right, they do not compare to the 26-year-old, which is why Chelsea offered £40 million for his services in the summer.

A player who should not be overlooked in these discussions is Jack Wilshere. The England starlet has had a nightmare year with injury but has all the potential to become one of the midfield greats if he continues to develop after his recovery.

Further forward, Rafael van der Vaart is the top attacking midfielder on show. The Dutchman has been an impressive capture for Spurs since joining in a bargain deal from Real Madrid, with his lack of consistent fitness the only thing hindering him from kicking on further.

He will perform best in a central role behind the strikers, but will often be fielded on the right of midfield in a 4-4-2 when his manager wants to play two main attackers. Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby are players Arsenal are trying to edge towards the exit door, similar to Spurs with Mexican Giovani dos Santos.

Strikers


With Van Persie the automatic pick in attack for Arsenal, there is a worrying lack of depth behind him in the striking positions. Thierry Henry is back in New York after his emotional short-term return, while Marouane Chamakh is a player who has failed miserably to live up to expectations since arriving in London from Bordeaux and now looks devoid of any confidence.

Park Chu-Young was another forward who arrived at the Emirates with optimism but, puzzlingly, he has hardly been seen in the first-team over the course of this campaign.

For Spurs, it is former Gunners star Emmanuel Adebayor, on loan from Manchester City, who is leading the line. The ex-Real Madrid striker has performed impressively, with his power, pace and ability making him the perfect lone frontman, allowing the likes of Modric, Bale and Van der Vaart work their magic in behind.

Had history panned out differently then the strike duo in our combined XI - Van Persie and Adebayor - could have still been terrorising Premier League defences together at Arsenal.

Jermain Defoe is a striker who has consistently proven he can score goals at Premier League level, as has January signing Louis Saha. While Tottenham definitely have better quality cover up-front, though, neither the Englishman nor Frenchman are close to the all-round abilities of our front two.

Tottenham with Van Persie

GOALKEEPER

Friedel


RIGHT-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
LEFT-BACK

Walker

Kaboul

King

Assou-Ekotto

RIGHT MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD
LEFT MIDFIELD

Van der Vaart

Parker

Modric

Bale

CENTRE FORWARD
CENTRE FORWARD

Adebayor

Van Persie


Combined Arsenal & Tottenham XI

GOALKEEPER

Szczesny


RIGHT-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
CENTRE-BACK
LEFT-BACK

Sagna

King

Vermaelen

Bale

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD

Parker

CENTRE MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD

Modric

Wilshere

ATTACKING MIDFIELD

Van der Vaart

CENTRE FORWARD
CENTRE FORWARD

Adebayor

Van Persie

HAVE YOUR SAY

How many Arsenal players would get into Tottenham's first-team? Do you feel that only Robin van Persie is good enough to make the grade or do you agree with our suggested best combined north London starting XI? If not, who should be there instead and which players should get the chop? Which way is this weekend's crunch Premier League derby going to go?

Let us know your views on the debate by voting in our poll, posting a comment below and by engaging with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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