Arsenal host Manchester United on Sunday in a match with huge implications at the top of the Premier League.
What better way to prepare for the game than to make a combined XI of the two teams? Suspended United midfielder Casemiro is not included, and neither is Gabriel Jesus, who is injured.
GK: Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Arsenal’s No. 1 is a shoo-in here, despite David de Gea’s solid form of late. Aaron Ramsdale had a solid debut season for the Gunners but appears to have stepped things up this term.
Ramsdale’s man-of-the-match showing in the north London derby showed how far his game has come on under Mikel Arteta. He is excellent with the ball at his feet and his shot-stopping is wonderful. We do love his s**thousery as well.
De Gea, on the other hand, is not very good with the ball at his feet and is more error-prone than Ramsdale. Having said that, he was good against Crystal Palace, pulling off one of the saves of the season to deny Odsonne Edouard.
RB: Benjamin White (Arsenal)
Arguably the best right-back in the Premier League this season; Benjamin White and Kieran Trippier have both been brilliant.
Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot has emerged as a top right-back as well but he is not as good as White, nor has he had as good a 2022/23 campaign.
CB: Raphael Varane (Manchester United)
I feel like it would not make much sense to pick William Saliba over Raphael Varane given the fact the latter is still France’s most important centre-half, while Saliba only got one half of game time at the World Cup.
Both are brilliant but Varane’s experience and ability, as well as his vast improvement under Erik ten Hag, sees him make my XI.
CB: Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal)
Lisandro Martinez has been brilliant since joining Manchester United – despite his height, which isn’t an issue, really. But this is Our League and he is too small!
Gabriel has arguably been the best central defender in the league this season, though. Another Newcastle player – Sven Botman – makes this a debate.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal)
Perhaps the most difficult choice here. I have picked Oleksandr Zinchenko over Luke Shaw, who seems to have one season off and then one season on form. Ten Hag is bringing the best out of him, even as a bloody centre-half.
Zinchenko’s ability on the ball and how much he influences Arsenal’s style of play is why I have opted for him, however. Take nothing away from Shaw, who has been brilliant for a revitalised United.
DM: Thomas Partey (Arsenal)
Thank you so much, Casemiro, for being, well… Casemiro. The Brazilian hacked down Wilfried Zaha on Wednesday night and was probably lucky to avoid a red card, but his yellow saw him earns a perhaps crucial suspension for the game at the Emirates.
With Casemiro absent I was able to pick the formation I wanted and get Thomas Partey in here without anyone being able to argue it. What a season the Ghanaian is having. He has stayed fit and the Gunners are flying; it is no coincidence. If he gets injured, Manchester City will probably win the league.
CM: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
I could not work out how to get Bruno Fernandes into my team, but with Casemiro suspended, he gets in here. Fernandes is one of the best January signings in Premier League history, hitting the ground running and flying behind closed doors before slowing down, especially when Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club.
Often wearing the captain’s armband with Harry Maguire warming the bench, Fernandes has picked up again with Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia, scoring two in his last two.
CM: Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)
Martin Odegaard has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season. What a joy to watch he is. With Erling Haaland also flying, get your money on Norway to win Euro 2024.
No other Premier League midfielder has more goals than Martin Odegaard this season (8) 😱
What a season he's having 👏 pic.twitter.com/g05PUGZkYY
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 15, 2023
RW: Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Another bloody brilliant Arsenal star having a bloody brilliant season, Bukayo Saka has been a key player for the Gunners since Arteta’s first day on the job. He is now crucial for England and at the age of 21, has the potential to be one of Arsenal’s greatest players. £85million fidget spinner Antony gets nowhere near this team.
ST: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
What a season Marcus Rashford is having. No matter who you support, you should be happy to see him playing with a smile on his face again. With Gabriel Jesus out, Rashford walks into this team given his current form, even if Eddie Nketiah is playing well in the Brazilian’s absence.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal)
This is a dangerous, pacey front three if I’ve ever seen one. Gabriel Martinelli scored the first goal of the game in the reverse fixture, but it was shambolically ruled out for a foul by Odegaard on Christian Eriksen – who only just misses out here with Fernandes getting the nod.
Martinelli is having a fine season and was rewarded with a call-up to the Brazil squad for the World Cup.
Manager: Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Ten Hag is improving players for fun, but Arteta has been doing just that for a few years now. Saka, Martinelli and Granit Xhaka have improved so much under the Spaniard and Arsenal are reaping the rewards for #TrustingTheProcess.