This is the big one. The match both sets of fans look out for on the morning the Premier League fixtures are announced. Tottenham vs Arsenal. Antonio Conte vs Mikel Arteta. White vs Red. North vs North. The Sol Campbell Derby. The Emmanuel Adebayor Derby. The North London Derby. This is Prime Barclays.
Arsenal still have a score to settle after their futile showing in this fixture last season. That 3-0 defeat flattered them and saw them miss out on Champions League qualification. They got a nice bit of revenge at the Emirates in October, but winning at their arch-rivals would be a huge statement.
The Gunners are top of the Premier League and thriving, while Spurs are inconsistent and frustrating to watch. ‘Form goes out the window’ is a cliche, but relevant nonetheless. Here is a combined XI of the two sides, coming from a completely unbiased Arsenal fan. We probably should have got someone else to write this one…
GK: Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Hugo Lloris may be Tottenham and France captain, but he is not a better goalkeeper than Aaron Ramsdale.
The 36-year-old’s latest mistake against Aston Villa didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After seeing it I immediately said that if a Premier League fan watched that clip with the players blurred out, you would easily be able to tell it was a Lloris error. I stand by this. He is unreliable and often spills shots, like he did in the NLD at the Emirates in 2021. Can be excellent but tends to save up those good days for France, unfortunately for Spurs fans.
RB: Ben White (Arsenal)
Ben White and Kieran Trippier have comfortably been the best right-backs in the league this season. Meanwhile, this position is a cause for concern for Antonio Conte. The Italian has Djed Spence, Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal at his disposal. The latter was sent off at the Emirates earlier this season and the other two are not on the same level as White both offensively and defensively.
CB: Cristian Romero (Tottenham)
The decision between Cristian Romero and William Saliba was the hardest out of all 11 positions. Spoiler alert: Gabriel Magalhaes starts in left-centre-back as he has been more consistent than his French teammate and is bang in form, while Saliba has kind of stagnated, though he is still having a wonderful season. So it was between the 21-year-old and Romero.
The Spurs man is the only defensive player Conte has that can be regarded as irreplaceable. He has been bloody brilliant since joining in the summer of 2021 and is now a World Cup winner. He is an absolute b*stard and someone who certainly has that dawg in him. Both Saliba and Romero probably have a similar amount of potential and I have very reluctantly left the former out of this team. Please do not disown me my fellow Gooners.
CB: Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal)
As mentioned prior, Gabriel has been more consistent and reliable than the brilliant Saliba. When one struggles, the other carries them and vice versa. Mikel Arteta has a superb, young, defensive core who should stay together for many years to come.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal)
Ivan Perisic is a good contender to beat Alex Zinchenko and Kieran Tierney for a left-back spot in my team, but given it is a back four, I have decided not to give the Croatian the call-up. I bet he is beyond gutted.
Zinchenko has been a superb signing for a respectable £32million and Arsenal are a more composed and balanced team when he plays. Tierney is also brilliant, by the way.
DM: Thomas Partey (Arsenal)
Thomas Partey and Manchester City’s Rodri have been the two best defensive-midfielders in the Premier League this year. The Arsenal man has stayed fit this season and the Gunners are five points clear at the top of the table. It is no coincidence.
It was easy to pick the Ghanaian over Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
CM: Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham)
Only the second Spurs player to make the team so far, Rodrigo Bentancur has been fantastic since joining from Juventus a year ago. The Uruguayan’s performances this season in particular have been mesmerising.
It is a testament to Bentancur that he gets into this team ahead of Granit Xhaka, who I said was the best midfielder in the Premier League in 2022 back in October.
CM: Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard is enjoying a terrific season, claiming the Premier League Player of the Month award for his performances in November and December.
I left him out of my combined Arsenal and West Ham XI for their encounter on Boxing Day, choosing Partey in a midfield alongside Declan Rice and Xhaka. I received lots of backlash; which is not why I am including him now, but because he should have been there over Xhaka and has shown exactly why over the last fortnight.
RW: Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Dejan Kulusevski is brilliant, but Bukayo Saka is better. This is not up for debate.
ST: Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Gabriel Jesus would have put up more of a fight to make this team than Eddie Nketiah, but he still would have missed out to England captain Harry Kane.
Kane loves playing against the club that ditched him as a youngster. He is the all-time top scorer in this fixture with 14 goals, four ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor and Bobby Smith. The 29-year-old is one goal off equalling Jimmy Greaves’ record of 266 goals for Spurs. It’s going to happen on Sunday, isn’t it? Probably from the penalty spot as well. A penalty that will be given because of the FA’s agenda against Arsenal, their fans will be saying…
LW: Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal)
I wouldn’t put Gabriel Martinelli in ahead of Heung-min Son if I was face-to-face with a Spurs fan, but sitting safely behind my laptop screen, I will stick to my guns.
Son has been rubbish this season. Scoring goals is what he does best, and they have been few and far between in 2022-23. Without his goals, Son has been very ineffective. He didn’t look like his usual self for South Korea at the World Cup, either.
Martinelli, on the other hand, is having the best season of his career and Arsenal are doing everything they can to extend his contract. In 17 Premier League games this term, the Brazilian winger has seven goals and two assists.
Manager: Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Antonio Conte is the more successful manager here, there is no doubt about that whatsoever. And a lot of football fans would probably say Conte over Arteta if asked who they would prefer at their club.
Having said that, Arteta has his side playing better football this season and they are top of the league knowing any result against their arch-rivals will see them stay there beyond this weekend.
No team has won this fixture in the Premier League while playing as the away team since 2014, meaning Arsenal have never claimed three points at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. You get the feeling that this encounter is their best chance of an away win against Spurs since the day Tomas Rosicky scored an absolute belter against Tim Sherwood’s team.
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